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Product information management in supply chain

“People look at supply chain in pieces and it has to be looked at holistically. The way to truly analyse supply chain is {from} point of order to point of fulfilment and doing that in as lean a way as possible.” Karl Glassman, Chief Executive Officer, Leggett & Platt (diversified designer and manufacturer of engineered components)

Product information management in supply chain needs to be a ‘whole’, end-to-end, fully integrated set of business processes. Above all, product data mustn’t lose its integrity or become contaminated in the flow from the supplier to manufacturer to distributor. That is why it’s essential to have Product Information Management (PIM) across the supply chain for customer satisfaction.

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In relation to supply chain optimisation, PIM users achieve significant competitive advantages in comparison to competitors: 

  • more likely to bring new product introductions to market more effectively in time, volume, and quality
  • more effective at delivering more quality products efficiently and on time
  • higher achieving in their performance to plan in terms of operating margin


The gap between those product-centric companies who use PIM consulting services to implement a product information management strategy, in contrast to those who do not, is only likely to become wider in the coming years. Measurable improvements include:

  • greater productive output
  • higher launch rate for products
  • higher accuracy for inventory
  • higher rate of customer satisfaction (more conversions)
  • fewer returns

End-to-end supply chain integration

Cloud systems also allow for a single product data hub where all users can see and update discrete items as well as categories in line with commonly established governance standards. The aim, when it comes to product information management in supply chain, is greater collaboration across the supply chain, generating a more coherent approach to the entire chain.

A cloud-based, fully supply chain-integrated PIM means that companies are operating with cleansed and accurate data,of a single version and a single source, to drive efficiencies in systems and processes along the entire supply chain. This saves time and acts as a guarantee for end-to-end oversight and control of product data quality across all areas of the business where people access, alter or use it. 

Key components of ‘new generation’ supply chains

  • Agility/Adaptability/Flexibility – There is increasing volatility in the operating environment, so adaptability must be a key component of any system. This isn’t just about the underlying technology, but also emphasises that the design, manufacturing (assembly and reassembly of components), supply and last mile is the fastest, most flexible route to optimal business outcomes.


Producers are increasingly needing to model complex processes, and these can span several functional domains – that requires a system which doesn’t require complicated and time-consuming work to integrate.

  • Embedded artificial intelligence: until fairly recently, decision-making support systems (such as supply chain planning apps) were systems layered on top of traditional supply execution systems. As supply chains become more complex and necessarily rapid, greater advanced embedded analytics tools are needed within core supply chain applications. As an integral part of the chain for product-oriented companies, many PIM vendors use such embedded intelligence to integrate with numerous supply chain elements. The synergy it brings is its centralised, consolidated ‘golden record’ for all stakeholders to access and edit data in real time.
  • Responsiveness and Resiliency: the COVID-19 pandemic is generating residual effects which impact on the stability of supply chains across sectors. New technologies (like machine learning and AI) are thus essential tools to enable a fast, robust, and reliable response to emerging problems or opportunities.
  • Flexibility and adaptability: supply chain technologies have tended not to be constructed around principles of flexibility as a core capability. Significant change is what characterises the current landscape. A new paradigm is needed, such as the digital supply chain twin, a detailed simulation model of an actual supply chain which can use the real-time data stored in a PIM to forecast changes in supply chain dynamics.

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Modern supply chain management and gains from effective Product Information Management

Product data volume is rising, and is becoming more prevalent across multiple touchpoints, which raises the question about data authenticity. More data means more diverse sources, systems, and processes, which adds to the complexity. A business with multiple vendors and customers faces an increasing challenge to provide consistently accurate information throughout the product lifecycle, unless its product information management is tightly controlled across the supply chain. That is why having a single point of reference is essential at each stage to extract necessary insights and make the right decisions. 

Good quality product data should equip supply chain managers with all the information they require, to have comprehensive oversight of a product, and to ensure that procurement happens on time and inside budgetary constraints – all this while satisfying the necessary ‘ lean’ approach to inventory management..

That means getting the essentials (product description, universal part or product code, high-resolution imagery and other digital assets, parts list, and correct, complete, and up-to-date specifications.This information has to form the cornerstone of modern, digital supply chain activity. If it is wrong, other factors like efficiently sourced, low-cost materials, or prompt arrival of the goods in the right place are of little comfort. If the product information isn’t fit-for-purpose, it will cause a domino effect of inefficiencies down the line .

So, although accurate product data is not the be-all and end-all, it performs a critical role in that, if it is accurate in all respects, it allows your company’s supply chain to be more agile and efficient, especially in terms of ever more critical factors like:

  • Optimising logistics
  • Ensuring the correct storage conditions are met
  • Conforming with global regulatory conditions
  • Enhancing inter-departmental integration

In partnership with Start with Data’s PIM consulting services, you can optimise your supply chain by integrating a PIM solution which will future-proof your supply chain quality. Let’s talk!

Ready to take the next step in your product data journey?

For retailers and distributors

We have a highly experienced team of PIM consultants ready to transform your product information challenges into business benefits – Ben Adams, CEO

For brands and manufacturers

We can your business compete and thrive on the digital shelf – Beth Parker, Lead Consultant