Product information and customer requirements in a nutshell


(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 4 2017)

Today’s hyperconnected consumers have more choices than ever, and their expectations of brands have increased accordingly. Buyers use multiple sales channels and expect to be able to travel through them seamlessly, which means that all customer touch points must offer accurate, timely and consistent product information. Meeting these expectations has been a challenge not only for retailers, who sell to these highly empowered consumers, but also for manufacturers, whose role has expanded from supplying basic product descriptions to being responsible for creating rich, market-facing content.

In general, manufacturers face an array of challenges that could easily be mitigated with Product Information Management (PIM) implementation. Some of these challenges include tracking products, managing seasonal demands, and losing information as the product moves through the value chain. With so many potential sources and composition options, tracking raw materials precisely is tough; however, it is absolutely necessary in order to satisfy legal compliance and meet corporate expectations. Introducing a new product into the market during high seasons is inevitable, yet tends to be detrimental to operations, as bottlenecks quickly arise. Fiercely rushing to market to beat competitors, and distributing product information across value chain partners are crucial activities that make handling and processing product information during peak seasons so challenging. 

To better understand the manufacturer experience, I recently sat down with Johan Ekegren, a Director at Orkla, a leading supplier of branded consumer goods. Johan leads Orkla’s IT Business Partner team, which partners with business users to increase the company’s agility, productivity and sales through digital transformation. Johan worked with the team at Riversand to implement a PIM system at Orkla. 

Orkla began searching for a dedicated PIM tool when their current system, which used a combination of excel spreadsheets, an ERP system and manual data to manage product information, became cumbersome and unsustainable. Without an automated, standardised system for sharing product information, the company would struggle to meet expectations of distribution partners and end customers. 

Manufacturers are now tasked with creating robust, customer-ready product information and digital assets. Because this information is market-facing, there is no room for error. Producing richer content is heavily dependent on the information sources available to the manufacturer. When product information is managed well, easily accessible, and clearly understood by the user, there is a higher likelihood of that information being accurate and robust. Since PIM updates in real time, customising content to better address consumers’ expectations becomes an easier and seamless process.

Shorter product lifecycles lead to faster go-to markets and a need for more rapid collaboration across partners and teams. Unlike other industries in food manufacturing, inventory generally has a limited shelf life, thus it is especially vital that communication among the value chain is quick and accurately depicts the market’s consistently changing needs. Manufacturers who take advantage of PIM’s technological ability to link product information and update in real time can react quicker to unexpected shifts in demand, and therefore succeed in offering products at the right time and place. 

Companies also face an increasingly asynchronous supply chain that includes an ever-growing number of supply and distribution partners. Manufacturers are great candidates for process improvement via PIM implementation due to the lengthy and complex nature of the manufacturing supply chain, from raw material procurement, to handling and processing, to storage and distribution, to marketing and retail, and finally to services and consumers. These companies are likely to see operational enhancements resulting in seamless cooperation across the supply chain, regardless of size and magnitude of complexities. 

Intracompany sharing of detailed product information becomes difficult when you have multiple business areas operating in multiple countries. Companies that encounter operational changes—such as M&A, globalisation, transitioning distribution channels –tend to breed silos. While companies attempt to make enhancements for the organisation as a whole, they sometimes end up disconnecting functions that are reliant on each other for success. Breaking barriers between departments and business units is key for companies with a long-term vision. In order to align internal stakeholders and overcome the proliferation of silos, information management software such as PIM is necessary for data organisation and consolidation in a single shared source. Silos start to dissipate, as information is centralised and stakeholders begin to interpret a uniform perception of the data.

For retailers and manufacturers dealing with legacy systems that are no longer equipped to handle today’s pace of business, Johan recommends working with a best-in-breed PIM product, which can help an organisation to scale new product introductions and content production as well as boost operational efficiency through automation and collaboration. To get business users on board, choosing a PIM with an intuitive, easy-to-use interface is important. In addition, a phased implementation approach can be very helpful to minimise fears of business disruption, avoid negative topline effects and quickly demonstrate value. 

Finally, Johan recommends getting started quickly, cautioning that in recent years, PIM has reached the point of becoming a necessity, rather than an option. At Orkla, it has certainly shown results - products are getting to market faster, supplier satisfaction has increased and internal productivity has increased. 

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Riversand is an innovative leader in master data management and is leading the next-generation web scale MDM solution offering using big data, NoSQL technologies, functions such as dynamic governance, adaptive workflows, comprehensive user experience and more. Riversand provides a uniform, integrated, scalable, and robust MDM platform that caters to a variety of uses across multiple verticals from small to very large enterprises.

Riversand Technologies Inc.


Orkla ASA

Picture credit © Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

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