For contemporary manufacturers and companies, product information is rarely something that only needs to function and be shared internally.
Of course, there must be complete control of things in the company's own systems: Product data must be modeled and structured in ways that make sense in relation to the organization's particular needs. You and your colleagues in all of the different departments must have easy access to relevant and correct product information whenever you need it.
Finally, relevant data must also be published on your own websites, in catalogs, price lists, data sheets, apps and so on. Many companies and manufacturers ensure all of this by maintaining their product information in a Product Information Management system, known as a PIM system.
So far, so good.
The diversity of the standards can be a challenge
But what happens when you need to exchange data with external suppliers, partners and customers, and they work with product data in formats and structures that are completely different from yours?
This is often where issues arise.
For example, what do you do if you consistently specify length measurements in millimeters, while some of your suppliers use centimeters or inches? What if your products' colors have names like "ruby red" or "sky blue", while one of the web platforms where you want to offer your goods uses some very specific color codes instead?
The diversity of the standards means that you must be able to submit data in many different formats. The recipients of your data expect as much.
How you prepare yourself
The solution is data mapping
All sorts of product information can be formulated in countless ways, and each manufacturer or company has its own good reasons for choosing a particular model.
The answer to the challenges is to not let the differences stand in the way of collaboration, and the solution is called data mapping.
Basically, data mapping is about transforming data from one format to another. This means not just from one data model, measurement system or naming standard to another, but also technically, where, for example, Excel files are transformed into CSV, XML or SQL.
The task of data mapping can be carried out using Product Information Management systems that have it as an integrated tool (e.g., Perfion's). With this tool you can transform, combine and validate your data on the way into or out of the PIM system.
Data mapping controls data linkage
As mentioned, the data mapping tool is used to link data so that they are transformed from one format to another. For example, in the Perfion PIM-system, you can set up your own "action maps", This typically consist of a number of steps taken automatically in the precise order that you have indicated.
Here are a few examples of the great number of tasks you can carry out with action maps:
Provide product information to Amazon
Maybe you would like to sell your products through online marketplaces - let's say Amazon - so you need to be able to make product data available in exactly the format that Amazon requires.
Citizen Watch Company of America handles this challenge by using a Perfion PIM system to manage product data, and therefore they can seamlessly deliver data to the Amazon platform:
“Perfion ensures that all information is in the required format by using mapping rules. Because of Perfion’s ability to “translate” data (e.g. CITIZEN’s colors to the color codes used by Amazon), all color information is maintained within the PIM system only. This goes for all other types of product data for Amazon as well.”
Import suppliers' product information
Your suppliers may send you product information in various file formats (Excel, CSV, XML), where the information is structured according to the suppliers' own data models. With an action map you can import data in the form in which you receive it. All you need is to build an action map for each supplier, which will link the supplier's formats to those in your own PIM system. Thus, you do not have to do anything manually when the supplier's data is entered.
If you use an agency for your translations, a PIM system action map can help you automate translation management.
So, if you are currently having difficulty providing product data in the formats required by your business partners - or desirable potential business partners - do not despair.
Once you have entered all your product information into the PIM system, you can easily import data structured according to your suppliers' data models and formats, and automatically convert them into the models you yourself use. And conversely, it is easy to export your own product information in a form modeled to the recipients' requirements.