PIM System - The key to digitization lies in product data
PIM is an abbreviation of Product Information Management.
As product data becomes increasingly important in the course of digitalization, more and more companies are using PIM systems to
- maintain their product data in a centralized and efficient manner
- transfer data from other systems
- or export the data to dealer exports, for print catalogs or web shops and apps.
Similar to ERP systems, PIM systems play a fundamental role when it comes to customer-oriented product and marketing services.
More and more product data for ever more purposes
Thirty years ago, the main product data was only available in a physical product catalog. Nowadays digitalization is increasing the amount of product data requested:
More and more: in addition to the main products, other products such as spare parts, accessories, etc. are also being requested regularly. Product ranges are also being expanded with the help of cooperation partners or acquisitions.
Multiple languages: Many companies now sell their products internationally, keeping in mind product data in the customer's language enhances sales, these other languages need to be added.
More sales channels and formats: often, product data is required by the company's own marketing/sales department, as well as by retailers and partners in an increasing number of media and formats: for print catalogs, extract catalogs, price lists, data sheets, websites, online catalogs, web shops, apps, exports to BMEcat, Datanorm, GAEB, Arge, to name a few.
More than 80 percent of the information that companies communicate to the industry and commerce relates to the products they offer.
Product data is often maintained on multiple different platforms.
Many companies still maintain product data in a redundant manner within numerous files and systems. For example, master product data can be found in the merchandise management system, product sales data in the print catalogs, data sheets, labels and websites, and perhaps also EXCEL lists of some employees. But when a company has to maintain product data on such "islands", this not only means a huge waste of resources (entering changes on each platform), it is only human to accidentally forget about one of the numerous platforms causing some of the data to be erroneous. PIM systems allow product data to be maintained far more efficiently.
PIM systems for central product data maintenance, with cross-media features
PIM systems, on the other hand, enable data from different systems to be merged (e.g. master data from the ERP system, technical data from CAD / PLM, from employee EXCEL lists,...), refined with additional product data, images and translations and then exported for the various media and formats.
What are the benefits of a PIM system?
Internal benefits of a PIM system:
- Complete overview of the entire international product portfolio
- Significantly lower time and effort spent searching for product information by all employees
- "Single Point of Truth": Employees can be assured that correct, complete, current and consistent information is gathered in one place. Furthermore, all employees in all subsidiaries have identical information available simultaneously.
- Considerably more efficient maintenance of product data.
- More flexible and faster preparation of product data for sales and product management inquiries
External benefit of a PIM system:
- Complete, up-to-date and consistent source of information for retailers and partners
- Multi-channel strategy support for using product data in various print documents, web catalogs, web shops and apps
- Easier cooperation with logistics companies
- Utilization of cross-selling potentials by defining product combinations
Some key features of PIM systems:
- Interfaces, imports: used to transfer data from other systems. Here data interfaces are used to transfer data changes from other systems at fixed times (e.g. at night in CSV, XML or EXCEL format) while function interfaces are used to access data changes from other systems on demand (via web service SOAP or REST).
- Entry and maintenance of further data: This involves further texts (e.g. marketing texts that are not maintained in the ERP system), the assignment of product categories and the addition of product relationships and parameters. It is particularly important for technical industries to enter technical data in a structured way, e.g. parameters such as temperature range, dimensions or pressure, as this can significantly improve the efficiency of daily data maintenance. The technologically leading PIM system ANTEROS is particularly advantageous and offers different data types, a nesting of parameters and much more.
- Maintenance of images: If you create print documents such as catalogues or data sheets using the PIM system, it is important to have images available in print quality. Some PIM systems have an integrated media database for images and documents, while others connect external systems via interfaces. With the integrated media databases, it is sufficient to upload images just once in print quality before the converter automatically generates other formats from these, e.g. web large and mini or images in Amazon format. The industry-leading PIM system ANTEROS fully integrates a media database as a MAM module.
- Text translation: to translate texts into other languages. Some PIM systems have an integrated translation module, while others connect external systems via interfaces. The integrated translation modules usually allow you to list all texts that have either not yet been translated or whose main text has changed. The translation module of the leading technology ANTEROS also offers an EXCEL export, which provides color recognition of what changes have been made to the texts in the meantime.
- Quality control: Some PIM systems offer a dashboard with which the quality of the data can be controlled and improved gradually. Only a few systems (like ANTEROS.qm) additionally offer so-called quality gates to subdivide the data quality into several quality levels.
- Export: In order to give your product data to your retailers and partners in a suitable format, e.g. for your own web shop or catalog, you should check which formats you consider suitable. The formats vary from industry to industry. For example, formats such as Datanorm and GAEB are relevant for construction suppliers, Arge for the SHK industry or TecDoc for automotive suppliers. In addition to the actual data exchange format, data for a standard classification such as ETIM, eClass or Proficlass is also frequently requested. Even though there are many standards here, it is often the case that several standards or standard versions are relevant. This requires extensive consultation with your partners and, if necessary, a competent PIM service provider. The INCONY team has been active in this field for more than 20 years.
- Workflow:Workflows allow you to configure your own processes in the PIM system. Thus, the step-by-step work by different individuals on product data can be managed via workflow states, state transitions and actions. INCONY models these processes with its customers in the standard process language BPML.
Some PIM systems also offer cross-media functions:
- Print: There are generally two methods of using centrally maintained product data and images for print catalogues, price lists, data sheets, labels, etc:
- Database Publishing via Indesign: Product data and images are transferred to Indesign via an interface, where these are presented using templates and then manually converted into the final format (e.g. empty columns are deleted, texts are moved up, etc.)
- Print at the touch of a button: here the print engine is fully integrated in the PIM system and enables the generation of print catalogs without a typesetting system such as Indesign. While some offer simple report generators while the layout is very rudimentary, the technology-leading PIM engine ANTEROS.print enables even complex technical catalogs to be generated at the push of a button. Industrial companies such as Schaeffler and TMD now also use this print engine for new product catalogs or excerpt catalogs for partners via an extranet application with just one click.
- Web: In order to use the centrally maintained product data and images from PIM within websites, online catalogs, web shops or product portals, all PIM systems offer interfaces to eCommerce and shop systems, such as Shopware, Intershop, Magento,.... Some also have their own eCommerce module, like ANTEROS. web, which can be fully integrated into your ERP system (SAP, Navision, ABAS, Infor, ...) via a web service interface.
- Apps: A few suppliers also offer an app with which their customers can specifically search for their products, compare them and then request or order them. ANTEROS offers the webshop functions not only for Android and iOS, but can also be customized as required, e.g. with a photo function to find the right product in the shop with the photographed spare part (INCONY has implemented this for TMD Friction).