Product information for 4,100 trading companies
BY GABRIELE MATTHES
The EK/servicegroup (EK) with a turnover of 2.2 billion euros is one of the largest multi-industry trade associations in Europe. Approximately 4,100 independent commercial enterprises with more than 50,000 employees – from small shops to retailers to department stores – have joined forces at EK.
EK’s product range is tailored to the needs of the end user and segmented into the four strategic business areas of living, comfort, family, and fashion.
For the purposes of data management and access to the data in the PIM system, a distinctive roles and rights system with respective views has been implemented. This ensures that the different user groups are able to act in the context of their permissions only. Here, the quality manager’s job is to manage users as well as projects. He/she assigns projects to the users according to their areas of work and competences. The product managers thus process the data of products they are responsible for within the PIM system in an employee-specific catalogue. The administrator takes over the data released by the product manager in the so-called main catalogue in the PIM system afterwards. These progressive rights are currently used exclusively by the employees. However, EK is planning to use the existing organisational structures in the PIM to control workflows and print exports for customers and suppliers in the future.
An essential part of the data is the product pictures. The imagery of the company includes some 10,000 images, which are required in different sizes and resolutions depending on use. In the past, management and allocation of image files has been problematic. This could be relieved with the implementation of the new system. The image naming and filing is now structured in a manner that ensures unambiguous product allocation. In addition, ordering of new photos will be supported by automated processes. As soon as the product manager requests a new picture, this request is forwarded to the photographers and added to a task list. Once it has been provided accordingly, the requesting party will be informed of the receipt of the picture, which is then checked and released or returned for corrections.
EK annually prepares 30 print catalogues with a total of 5,800 pages and 18,000 illustrations. The planning and production of these catalogues should become faster, more efficient and cheaper. Therefore, product data including images is now being structured within the PIM system and processed using the jCatalog products for cross-media publishing for print exports. Since the goods may also appear in different catalogues, different price levels need to be available. For this reason, the data prepared for these publications is again synchronised with the ERP system prior to printing in order to ensure that project-specific conditions are met. Subsequently, the print data is transferred to a print production line the jCatalog partner SDZeCOM has implemented for the production of catalogues, catalogue pages and promotional flyers.
Even EK Online, the B2B site of the EK/servicegroup is connected to the PIM system. Thus, the product and pricing information online is always up to date, as well as the web shops that will be centrally managed in the future and that are supplied with the latest data automatically.
The company found out very quickly that all workflows concerning product data management have been optimised. The software in its standard version already meets all the current requirements of EK and is thus ahead of the previous system. Also for future requirements, the company considers itself well equipped as the jCatalog solution is continuously being developed and adapted to newly emerging customer requirements.
With the current version, further usage possibilities are already intended. For example, EK, in addition to its own product group code, uses several other, industry-specific keys that are managed and used at the same time. For electrical equipment for example, a slogan-like overview with the most important characteristics is supported. For washing machines, information on capacity, water consumption and spin speed are important, while hairdryer details need to contain information about the number of blow and heat levels. Other properties ‒ energy efficiency class for example ‒ also affect many other departments. Another example: textiles are managed as structured products in order to create product sets and stock lists.
The different requirements of the individual business areas for product classification will be covered in the next phase of the project with the PIM solution as well, in order to integrate this B2C information too.
The focus of the next project phase is the quality control of the data that is acquired from suppliers. This is then matched to the product information from the PIM system and checked for completeness and plausibility. This includes the comparison of price information relating to the amount and purchase price versus retail price or the correct product description. This way, products a supplier has not updated can automatically be deactivated, meaning that they are assigned an outlet identification. Furthermore, the copy provided by suppliers is reviewed and approved to ensure a uniform editorial representation.
In the future, EK wishes to provide their dealers with product-related data electronically. Therefore, in the second phase of the project, a concept is being developed with which image and text files are managed within the PIM system and can be made available to partners.
JCatalog Software AG is a leading provider of software and cloud solutions for master data management in sales and marketing. Applications include product information management, cross-media and multi-channel commerce.
jCatalog Software AG
This article was published in the Produktkulturmagazin Q2 2015. Picture credit © Carol Del Angel/Getty Images