Commentary | IT Matters

Accurate Product Data Drives Supply Chain Systems

Tags: Logistics I.T., Retail, E-commerce, Retail Logistics, Supply Chain

Isabel DuPont is SVP, Production and Product Delivery, Gladson, 630-435-2200

Retail and consumer goods organizations spend a lot of money to deploy supply chain applications that will help them operate more profitably while delivering the ideal experience to shoppers. But the fact is software investments do not deliver on their potential unless the data they’re using is accurate. Accurate product data comes from well-crafted, consistent processes executed correctly every time.

As retail goes omni-channel, supply chains grow more complex and consumer expectations skyrocket, data about products—cases, inner packs, and consumer units—has to be consistent for supply chains to flow smoothly and marketing processes to do their work guiding customers along the path to purchase.

The challenge of Frequent Product updates

One of the biggest challenges in achieving this is the pace of manufacturer product updates. Findings from the CGT/Gladson research report “Current and Consistent Product Data” show almost 75 percent of manufacturers report that 15 percent or more of their product portfolio is updated each year as a result of changes to packaging, ingredients, marketing claims, regulatory compliance, and so on. The frequency of product updates challenges manufacturers’ ability to continuously feed updated data to supply chain partners, retailers, shoppers, and even their own internal systems.

Recognizing the resources, expertise, and infrastructure required to effectively manage product data, a growing number of organizations are outsourcing the creation, updating, hosting, and distribution of their critical product data. Outsourcing provides access to experts who can deliver repeatable industry-standard processes complete with multiple quality checks to ensure accuracy.

Product content providers employ the latest in technology and are able to provide the necessary product data formats, attributes, and images for the broad array of both supply chain and marketing functions. A third-party provider can also scale quickly when volume surges, so manufacturers and their trading partners can be assured access to complete, accurate data at all times.

Five elements of effective product data Management

Whether managing product data in-house or choosing to work with a product content solution provider, an effective product data management strategy should include:

  • A centralized facility and staff, either outsourced or in-house, to avoid duplication of effort and variances in process and accuracy.
  • Infrastructure and precision tools to capture the dimensions, angles, formats, and views required for all uses, both operational and promotional.
  • A set of refined, documented, repeatable, and GS1-compliant processes. Steps include confirming dimensions and weights, capturing images, and code-keying these attributes to deliver centralized views and consistent feeds to meet the needs of all constituents. Consistency is critical; processes lose their validity if there are variances in technique.
  • Expertise and continuous training to keep pace with evolving requirements.
  • Resource scalability to accommodate surges in demand.

Commerce has undergone a profound shift in the way consumers shop. Accurate product data across the enterprise, flowing throughout the supply chain and available to the consumer, is required to deliver on shoppers' expectations. For a growing number of organizations, outsourcing product content management has become the most effective path to get there.