How do multinational product manufacturers structure product information for international customers and local market industry databases?
For the users of the product information such as retailers and end users, it is advantageous to have a consistent single source of data across trade categories from such a trusted independent source. For manufacturers there are pros and cons with an industry database. The pros include meeting a consistent standard that is satisfying the requirements of the retailer. Whilst the cons are centered around how you supply and maintain the database with the correct information for all your products when it is inevitably structured differently to your own product information systems.
The industry database of product information for the Norwegian construction industry, known as NOBB, has been established for many years, and this sets it apart from many other geographical markets, who either are at the early stages of establishing such a resource, or just don’t have one.
Pål Mittet, Chief Business Development Director at Xeris, given a presentation to the assembled construction industry participants at the recent annual NOBB conference in Oslo. Pål explained that Xeris has been working on this challenge of how to share structured information seamlessly across the supply-chain for some time. To address this Xeris has developed a global digital content hub “X-TRADE by Xeris” which enables manufacturers to collect, manage and instantly distribute product information to all their trading partners, sales and e-commerce channels in any format, anywhere.
He used Kährs, the multinational flooring manufacturer to illustrate the challenges they face in maintaining consistent up to date product data across multiple markets, standards and languages, using the NOBB database as an example. But the challenge is far greater outside of Norway, where they have many retailers to satisfy. Each retailer expects a bespoke solution and this can create a significant resource challenge for suppliers like Kährs with typically between a quarter and a third of a product manager's time needing to be committed to maintaining and bespoking data requirements.
X-TRADE is a SAAS solution that utilises what Pål described as intelligent adaptors to solve these product data exchange challenges. By importing the product data from Kährs, structuring it, enriching it and transforming it to map against the product category requirements of the receiving customer software; it is then ready to be exported to each retailer in the exact structure and format that they require.
The same approach can be applied to the new NOBB database. However, here there are three additional challenges for manufacturers:
- Grouping/classification of the products. This challenge is about how to map the customer’s product information categorization with the NOBB data structure. Xeris is classification agnostic, so we can group to any data structure, including NOBB
- Product structure. NOBB has modules for products that naturally sit together. Manufacturers have to create internal module groupings with numbers, not exceeding 8 characters. This can be a challenge for them as this has to map to the module being created in NOBB. When you update NOBB you receive back a NOBB module number with all relevant products connected. In X-TRADE the module can sit at the master product level, which is how we address this challenge.
- Product texts and descriptions. Different product texts in NOBB are restricted and must follow specific formats. The main product text is restricted to 34 characters, but it must start with a category description e.g engineered wood, followed by colours and sizes, followed by the brand. This text has to be condensed to fit and can be difficult to interpret. For Kährs we have attributes which are combined automatically to generate the required text within the character limit.
If you have challenges like Kährs, please feel free to contact us for a talk.