Product Information Management, or PIM, according to Wikipedia, refers to the providing of product information for use in one or more output media and/or distribution channels, potentially involving multiple geographic locations. It involves ensuring that all of the data in your different systems, and those of the parties you interact with, is synchronous and synonymous. Even though it sounds like an easy problem to solve, just reference a master copy, it is still one of the biggest supply chain challenges. Global Logistics & Supply Chain Strategies on SupplyChainBrain.com magazine recently ran an article entitled The Long Journey Toward One Version Of The Truth describing how the inefficiencies in product information management are significant contributors to supply chain inefficiency and that data synchronization, internally and externally, can significantly help companies achieve one version of the truth.
PIM sounds simple enough:
- link to third party and legacy applications and import data into a centralized model,
- transform data by identifying and resolving duplicates and errors and enrich the data with external info, and
- synchronize the data by capturing all updates into the central master and pushing updates to the linked applications,
but when you consider that many organizations have dozen of systems with dozens of data formats and protocols for interfaces, its quite a challenge – especially when your suppliers, customers, and partners use different systems with different data formats and protocols.
I think the future of PIM lies in the exchange – where a third party maintains the master product information on behalf of a supplier and all of the users subscribe to this party to obtain the correct data. However, this does not resolve the integration issue, but I think this issue will eventually go away as on-demand SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) goes mainstream and the True SaaS providers integrate to the exchanges on your behalf.
After all, as reiterated in the article, the benefits are clear and well documented and include increased sales due to faster time to market, improved on-shelf product availability, improved productivity in the maintenance and publication of product masters, fewer errors to reconcile, lower transportation costs as a result of lower error rates, and more tax credits due to the ease in which they can be identified.
Feel free to share your thoughts.