The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association estimates its industry could save as much as $1.7 billion annually-assuming $100 billion in transactions between suppliers and direct customers-if it could just eliminate the product data errors in the supply chain. That's a lot of cash for any industry-and all from bad product data.
Everybody loves to talk about the customer-who they are, where they live, what they like, what they don't like, where they shop and whether John B. Smith is the same as Jon Bernheim Smith. Meanwhile, product data is seen as a supply chain or manufacturing problem, according to Paige Roberts, market manager for the Integration Division at Pervasive Software and one of my favorite Twitter dataheads.
That would be fine if the business never had to deal with product data, but obviously it does-and that means business end users need access to that product data through enterprise systems.
Okay, what's the big deal, you say? Integrate it and move on.
Oh, if only it were that easy, but as Roberts explains in a recent Information Management article, it's easy to make costly mistakes with product data-like accidentally doubling the number of 7 -inch, 28-tooth steel circular saw blades when you actually meant to order 5,000 saws, plus 5,000, 7 -centimeter, 28-thread stainless-steel screws. Alas, who knew that the system would misinterpret a data field that read "7 28 stain"?
The problem is that business and IT have been so focused on customer data that most of the solutions, best practices, references and models only speak to customer data-and neglect to take into account the idiosyncrasies of product data.
In the article, Roberts explores the five issues that make product data so darn tricky:
Unfortunately, she doesn't supply any answers except to find the right people, consultants and vendors (hey, kudos for the subtle marketing message there, Paige!). But then again, it's not an easy problem, so I can't blame her for that.
Fortunately, awareness is a big part of the solution. Given the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association's estimates on the savings for one industry, I have to think it's worth your time to investigate the problem further.