Catalog managers are well aware that automated publishing systems can significantly cut the hard costs associated with catalog publishing; they see these savings every time they publish a catalog.
What isn’t so obvious is the multitude of hidden costs – mostly related to staff time and resources – that also can be significantly reduced, while improving data accuracy and publishing speed and flexibility IF catalog publishing software is integrated with an overall Product Information Management system.
These costs are directly related to staff time committed to data management, data cleansing, updates, supersessions, error identification and correction, analysis, standards compliance and standards flexibility, maintaining an image library and much more.
It is these costs that an integrated PIM system can expose, streamline and in some cases, even eliminate.
New Product Introduction and Supersessions
For instance, rather than waiting for a new product notification to start the cataloging and publishing process, a good PIM system will allow Product Managers and Catalog Managers to collaborate and create a simplified process for getting timely product information ready, well prior to publication. This ensures that the product information is in the catalog, validated and ready to publish, on or before the date the product is released to market.
For many manufacturers this is crucial since there is often a significant time lag between product release and getting the related product information to the market. In the independent aftermarket, time to market is a significant issue, with new product information taking anywhere from 5 to 12 months to find its way downstream to service dealers and retailers.
Pricing is another area where a PIM system solves inherent challenges related to catalog publishing. The best PIM systems, such as AutoPIM Pro from Pricedex, incorporate a very important element – pricing management. Pricing Management, usually a separate process from both Product and Catalog Management, is every bit as essential to Catalog Managers, to ensure that products are properly priced on the Price Sheets (and possibly the eCatalog) and in the electronic files sent to the eCat providers. Pricing Management, on its own is traditionally a lengthy and error-prone process. And not having the right price available, along with the right part information, or even having a price come out later than the catalog, can cost companies up to 1/2% of gross annual revenue for every month the information is late.
Customers report reductions of up to 60% in the number of customer support calls related to catalog information if they’re using PIM systems to synchronize their internal product information.
A PIM system enables Catalog Management departments to incorporate and automate Image Management, freeing up considerable resources to do higher value work. The Image Management function ties the proper specification for images to the appropriate publishing jobs and customer files, while automatically associating product images with part information. And, the image management system in AutoPIM Pro will also report when images are related to multiple parts, or even report missing images and incomplete image groupings.
Proofing, Coverage and Holes
When Catalog and Publishing Management is incorporated with a PIM system and all the part and product information a PIM system stores and maintains, the processes associated with proofing and ensuring completeness of the catalog content are significantly reduced. Consider the difference in a publishing process where the information being managed and maintained by Product Managers is immediately available, real time, for the catalog – up-to-date interchanges, supersession data, and reliable means to validate the completeness of the data and product coverage.
In a PIM system such as AutoPIM Pro, all product related information – vehicle research, cross-reference tables, product history – is available in an accurate, single point of the truth. Further, crucial content such as units of measure, and other terminology, have been cleansed and normalized, thus dramatically reducing proofing cycles and time. With some customers, catalog updates are produced immediately, and a product is available in the catalog immediately upon its release because of the accuracy of the information. Proofing cycles can be reduced from 60 to 90 percent, eliminating weeks of review and rework on a catalog.
Catalog Managers are faced with a growing burden of producing catalogs to meet industry standards – and in many cases, multiple standards for different customers and different market niches. Additionally, the role of publishing ‘commercial content’ – price files and other product information related to supporting customer point of sale systems – is now moving out of the realm of the IT department (EDI) and into the hands of Catalog Managers.
Good PIM systems, such as AutoPIM Pro, are responsible for aggregating all product information from disparate business systems, and tying it back to pricing and customer specific profiles, and then generating the content to be conveyed in the standard file format. Simply put, a good PIM system will eliminate the need for manipulating and remapping content to support different customer requirements – and cut out the potential for errors in the data at the same time. And all this is done in minutes, not days.
Cross Media Publishing and Localization
Catalog Managers still have to be concerned with making the catalog and other product information available in a number of different formats – from electronic files for customers, to web-based catalogs and their print printed versions. The best PIM systems – such as AutoPIM Pro – provide strong cross media publishing features in addition to Pricing and Product Management capabilities.
And, by tying Image Management, Customer Profiles, XML publishing and Change Tracking together, publishing can be performed ‘on demand’ for any product, customer or market grouping, published in the language of choice and with proper currency values for the market.
In fact, customers using the AutoPIM Pro system today publish simultaneously to web, print, CD and electronic files in minutes, and have driven up to 90 percent of the ‘soft’ costs of out of the publishing process. And they’ve achieved all of this while improving the accuracy of the content and coverage, enabling the catalog to become a highly reliable and strategic sales tool.