December 16, 2015

tED Magazine – Standards and Global Growth

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Standards and global growth


Standards and Global Growth

Continuous technological advancements and broadening online capabilities have helped to dramatically lower geographical barriers to business.

Continuous technological advancements and broadening online capabilities have helped to dramatically lower geographical barriers to business. Organizations are growing and maintaining global operations and international trading partner relationships more easily and efficiently than ever before. However, as international business expands, so, too, does room for error. Translation issues, time zone differences, and conversion discrepancies are just a few of the issues that can arise from working internationally and end up costing an organization significant time and money.

Recognizing that electrical manufacturers and distributors are expanding outside of their domestic markets with rising frequency, IDEA has been taking steps to provide the flexibility that such growing global business requires. Most recently, for example, IDEA became the first non-European member of ETIM International, an international standardization organization based in Europe. What role do standards play in supporting the expansion of international business?

Speaking the Same Language

Standardized product data allows electrical manufacturers to consistently capture, store, and distribute their product information from their own system down to the end users. Reduced errors, increased productivity, and improved product data communication result between any parties in the supply chain following the same standard.

Some of the most widely accepted standards in the electrical industry include:  

  • UNSPSC®-based Electrical Attribute Schema: The Electrical Attribute Schema is a standardized product descriptor template, or categorization system, that offers US and Canadian electrical manufacturers a guide for providing descriptive marketing content to their trading partners. The Schema is based on the United Nations Standard Products and Services Codes (UNSPSC)® product categorization taxonomy, which allows for the categorization of products in multiple industries throughout the United States and Canada. IDEA led the development of the Schema, and it is currently governed by IDEA and maintained by IDEA’s Industry Standards Committee (ISC).
  • European Technical Information Model (ETIM): ETIM is a technical product classification system used throughout a number of European countries and is the European equivalent to the Schema. In addition, much like the ISC manages the Schema in North America, ETIM International governs and maintains ETIM in Europe.

What if a North American electrical manufacturer has presence in Europe or chooses to expand operations into Europe, or a European manufacturer is looking to do the same in North America? The benefits of implementing the previously mentioned standards are diminished, since those international markets use different standards from each other. Seeing that the use of different standards could have a negative impact on accurate and efficient communications as global business continues to grow, IDEA decided to get involved at a deeper level with ETIM International.

As a new member of ETIM International, IDEA will create an adaptation of the ETIM model geared toward the needs of the North American market, in support of its customers who require ETIM. IDEA will then develop a map between the two standards to enable consistent communication in one uniform language across not only the supply chain, but the ocean.

What’s Next for IDEA?  

As an official voting member of ETIM International, IDEA will represent North America (the US and Canada) and help establish North American requirements and guidelines for companies who choose to support the ETIM standard with their trading partners. 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). IDEA’s involvement will provide ETIM International with a better understanding of the needs of the North American market for future developments.

Throughout this process, IDEA will continue to own and support the UNSPSC®-based Electrical Attribute Schema for domestic customers while simultaneously supporting the European model for global customers. This alignment of IDEA and ETIM’s eBusiness and data standards will provide a consistent set of product categories and descriptors for North America and Europe. Manufacturers will have an easier time sharing their marketing content with their US, Canadian, and European-based distributors simultaneously, maintaining IDEA’s purpose of providing manufacturers with a one-to-many solution.

Moving Forward

Inconsistent product data throughout the supply chain slows transaction times, decreases productivity, and results in inaccuracies. The impact of such costly mistakes can increase dramatically when that data is shared across borders. While IDEA moves forward as a new member of ETIM International, the efforts of both organizations to better align the product data standards used in North America and Europe will contribute to the success of fast-growing international business throughout the industry.

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