How improving product data can enhance supply chain efficiency

Getting a sense of all of the company’s product data and where it lives is only the first step.
20 September 2021

A floating grow platform at the booth of “Dry Hydroponics”, an innovation uncovered using data to enhance the fresh food produce business and supply chain. (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Manufacturers today are on a collective journey of transformation toward a digital future that features an efficient, highly automated supply chain. Some organizations have already fully embraced a new reality based on a solid foundation of product information, while others are just beginning the process of digitizing manual forms and various categories of product data.

Wherever a company is in the process, one thing reigns supreme – the data itself.

Collecting the correct data

The first step toward digital transformation of product data is to actually collect it. This is more of a challenge than it may seem. For most businesses, a multitude of internal business groups and data systems each hold a portion of the product information. The ops team might maintain product SKUs, finance might have ultimate control over prices, while the marketing team might be responsible for putting product information on the website.

Putting together a cross-functional team is a great way to break down the silos of business units and get people talking and sharing data. This is not just a project for marketing or sales. It’s a fundamental shift in mindset for the company that brings different groups together with a common strategy, committed to a long-term transformation of the supply chain. And all based on a complete picture of the data at the business’s disposal.

Integration and flexibility

Getting a sense of all of the company’s product data and where it lives is only the first step. Next, it’s time to put it to work. Building the connections between your collected data is key. This is where empowering a cross-functional team with the right digital tools can make all the difference. An integrated content management system connected in real-time to your ERP, CX, and eCommerce systems can help harness the data. In turn, producing real-time insights that help the business better understand customers and meet their needs by keeping the supply chain moving.

Integration for a digital transformation can seem overwhelming at first glance. Business units and departments all have existing systems and processes that might not fit a one size fits all solution. Companies also need to future-proof by preparing for additional needs they might have as the business grows and their product catalogue changes. To maintain flexibility of data management, combined with how fast needs can change, consider an open-source system that doesn’t lock the business into a single vendor’s technology for the foreseeable future. This solution also allows functionality to be added later as needs evolve.

Taking it further

To fully embrace digital transformation, let data do even more. Today, open-source can easily expand by incorporating and leveraging predictive analytics through the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning. The more deeply businesses understand supply chain drivers such as customer buying patterns and manufacturer production cycles, the more accurately they can identify trends to forecast needs and reduce the guesswork that leads to inefficiencies. Adapting this human and digital architecture, creates an environment where different internal systems can share the relevant information to make sure the supply chain is running smoothly.

Digital transformation opens new avenues to automation within a business. When more of the day-to-day tasks are performed by computers and robots, the ability to produce and deliver products to customers becomes even more reliable. This is particularly relevant in a world where COVID continues to create uncertainty among the workforce. Maintaining their reliability to deliver products can create a significant competitive edge for the organization.

Now is the time

The key to driving supply chain improvements is to start immediately. Even if businesses don’t have all of their data collected yet, they can begin to establish an architecture and integrate the product data as they go.

Businesses should also start having discussions with stakeholders throughout the organization, because a commitment to digital transformation is as important as the technology they use to make it happen. With a unified strategy and the data management solutions to implement it, businesses will be prepared to keep delivering their products in an increasingly unpredictable world.




Article contributed by Karim Marucchi, CEO of Crowd Favorite, who has over 25 years of experience in launching digital strategies.