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Industrial manufacturers: the product data onboarding challenge


Inbuilt scalability requires a solution which can deal with an infinite number of product descriptions and visuals, thousands of SKUs and enormous volumes and varieties of attributes from multiple suppliers. Nowadays, PIM functionalities enable delivery of product data across a wide range of distribution channels and the fact that all product data is concentrated in one location makes it much easier than previously to validate supplier data using automated processes for optimised workflows.

Volume of offer

With the advent of these automated processes enabled by dedicated onboarding software, the opportunities for inter-partner and cross-departmental collaboration have significantly reduced the ‘bottleneck’ problem. Users can gain comprehensive oversight of the product data flow from source to destination.


The clearly established standards delineated by governance apply to effectively mapping incoming product data;

  • establishing standardised and normalised definitions for taxonomy, alongside clearly defined attribute labelling
  • performing ongoing audits of these taxonomies and attribute definitions
  • using machine learning functionalities to help the system improve display taxonomies incrementally, by analysing how customers are searching for products on sales channels
  • categorising products with similar attributes and highlighting the connected SKUs to eliminate duplicated data

Differentiation of customer experience

Agile onboarding needs the capacity to rapidly integrate with new vendors and suppliers, increasing product assortments from one day to the next and developing the requisite product information to drive purchasing decision-making, conversions, and repeat visits. Unlike the old days of sales rep ‘hand-holding’, today’s customer journey is driven by self-service. Whether in retail or B2B, the digital customer experience is focused on sending the right message to the right person at the right time. When manufacturers expend all their resources and energy on simply managing existing product assortments, growing, and modernising those assortments is often put on the back burner. However, by automating upkeep processes and streamlining initial data integration, businesses can work faster.

The solution is an onboarding tool which can ingest, standardise, and deliver diverse incoming file formats containing highly complex product data. Using AI and machine learning, the manufacturer is in a much better position to offer internal teams the quality of data which makes it easier to tailor and contextualise. That offers the quality, speed, responsiveness, and adaptability the modern business purchaser will increasingly demand of their information sources.

Volume of suppliers

Technology solution providers are addressing the business problems arising from the time-consuming and labour-intensive tasks involved in manually standardising incoming data. Given the almost certain rise in volume of different (and increasingly specialised) suppliers, efficient onboarding requires platforms which speed up processes by automating the normalisation of vast quantities of disparate data.

Volume and complexity of attributes

A particular characteristic of industrial manufacturing is the variety and complexity of products they manage. The attributes of a modern PIM solution allow for a highly responsive approach to efficiency in onboarding: 

  • The entirety of incoming product data can be centralised and automated.
  • Consequently, every area of the business knows their location and protocols for standardisation
  • An automated classification system means that flexible product attributes can be linked to each category
  • Dynamic product data modelling makes it simple to update mapping parameters instantly, as changes to product attributes and product types can be made in real time.

Data quality and data governance

The GIGO principle (‘garbage in, garbage out’) still holds fast. As the volume and variety of incoming supplier data increases, it is ever more imperative that businesses treat data as an asset to be cared for, standardised and governed.

That means implementing a suitable data governance framework to fit with the business model. Parts and components will continue to have more data attached to them, which increases the risk of ingesting bad data. A clear set of governance principles for onboarding means better, leaner, and cleaner data entering the PIM system, leading to better decisions and results.

How can consultancy and technology solve these challenges?

Clearly structured and governed acquisition of supplier or vendor data engenders a mutually supportive relationship between the two partners. Both parties leverage the wide-ranging capabilities of software platforms to ingest and consolidate normalised product data sets. Consultancy partners assist greatly in establishing the mindset and setting up the framework to put in place robust and agile procedures for mapping of incoming data quality. Having a common and shared understanding of these requirements adds value to the supplier-client relationship and ultimately makes the jobs of both organisations easier.

At Start with Data, our team of consultants has built up experience and expertise in assisting and advising clients needing to implement a high-quality onboarding solution for their disparate incoming product data feeds. Read more about our Data onboarding expertise