August 25, 2015

tED Magazine – Charting Progress

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Charting progress


Charting Progress

Six months after the launch of IDEA’s Data Certification Program, nearly 40% of the items in the Industry Data Warehouse (IDW) are fully attributed and populated with essential product data. The number of these complete – or “compliant” – items in the IDW has grown from just 16,000 in early February to more than 850,000 today, and manufacturers continue to raise this count every day. But this growth has not happened overnight. 

IDEA is working to make the IDW the electrical industry’s single source of complete and accurate manufacturer-supplied product and pricing information. Distributors have said they need this type of data to sell their manufacturers’ products. IDEA, however, faced a challenge when trying to identify which of the more than 150 possible IDW data fields manufacturers should focus on populating to best meet distributors’ business needs. 

To address this challenge, IDEA’s board of directors spent months working with distributors to designate the 43 most essential IDW fields, deemed the “critical fields.” From there, the Data Certification Program was developed to measure the quality of the transactional and descriptive information in those fields.  

With the launch of the Data Certification Program, IDEA needed to be able to support manufacturers as they worked to populate the critical fields for their product lines. This effort was not without its challenges.  

For example, manufacturers that had been using automated feeds to load data into the IDW needed to update those feeds to accommodate the critical fields. In addition, there was an initial misperception, or even fear, of the critical fields among manufacturers. 

Not all understood the impact that the attributes and product information within these fields would have on their distributors’ businesses and, ultimately, their own sales. As such, some put this project on the back burner, while others were simply afraid they would not be able to meet the requirements being asked of them.  

IDEA’s Data Management Specialist (DMS) team stepped up to help address these concerns. The DMS team provided manufacturers with actionable reports based on their compliance, explained how to use new processes and data-loading templates, and took time to clarify misconceptions about how to populate certain fields. 

As manufacturers started to get a better grasp on the critical fields, however, IDEA noticed changes in their approach to the initiative at hand.  

Manufacturers began to realize that they did not need to start from scratch after all. In fact, many found that the data they needed to reach compliance already existed within their own systems and saw that the critical field requirements were more manageable than they initially thought. 

Once manufacturers started to figure out how to incorporate the critical fields into their regular data feeds, their counts of compliant items in the IDW began to rapidly rise. In fact, after completing and loading the first compliant item into the IDW, they gained confidence and started to work more quickly and autonomously. 

Moving Forward 

Based on this progress and manufacturer commitments, IDEA expects 1.5 million SKUs to be complete and fully attributed by October. To ensure this is accomplished, the following must occur: 

  • Distributors must voice the importance of communicating product information through the IDW rather than on a one-to-one basis or scraping from manufacturers’ websites. Rich information, supplied and maintained by manufacturers and checked for quality and completeness through the Data Certification Program, will help distributors’ web commerce to become more competitive and profitable. Accessing this data through the IDW will help to keep the information being used accurate and current. 
  • Manufacturers must maintain focus on completing the critical fields. While the manufacturers that have already achieved high percentages of compliance are those that recognized the importance from the start, there is still time to join them. One area in particular that continues to be a struggle is packaging information, which is often necessary for distributors to properly cube out their trucks or accept orders into their warehouses. Those who do not understand the structure for loading this information into the IDW or are unsure where it may be stored in their system can reach out to IDEA for help. 
  • IDEA will support manufacturers in their efforts, including through DMS assistance and access to the IDW Compliance and Excellence Modules within the IDW application, all of which is available to manufacturers with an IDW for Manufacturers (IDW-M) subscription. Manufacturers with this subscription will also continue to be promoted at industry events and through IDEA’s communications channels. 

High-quality, web-ready marketing content pushed through the IDW directly to distributors’ e-commerce platforms and contractor estimating systems increases manufacturer visibility right where purchasing decisions are made. To reap these benefits, the channel must continue to work together toward compliance and beyond.