Emerging Trend: Standards in Product Data

Emerging Trend: Standards in Product DataBy Amanda Gubbins 

Good, clean product data is important on every level of the supply chain. Accurate data ensures that everyone in the chain can do their job and that the consumer gets the best product possible. The challenge comes in the variance of formats that are used by different organizations to organize and store their own product data.

Patty Putcharkan, Data Intelligence Manager at MagnaFlow explains that historically automotive product data has not adhered to any kind of industry standard, creating issues for organizations that need to exchange information. In recent months, Putcharkan has noticed this beginning to change. "Now that AAIA Legacy dataset has evolved from being a flat file to AAIA Catalog Enhanced Standard (ACES) and Product Information Exchange Standard (PIES) format, it's allowed easier mapping and conversions of the vehicle attributes into a relational database," she says.

The data quality from manufacturers impacts wholesale distributors and other receivers as they prepare products for sale. Dave Ziozios, Chief Executive Officer of Motovicity Distribution is thrilled about this new trend of standardization. He understands how complicated the issue can be. "Data is a very ambiguous and expansive subject. I think that oftentimes as a concept it's overwhelming to all members of the vertical chain of distributors, from the manufacturers down."

Ziozios is optimistic, however, that the SEMA Data Co-op (SDC) will provide a guiding light for the industry and make the standardization process easier for everyone.

Jon Wyly, CEO of the SDC believes the resources available help members do just that. The SDC takes product data in whatever form the manufacturer provides and validates it for accuracy and compliance. On the receiver end, the SDC is a one-stop shop for collecting information from multiple manufacturers in the format and time frame they need. This eliminates the need for manufacturers to create multiple formats or for receivers to spend extra time organizing the data for their systems.

While other private operations exist to help organizations standardize their data, the SEMA Data Co-op's goal is to continually find ways to make the process easier, resulting in a higher rate of participation, which will ultimately benefit the entire industry. Currently, about 220 suppliers and 170 receivers are part of the Co-op, with the numbers growing each week. "We're all about service first and want to make it as easy and affordable as possible," says Wyly.

Putcharkan believes there are many benefits to standardizing data for the manufacturers, all the way to the consumer. "Making data consistent through standardization allows manufactures like us to bring our products to market faster by seamlessly exchanging product data with our distributors, wholesalers and retailers," she says. This will improve communication and give the consumer more options as they shop. 

Ziozios agrees that the process doesn't need to be painful. "There are some companies out there that are really taking proactive steps to ensure that they are meeting and exceeding not just industry but commerce standards as a whole. I find that very encouraging. It's really not an impossible, insurmountable task."