Industry Data Standards – ETIM, BMECat, IceCat, GS1
What are industry data standards?
In March 2021, the International Data Corporation (IDC) noted that “The amount of digital data created over the next five years will be greater than twice the amount of data created since the advent of digital storage. The question is: How much of it should be stored?” As the volume of available product data expands exponentially, the issues of lineage, security and quality assume critical importance, which is why companies are increasingly turning to data backed by industry standards, They realise the transformational power of reliable, trustworthy and all-round high-quality product data from sources which can provide standardised models for product information.
There are several types of industry data standards out there, and this brief overview will help to clarify exactly what they are used for and at whom they are aimed. We will look at four key standards:
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ETIM is a classification standard used to describe technical products, especially those in the electronics industry. It exists to ensure there is no ambiguity or confusion when manufacturers share the key technical characteristics of their products. That clarity minimises the risk of misunderstandings about or misrepresentation of product information, thus avoiding the consequent risks in supply chain integrity.
This standard provides a single record of product information from a single source.
From the perspective of efficient product information management, manufacturers applying the ETIM standard can streamline the supply of product information to end users. At present, there is a prevalence of distributors, retailers, and marketplaces who waste time and money dealing with inconsistent, incorrect, or incomplete product information.
ETIM is a supplier-agnostic system for collecting data. Manufacturers can freely access this single model, providing a win for all concerned in respect of efficiency, speed of time to market, and reliability of information source.
The ETIM model uses six descriptors:
- Product groups
- Product classes (categories)
- Features (product attributes)
- Synonyms (alternative keywords)
This information is represented in various ways including 8-character unique identifiers and product descriptions.
BMEcat is a standard for electronic data transfer by electronic catalogs. It was created in 1999 by the German association for materials management, purchasing, and logistics. (BME is the German acronym)
This standard is used by a wide range of company types, from electronics manufacturers to industrial distributors. Deploying an open-source XML-based standard, BMEcat files can require IT support if managed manually. The advent of PIM platforms which can use automated functionalities and connectors to onboard and process these file types means it is no longer a time-consuming affair.
When it comes to managing product information effectively, The key is to integrate its use with existing technology tools (like PIM, ERP, and syndicated destination systems).
Also known as Open Icecat, this is a global open catalog containing product datasheets. Launched in 2005 by 20 technology manufacturers, it was designed to provide multilingual Product information to be edited by these participating manufacturers. Currently, it is used by a variety of product-centric organisations – manufacturers themselves distributors, retailers, resellers, online marketplaces, and comparison websites. Open Icecat datasheets are edited, verified, and approved by sponsoring manufacturers and are distributed for free.
Thanks to the direct connection between Icecat and the sponsoring manufacturers, Icecat can import their portfolio of products which are then controlled and standardised by the editorial team at Icecat.
At present, open Icecat supports a vast quantity of datasheets relating to industrial and technology products, FMCGs, and many other brands. Below are examples of product data content supported by IceCat:
- Part Number and logistics data: EAN/UPC code, weight, and dimensions
- Product images and multimedia content
- Multilingual marketing text
- Standard specifications for search & comparison
- PDF user manuals and related print material
- General Data, such as release date, modification date
These data sets are listed in standardised online formats which can easily be integrated with technology stacks, including ERP, MDM, and PIM systems. This allows for categorisation, filtering, searching, and comparison of products, as well as enabling rapid introduction of new products onto the market.
GS1 is a non-profit organization which maintains worldwide standards for business communication. The best-known standard is the electronically scanned barcode. Currently, there are more than 100 million products with GS1 barcodes.
GS1 standards and services serve to improve the safety, efficiency, and transparency of supply chains across channels (physical and digital) across a wide range of sectors. It is used as much in retail and industrial manufacturing as in healthcare and serves as a business ‘language’ which can identify, capture, and share key information about products, locations, and assets. In general terms,
As we noted earlier, a major bugbear for all organisations is the reliability and overall quality of incoming product data. If the provenance of such data is backed by a reputable source organisation and a globally-recognised standards framework, that doubt is removed. Additionally, when harnessed alongside the power, automated functionalities, and integration of product information management systems, GS1 facilitates greater responsiveness, efficient internal processing and enrichment, rapid time to market, and ultimately, an enhanced customer experience.
The end game
In summary, the implementation of data standards brings not only benefits, but offers a ‘safety net’ in terms of correctness, trustworthiness and compliance:
- It minimises the risk of errors by reducing input to a single source across the supply chain
- The multi-lingual model with automatically provided translations enables faster scaling to international markets
- Changing and evolving compliance and regulatory data can be more easily managed and updates automatically
- Modelled on a reusable template, content can be used without the need to manually duplicate for various purposes
- Supply chains become more agile and capable of managing very short product life cycles