Industry 4.0 demands that manufacturing transforms for better automation, intelligence, self-diagnosis (and healing), and interconnectedness. And as this digital transformation involves all people, machinery, and products of the unit, it is also woven in the fabric of data management. For instance, the entire shop floor littered with RPA tools, smart sensors, and other equipment generates heaps of data to monitor, maintain, and manage the production line.
As a result, manufacturers need to optimize data usage in operations and effectively govern its flow across B2B eCommerce, ERP, CRM, finance, warehousing systems, etc. They need data management tools and techniques to improve interactions between physical and virtual surroundings and enhance decision accuracy with fewer variables. However, much of this data is restricted within information silos, making it less valuable for making insightful decisions. As the 2020 Gartner Smart Manufacturing Strategy and Implementation Trends Survey reveals, the lack of a data-driven culture is one of the main hurdles faced by manufacturers in their digital transformation journey.
Today, manufacturers need to understand that it’s not just about automating the assembly line, analyzing existing data, or optimizing the supply chain. It involves taking control of the product data first. A robust Product Information Management (PIM) system is key to a sound digitalization strategy that can help manufacturers achieve faster gains and better outcomes. With PIM, they can not only insulate from future adversities but also evolve with changing times by maximizing collaboration, flexibility, efficiency, and deal with competition and disruptions better.
Let’s dive deeper into how PIM is driving digital transformation:
- Offers Complete Control and Builds 360° Digital View of Every Product
Most manufacturers still depend on numerous legacy systems and complicated manual processes at various stages of the product lifecycle, which can lead to blurred visibility of product-related information. A PIM system provides a perfect solution for this by creating a single source of truth for product value and identity. This integration of data from many different data sources improves efficiency and speeds up various processes. PIM ensures that data is enriched, organized, and harmonized for better automation, product assortment, SKU introduction, multi-channel selling, product launch, and seamless digital experiences that contributes to the bottom line. With accurate and consistent product information and a 360° digital view of every product at hand, manufacturers can confidently make decisions about future sales, predicting demand, monitoring system health, tracking inventory, etc.
- Simplifies Workflows, Enables Faster Work Cycles and Improves Efficiency
Did you know that one manufacturer was able to leverage real-time data to accurately predict when their dairy processing equipment needed maintenance? Even though the implementation was based on IoT and Microsoft Azure, the real story is about the direct impact right data can have at the right time. A single point for procuring product data is helpful for all the sections of the manufacturing value chain that need to pilot, test, and launch products. PIM can help speed-up the processes of approval, order processing, stock level analysis, , etc. A successful product launch depends on the seamless collaboration between different teams. PIM plays an important role in augmenting this synergy by disseminating rich, accurate, and verified information in standardized formats, and consistent versions to stakeholder handing specific portfolios,
- Drives Operational Excellence and Accelerates Business Growth
Here’s another amazing fact: National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) once demonstrated that General Electric was able to increase production capacity up to 20% while lowering material consumption by 4% with AI/ML and analytics. Again, as much as it is about advanced technology in use, the scale of the project, or the cost incurred. Even a small unit of well-managed data can result in operational excellence. A PIM solution can automate systems with data-driven historical analysis, alarm notification, and many reporting capabilities. Manufacturers can easily import, consolidate, enrich, and deliver any data (single domain or multidomain) of any size and align them with organizational strategies. With PIM, they can share product information with distributors, retailers, and eCommerce partners easily and quickly. PIM can also help manufacturers utilize resources better, reduce cycle times, optimize budgets, expand channels, and drive superior customer experience management.
- Lowers Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and Reduces Product Returns
Manufacturers are under constant financial pressure to deliver quality and quantity on time, at multiple locations, while abiding by compliances. A single error in the data entry of a product component can have drastic cost and time consequences. Given the siloed teams sprawled under various departments, the accuracy and completeness of data are constantly under a threat. And that is where PIM integration can play a crucial role. With PIM, any manufacturer with X no. of manufacturing facilities, Y no. of teams, and Z no. of machines can streamline end-to-end product data management, including localization, and translation concurrently in one integrated platform. This can vastly improve time-to-market, positively impact efficiency, quality, costs, and resource deployment.
- Builds Customer Trust by Delivering Accurate, Up-To-Date, and Consistent Product Data
The Fourth Industrial Revolution relies heavily on effective product data management as a building block of customer engagement. However, many times the filling-up of detailed descriptions with attribution and digital asset creation is done on-the-fly right before products are finalized for launch. This could lead to costly errors due to incomplete and incorrect product listings, resulting in loss of reputation and revenue. Manufacturing companies aiming to transform digitally must bridge this gap with the perfect tool — PIM. It can be integrated seamlessly with platforms such as ERPs and CRMs to create a ‘golden book of product information.’ This can feed into the symbiotic relationship between manufacturers and trading partners to keep every entity on the same page and ensure uniform B2B and B2C omnichannel experiences.
- Speeds-up Time-to-Market of Products, Increasing Sales Efficiency
Authoring and managing product information with antiquated processes, manual logging, and isolated systems is no longer efficient. Digital transformation in manufacturing pivots around harvesting product data generated at each stage of a heterogeneous environment. PIM is helpful in engineering this information to stock control and attributes data from disparate sources during product development. It can help organize, structure, store, and track any dataset in the ever-expanding data repository to expedite everything from sourcing raw materials to feeding it to sales channels. It can even be relied upon to automate web-to-print database publishing, channel-specific catalogs creation, price sheets management, and personalized marketing and sales campaigns. PIM can replace many error-prone, time-consuming, and repetitive tasks of product information syndication with compelling and complete content for all product offerings across all channels to drive sales efficiency.
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Data Management is the First Step of the Digital Transformation Journey
While operating with severe product complexities, cost pressures, globalization, and strict, intricate regulatory standards, manufacturers can reap outstanding benefits with a proper PIM strategy. Capable of being a competitive advantage in the digital transformation journey, it can expedite the time-to-market of the finished products by ensuring an error-less flow of information from supplier to distributor to the customer. PIM automates data enrichment based on business rules and makes operations lean and agile with better data visibility and quality. It also helps manufacturing organizations meet regulatory requirements while they scale with expanding business needs.
Vandana Singal is Director, Solution Consulting at Pimcore Global Services (A Happiest Minds Company). Pimcore is an open-source platform for product information management (PIM/MDM), digital asset management (DAM), content management system (CMS), and eCommerce. She has extensive experience in managing presales, product development, and multifunctional teams.