December 1, 2010

Supporting the Demand for Detailed Product Information

By: Dirk Johnson, Data Quality Analyst, IDEA

In the 2009 case study, A Journey through Data Discovery, Ron Schlader, VP Operations and Quality, Crescent Electric Supply Co. and Phil Barrios, Senior Director eBusiness, Hubbell Inc., discussed their excursion for more detailed product information. Since then, IDEA initiated an ongoing effort to continuously enhance the IDW Data Synchronization Platform with expanded product information including two categories: catalog/enriched data and attributed data. The results of the effort are considered a key performance indicator (KPI) within the IDW team and are measured as existing blank fields in IDW are populated with accurate, manufacturer-supplied data.

The two main categories of detailed product information within IDW:

  • Catalog/Enriched Data – This category comprises detailed information often published in the form of web URLs that direct to product images, marketing brochures, technical specifications and drawings, MSDS sheets, catalog descriptions, and several others.
  • Attributed Data – This relatively new data set is specific to the United Nations Standard Products and Services Code® (UNSPSC®) that is assigned to each product in IDW – up to 27 standardized attributes can be assigned to each code. For example, a relay switch code has attributes such as voltage, wattage, and amperage values and a wire code has attributes such as conductor count, size, and material.

The IDEA Industry Standards Committee (ISC), DATAgility and Unilog Content Solutions have been instrumental in the development of the electrical industry segments within the UNSPSC code global classification system and the UNSPSC-based Electrical Attribute Schema. You can read more about how IDEA customers are implementing the schema in the October issue of electroindustry.

In the end, both manufacturers and distributors will benefit from more standardized detailed product information because it will give distributors more selling power that they can use in-store, online and in print to increase the bottom line for the entire supply chain. Some other considerations and benefits:


Servicing the full range of product data requests that come from multiple distributors can be a logistics challenge, especially when the data is spread across multiple silos. Yet it must be done to nurture and maintain important trading partner relationships. When no process-based delivery mechanism exists, these data requests require more man-hours to fulfill, often at the management level. A failure to deliver can easily result in frustration for all, and lost sales.

Pro-actively populating IDW with detailed product information will go a long way toward creating a centralized, collective repository of your data, while the content remains under your full control as if it were in-house. Not only is your product information delivered to your authorized distributor channel, it can also be easily imported back to your product management team for quick re-formatting into any number of deliverable documents, for both internal and external re-distribution, including the web. Using IDW to its full capacity can circumvent the need for costly internal data collection process development. Product information from each separate data silo in your organization can be easily be mass-imported into IDW or entered independently, on an item-by-item basis – this helps you build a collective database in manageable stages.


As detailed product information in IDW expands, this will reduce the need to generate manual requests to individual manufacturers for images, spec sheets, drawings, and more. You can also proactively encourage your manufacturers to populate IDW with catalog and attributed data. The more distributors that make the request and help advocate the benefits, the higher a priority it will be on your manufacturers’ lists. Through years of synchronization experience, we know your requests to manufacturers have a direct impact upon their level of participation.

In addition, business systems will continue to evolve to incorporate this data into user applications seamlessly so that customers can research products and place orders within the same environment — standards will play a large role in that effort. By using and demanding product information that complies with standards approved by the IDEA Industry Standards Committee (ISC) specifications, every part of the supply chain can develop their solutions to be compatible, reducing cost and increasing utilization.

The Tools are in Place – Now it’s Time for the Next Steps

Over 80% of the products in IDW have been populated with UNSPSC codes and the IDW team is focused on acquiring catalog and attributed data from manufacturers. The catalog data, also known as enriched, will be a natural progression as the attributed data is populated since both types of detailed product information are typically stored in the same location – the marketing database silo. Over 50 manufacturers have begun to provide standardized attributed data to IDW and we encourage you to help us increase that number. Anyone involved in supply chain operations can make a difference, whether you are the CEO of a leading electrical manufacturer company or the Marketing Manager at a locally-owned and operated distributor company.

We encourage you to contact your IDEA account manager to find out how you can become involved in this effort. Manufacturers can also contact their IDW Data Quality Analyst to find out where they stand now with detailed product information in IDW, and how to prioritize and improve their efforts.