July 26, 2012

IDW Hot Fact: How to Extract Attributes


By Robert Hollands, Data Quality Analyst

Distributors that are Industry Data Warehouse (IDW) catalog-level subscribers can receive product attributes (as defined in the industry’s Electrical Attribute Schema) by setting up a separate extraction from their authorized manufacturers. Once this set-up is completed, distributors can decide what format they want to receive the attributes including:

XML: Whereas flat-file formats work better for distributors using existing or legacy systems such as Eclipse, XML may be a better solution for distributors who are using proprietary software or have developers who can tailor the data to meet their needs. XML is more translatable to a database and lends itself more readily to direct or automated importation into a Product Inventory Management (PIM) System than a flat-file.

“AD” Flat File: The AD flat-file format arranges the data so that there’s a single record per item containing all of the item’s attributes. However, the applicable attribute field names would change depending on the item, because different attributes are applicable to different item categories, determined by the UNSPSC code. In this format, the same attribute field name (“Color”, for example) might be the seventh attribute for one item, but the tenth attribute for another. Here is an example of the “AD” file format:


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Some distributor business systems cannot handle dynamic fields, and require that the field names remain the same no matter the item extracted. Since there are over 3400 unique attribute names in use, building a static format like this which would contain all possibilities would be impractical. In this case, an “AM” flat file would be the better choice.

NEW! “AM” Flat File: A flat-file format that more closely resembles how the attributed data is stored in the IDW. The “AM” format allows for multiple records per item, but only one attribute per record. For example, if the item has six attributes, rather than the item appearing on one row with its attributes populated in the adjacent columns, the item would display on six rows with only one attribute in the adjacent column per iteration. Here is an example of the new “AM” file format:



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How to select the new attribute format:

Log into the IDW and click on “Data Request”, located in the “Basic” menu. Again, even if you already have a regularly-scheduled automated data extraction running for your authorized manufacturers, you’ll need to create a separate one for attributes. Under “Format”, select “Attributed Data”. When you select this option, a new box will appear called “Attributed Data Output Format.” Here you may choose either XML, the “AD” flat-file format (one record per item, multiple attributes), or the new “AM” flat-file format (multiple records per item, one attribute per record). Configure any options on the other tabs just as you would with a transactional data request, and hit the “Save” button.



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More and more manufacturers are realizing the importance of attributed data and have committed to providing this information in the IDW. Not only does it help distributors develop a robust web storefront, but it helps manufacturers’ distinguish their products within a product line and from competing items. With the addition of the AM option, distributors are a­ble to select the best way to receive their manufacturers’ attributed information.