With the explosion in the number of makes and models of new cars and trucks on the nation’s highways today — and the corresponding increases in the numbers of service parts — manufacturers and parts resellers have never been more challenged to efficiently and profitably manage the millions of pieces of information required to support the distribution, selection and purchase of the right part.

Fortunately, robust software technology from companies like Pricedex is available that allows manufacturers to dramatically reduce their costs in creating, managing and disseminating accurate part pricing and product information to their selling chains.

Much more than a simple catalog publishing tool, this technology is broadly referred to as Product Information Management (PIM) software and the best, most comprehensive solutions comprise tools to manage pricing, product and part information, cataloging, publishing and data synchronization. And the preferred systems put all of this online so that manufacturers can work between their global operations as well as with customers to exchange up-to-the minute information.

Furthermore, a PIM system will provide a company with a ‘single source of the truth’ of all things related to products, including pricing history, which is essential to good management practices and compliance to regulatory requirements, such as Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX). A PIM system will also allow companies to easily comply with a variety of industry data standards and publish data in custom formats often dictated by customers.

This series will serve as a primer on the “four pillars of PIM” and will help executives understand the financial, resource and customer service advantages that can accrue to the organization that implements a robust PIM solution.

‘The Four Pillars’ – What are they?

Comprehensive product information management spans four categories or “pillars” of process management: Product & Part Management; Pricing Management; Catalog & Publishing Management, and Data Synchronization. No PIM system or set of processes is truly complete without addressing these key pillars – in fact, without addressing each of these key areas, a PIM solution is only a point solution.

This article, the first in a series, will address the benefits of a comprehensive “Four Pillar’ approach to product information management.

Figure 1 – Product Information Management (PIM) systems comprise four key pillars: Product & Part Management, Pricing Management, Catalog/Publishing Management, and Data Synchronization

Product & Part Management – The First Pillar

Product & Part Management incorporates all the processes and data related to maintaining products and their associated parts, along with their related attributes and data to support the product lifecycle, including product and part history and supersessions.

Unlike Engineering and Manufacturing systems (CAD, PLM, etc.), which contain the manufacturing Bill of Materials (BOM), the product management system typically contains the marketing and service BOMs. In addition, it contains myriad additional product support information such as product shipping dimensions and weights, images, and other non-engineering but critical information.

The product and part relationships maintained in a PIM system help companies quickly bring their engineered products to market by facilitating the sharing of information between material suppliers, by maintaining information on product configurations and versions, and by also maintaining source material for after sales service, such as the serviceable part list for a product, service part supersessions and variants, and a number of other attributes.

In addition, a robust PIM system will maintain a full product history, and the relationships between products and parts, which enables manufacturers and their customers to have accurate information to service products in the field, and to help them both optimize revenue through the sale of service parts. This is the lifeblood for manufacturers focused solely on aftermarket parts and service. A PIM system enables them to perform and share research and analysis on what parts they should be selling in the marketplace, identify gaps in application coverage and changes to equipment assemblies or key components through the establishment of a Competitive Interchange within their product management environment.

Companies that incorporate these strategies can dramatically reduce the time to market for a new product release, or a product supersession. Usually, launch lead time can be reduced to weeks instead of months and in some circumstances even days, because of the elimination of traditional, paper-based processes, and manual workflow. And the information stored here becomes the first supporting pillar in a corporation’s selling chain support process.

Next Issue: “Pricing Management – The Second Pillar”