Key product data trends in manufacturing
Manufacturing has undergone great change in recent years, largely due to the pandemic, geopolitical and military events, and industry disruption through the growth of digitisation – all together, a potent and potentially problematic combination if not managed systematically.
Disruption has included shortages of containers, supply chain instability, port congestion (with the resulting backlogs), labour shortages, and the need to adhere to increasingly stringent quality requirements.
Other than the obvious move towards Industry 4.0 practices by manufacturers (large and even smaller), the following trends will emerge as key in developing optimum practices in product data management for brands and manufacturers in the coming years.
1. Traceability up the supply chain & ESG
This is both a reputational and legal factor, but also a practical issue of staying Competitive.
Looking at the latter, trends suggest that those manufacturers ahead of the pack are:
- developing a strategic mix of domestic sourcing alongside existing global suppliers in order to rely less on single sources
- addressing overlong lead times by honing demand planning and forecasting
- applying logistics and transportation strategies to address the lead time issue
- fully integrating and dynamising their management operating systems (MOS) to get greater visibility along their supply chains
- deploying inventory management strategies to address unpredictable supply chains and extreme demand fluctuation
Much of this trend requires improvements in data capture and being more mindful of the integrity of data (in all domains) deployed.
2. Digital commerce and the customer-brand relationship
B2B eCommerce uptake has accelerated in the last three years and manufacturers and brands are having to adapt their business models to ensure survival in a world where volatility, changing market requirements and the competitive imperative of accelerated time to market requires a response to satisfy an increasingly demanding customer base.
Agile manufacturers are in a better position to deal with:
- the uncertainty of how markets react and customers behave
- the need for reduced time to market for products (new and relaunched)
- the forecasting and inventory management needed for rapid fluctuations in demand
- the prevalence of more customers demanding personalised interaction with the brand
- fiercer and greater competition in the digital ecosystem
Add to this the distribution of product information to an increasing number of available channels and it is clear why manufacturers wanting to remain as market leaders are adopting product data management systems like a PIM solution to ensure they are on top of their data needs.
Download our PIM guide for Manufacturers
3. The customer experience
Traditionally, B2B sales in particular were field sales-based, with the role of the sales agent being pivotal. Now, value needs to be added in the increasingly adopted route – digital commerce is Whether B2B or B2C, the purchaser holds much greater power than previously. Optimise the customer experience because they:
- can leverage targeted SEO when searching for a product
- compare offers, prices and information when finding, researching, deciding, and purchasing
- have assumptions of a seamless ‘Amazon-like’ purchasing process
- demand rapid and seamless fulfilment of orders
- want personalised offers, recommendations, product bundling
- use omnichannel and non-linear routes to purchase via various touchpoints
These trends are not novel, but whereas previously, they were applicable to B2C customers, B2B purchasers are now exhibiting the same behaviour and looking for an ‘Amazon-like’ B2B customer experience.
Furthermore, when customers (re)search a product, they may visit the manufacturer’s site first, because they see it as ‘the source of truth’ for product information. So, manufacturers and brands are going to need a more in-depth engagement with the target customer, which is why for those adopting D2C, offering a seamless customer experience is an imperative strategic goal.
4. Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) reporting and regulation requirements
ESG is fast becoming a deal maker or breaker. New regulations and standards have emerged, such as the ESRS (European Sustainability Reporting Standards), as well as disclosure frameworks to enhance transparency and guard against accusations of “greenwashing.”
Manufacturers of all types and sizes will need to communicate sustainability practices clearly, using granular, high-quality data. The aim is to minimise misleading or false impressions and place green, ethical practices front and centre for purchasers (and investors).
For instance, businesses will be obliged to demonstrate their credentials in:
- being carbon neutral
- using repurposed, recycled, and reusable materials
- ensuring they use an ethical supply chain
- sourcing raw materials from responsible suppliers
Offsetting ESG requirements means having very large quantities of reliable information. It’s available but needs managing so that the product data you use covers all necessary bases. Taking transparent action on your carbon emissions, carbon credits, plastic neutrality, and supply chain traceability will no longer be ‘reputational extras’ but baked into the considerations of your customers.
Download our PIM guide for Manufacturers
5. Enduring product information management pain points for manufacturers
'The single version of the truth’?
The supply chain must be holistically managed, from raw materials, works-in-progress, and finished goods to after sales service. The common pain point is that product-related data are still frequently scattered across siloed systems, applications, and departments, all of which occupy their own complex and specific processes. This fragmented operating environment leads to inconsistent and incorrect data, as well as multiple (differing) versions of the same information throughout the organisation.
Inconsistent data reaching a growing number of channels?
Digital commerce is rich in information (volume and demand), which requires consistency to engage B2B buyers across the channels they use. Compared to retailers, manufacturers have been late to the game for omnichannel commerce. As such, they are late adopters of the product information management tools which can ensure that their information is entirely consistent across every single channel used.
The mantra regarding the benefits of this emerging omnichannel landscape for manufacturers is; “…connect, integrate, interoperate and reconcile.” Product Information Management feeds on such an ethos, as it drives:
- A consistent version of product information across all channels
- Consistency in exchange of data with business partners
- Interconnectivity across all business systems using APIs
- Guaranteed high-quality and unique data points along every stage of the value chain
At Start with Data, we leverage our experience and expertise to take your unique circumstances and provide input and output which adds value at every stage in your product information management project planning and development.
Get in touch with us to have a more in-depth conversation about how we can help your business ensure success in a rapidly changing digital environment.