March 8, 2016

tED Magazine – Data Standards Cross The Pond

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Data standards cross the pond


Data Standards Cross the Pond

IDEA and ETIM work to smooth international trade processes.

Last year, IDEA became the first non-European member of ETIM International. IDEA now represents North America (the United States and Canada) within ETIM International and will provide the organization with insight into the needs of the North American market moving forward.

To better understand the impact that this cooperation between ETIM International and IDEA will have on facilitating international business, let’s take a closer look at the European organization and the model it governs.

Who is ETIM International?

ETIM International is the non-profit international standardization organization responsible for governing and managing the ETIM Technical Information Model standard (think “IDEA Industry Standards Committee (ISC) of Europe”). The ETIM standard is a technical product classification system used throughout a number of participating European countries and is the European equivalent to IDEA’s Electrical Attribute Schema (based on the United Nations Standard Products and Services Codes (UNSPSC) ®),  used in the United States and Canada. Individual country-based ETIM organizations (Federations) also exist to assist in any language/country-specific translations throughout Europe.

Like the Schema, ETIM offers manufacturers a guide for uniformly providing descriptive marketing content to their trading partners. Unlike the Schema, which is a hierarchical taxonomy based on the global UNSPSC® product categorization taxonomy, the ETIM model is arranged according to product parameters. Such parameters make it easier to search for, and find, products. According to ETIM International, these parameters include the following:

  • Product groups A logical cluster/group of products used to more easily attribute categories/classes but is not used as part of a parametrical search.
  • Product classes Each product class is used to group and specify similar products using technical product features.
  • Synonyms (Keywords) Alternative names for a product class, facilitating product searches. Synonyms are language-dependent, so each individual ETIM country organization is responsible for the synonyms in the local language.
  • Features Descriptive language about a product. A list of features is uniquely assigned to each product class, and can be numerical, alphanumerical, or range type and then requires a unit of measure and of course logical (Boolean) as well.

Standardized product data enables manufacturers to consistently capture, store, and distribute their product information through the entire supply chain. As more business is being conducted internationally, however, the power of standardization is often diminished when different markets use different standards.

In order to extend the benefits of data standardization across the Atlantic and support IDEA’s customers who require ETIM, IDEA is working in cooperation with ETIM International to align their two standards and provide a consistent set of product categories and descriptors for North America and Europe.

Once the alignment is complete, manufacturers will have an easier time sharing their marketing content with their US, Canadian, and European-based distributors simultaneously. In addition, IDEA will host, secure, and distribute ETIM data between trading partners, and develop guidelines for the exchange of the product data via IDEA’s Industry Data Warehouse (IDW).

Process for Aligning the Standards

To accomplish the work necessary to align the two standards, IDEA is calling for participation in a volunteer ETIM Committee. This committee, comprised of industry subject matter experts, will be primarily made up of manufacturers with a global presence, though participation is also open to interested distributors. IDEA is looking for individuals who are familiar with describing their products, how they work and how they are used (e.g., product managers, sales/marketing, etc.).

The first ETIM Committee Kick-Off meeting will be face-to-face from March 30-31 in Arlington, VA, at the NEMA Headquarters. This meeting will be an introductory/technical session for the committee, led by the ETIM International Technical Director. Another high-level face-to-face introduction session will be held with the president of ETIM International at the 2016 IDEA eBiz Forum from May 25-27 in Orlando, FL. Following the first meeting, the committee will meet through a mixture of face-to-face, telephonic, and online meetings.

Responsibilities of the ETIM Committee

The first step in IDEA’s work with ETIM International is to translate the existing ETIM model into “North American English”, just as individual country-based ETIM Federations in Europe translate the model into their local languages. This will enable the two standards to be accurately compared to one another.

The translated models will then be reviewed for gaps in the features and descriptions. Such gaps (e.g., translation, metric/imperial measurements, regulatory requirements, etc.) will be filled and added to either the ETIM standard or the IDEA standard.

Finally, IDEA will work to create a map between the two models (ETIM and Schema) to help manufacturers provide ETIM data to their customers who want it, whether those customers are in Europe or North America. Throughout this entire process, IDEA will continue to own and support the Schema for domestic customers while simultaneously supporting the European model for global customers.


Global business is expanding faster than ever, and our industry cannot continue to move forward without addressing this growth. By aligning the ETIM standard with the Schema, IDEA and the ETIM Committee will enable IDW users to trade internationally while still continuing to maintain their data in one centralized location, in one standardized format.


If you, or someone from your organization, are interested in joining, or would like more information, please contact Mary Shaw, Director of eBusiness Standards, IDEA, at