By Sonia Coleman, IDEA
In the past year, the industry’s digital transformation journey kicked into hyperdrive.
From remote working to social distancing, the dependence on digital systems has grown. We rely on them to power product sales, improve decision-making, and make operations more efficient.From remote working to social distancing, the dependence on digital systems has grown. We rely on them to power product sales, improve decision-making, and make operations more efficient.
As people rely more on accessing information digitally, manufacturers are increasingly looking for ways to better manage and distribute their product content to their authorized trading partners.
We reached out to Brenda Maxwell, Director of Global Product Management for IDEA Connector, the industry’s largest direct repository of product content for her advice.
IDEA Connector houses 2.6 million stock-keeping units (SKUs) across 700 brands, feeding digital systems across electrical, plumbing, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) markets.
Maxwell has extensive experience in data management and syndication. In addition to her role in launching IDEA Connector, she also worked in IT for manufacturing for nearly two decades.
Q: IDEA Connector launched last year during the pandemic. How does the new platform help manufacturers?
Maxwell: IDEA Connector is a next-generation data management platform owned by NEMA and the National Association of Electrical Distributors. It enables manufacturers to rapidly syndicate all their product data and marketing information to authorized trading partners.
New benefits for manufacturers include:
- Unlimited capacity for attributes and product content
- Advanced mapping tool for rapid data transfer
- Editing utility features for faster product information changes
- Expanded professional services offering to meet increasing data management needs
Q: How can manufacturers syndicate all of their product SKUs and marketing information to their trading partners?
Maxwell: Manufacturers can now upload unlimited SKUs into IDEA Connector for no additional cost.
Currently, IDEA Connector is populating more than 500 attributes, including marketing descriptions, specifications, images, videos, spec sheets, brochures, warranties, and installation manuals.
Q: Tell me about the adoption of digital product content.
Maxwell: We’re seeing an increased priority placed on digital product content. IDEA Connector houses 2.6 million SKUs from 230 manufacturers.
More than 7,000 distributor locations use IDEA Connector to access their suppliers’ product information. This represents 90 percent of total sales volume of NAED Members and more than 70 percent of Electro Federation Canada distributor Members.
In addition, IDEA Exchange is the number one value-added network in the industry, processing more than 4 million Electronic Data Exchange (EDI) transactions per month.
Q: How is the industry approaching global Standards?
Maxwell: We believe in the value of an all-in-one approach with everyone in the industry reading off a common sheet of music: Standards.
We’re in the process of validating a proof of concept with the Product Data Standards Task Force, which originated with NEMA. We’re examining ways to harmonize product data in IDEA Connector for global Standards compatibility. This would include supporting variety of taxonomies or categorizations like United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC), ETIM International, and ECLASS.
Q: How important is digital integration to companies with a small percentage of online purchases?
Maxwell: Digital integration efficiencies are more than just selling products online. IDEA helps distributors and manufacturers implement digital initiatives that generate profit. For example, automating a manual process saves 30 percent on average. IDEA Exchange manages 4 million EDI transactions per month for thousands of customers.
Q: Help us understand the scale of change in product content.
Maxwell: IDEA Connector averages 325,000 SKU changes or additions each week. To put that number in perspective, a large electrical distributor might stock 25,000 SKUs. So we’re seeing 13 times more changes each week than the entire product offering of a large distributor.
Q: With so much demand for product content, how can manufacturers stay ahead of their competition without expanding their staff significantly?
Maxwell: We’re focused on meeting the needs of our manufacturers. That’s why we empower manufacturers to control their own content, while also offering Pro Data services from IDEA to help when needed.
At the request of our manufacturers, we’ve significantly increased our development team to solve technology challenges, including: data loading, importing, reporting, analytics, and sourcing and normalizing upon request.
IDEA Connector offers flexible autonomy and end-to-end expertise so each manufacturer can structure and import all their product content. Ultimately, this puts the power in the hands of our manufacturers to win in the future.
For more information on digital integration and product content for manufacturers, reach out to IDEA at 844.557.3749 or idea4industry.com