Business challenge

To drive sales, this specialty manufacturer wanted to communicate product specifications to its customers—but manual, spreadsheet-based processes made it difficult to capture the required information.

Transformation

The company implemented a centralized product information and collaborative master data management solution, helping it to capture and maintain an accurate, comprehensive record of product attributes.

Results

75%

faster time-to-market for new products

64%

decrease in content management costs

55%

reduction in the company’s marketing communications costs

Business challenge story

Giving customers the confidence to buy

When it comes to creating someone’s dream kitchen or bathroom, choosing the right parts is critical to ensure safety and regulatory compliance. For specialty manufacturers like this global water-quality products provider, accurately describing the specifications and capabilities of its plumbing, heating, and water-quality products is vital to help its customers ensure they’re making the right choice for the job.

The organization is composed of several manufacturing companies that go to market via wholesalers and distributors, retailers, and original equipment manufacturers [OEMs]. In the past, the business relied on manual, spreadsheet-based processes to manage and communicate product specifications to its partners in the channel. The difficulty with this approach was that its marketing communications team had to spend significant amounts of time calling around multiple departments to obtain the data they needed. If it wasn’t possible to track down the data before a product launch, the company would be forced to go to market without it.

The company’s end customers need very specific product information to ensure they’ve chosen the right components for the systems they’re building—and the company knew it was increasing its risk of missing out on sales if it couldn’t provide this information to the channel. To solve the challenge, the global specialty manufacturer decided to implement a centralized, best-practice approach to capturing and disseminating product specifications, and looked for an enterprise-class platform for master data management [MDM].

The better we can inform our customers, the more sales we’ll drive—and we are very excited to unlock the potential of our MDM solution in this area.

—Spokesperson, Global specialty manufacturer

Transformation story

Building a single source of truth for product data

The company selected IBM® InfoSphere® Master Data Management Collaborative Edition—a product information management and collaborative MDM platform that enables a single, up-to-date repository of product and other related information.

One of the things that impressed the business the most was the solution’s data model. From the outset, the company realized that it would be straightforward to set up the model and configure it based on its operational requirements—in fact, many of the workflows were ready to deploy straight out of the box.

IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management also supports the Global Data Synchronization Network [GDSN]. This was an important capability for the global specialty manufacturer, as some of its largest channel partners use the GDSN model to exchange supply chain data. Once a business is ready to bring a new product to market, they input the specifications and GDSM data such as pallet weight into IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management. For the marketing communications team, this workflow vastly reduces the cost and complexity of collecting complete, accurate data for the channel.

Initially, the company configured its MDM platform to help its marketing communications team capture specifications for new products—but the company quickly recognized other opportunities to harness the platform.

The company is planning to launch a new venture that brings together compatible products from across its portfolio of brands into complete packages of solutions. For example, a solution package might combine valves and piping from one business with a boiler from another part of the group.

To help ensure that the constituent parts of the new offerings are compatible and compliant, it is vital that engineers in different companies share product specification data effectively. The MDM solution offered the ideal platform to enable that collaboration, and the organization looked for a vendor to help it redesign its workflow to turn the vision into a reality.

The organization developed a flexible workflow for IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management to nurture collaboration across organizational boundaries. The company has now expanded its use case for MDM from a tactical solution for marketing communications to a strategic solution for departments across the organization. The new MDM model will support its full range of use cases—from marketing communications to product-development collaboration and beyond.

The company is creating a single, customizable MDM workflow for the entire business. The new workflow is designed to be flexible enough to accommodate differences between companies while still managing data in a standardized way. For example, in smaller companies in the group, an engineer might be prompted to enter the gross weight of a product, while in larger companies the designed product manager might have that responsibility. And when designing new products, engineers won’t be required to enter information up front that isn’t needed during the research and development phase—they can populate fields such as “pallet weight” after the development process is complete.

Results story

Informed customers, increased sales

Over the next two years, the company plans to migrate and manage data for more than 300,000 products with IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management Collaborative Edition—ensuring that it can effectively communicate product specifications to end customers.

In addition to the incremental sales that the company will capture by ensuring that customers can purchase a product with the confidence that it will meet the requirements of their systems, the global specialty manufacturer is confident that it will be able to take new products to market via its digital channel up to 75 percent faster.

The business predicts that it could reduce content management costs by around 64 percent. When the company needs to make an update, it only has to change the information in its MDM solution, and it will automatically flow through to every other platform.

The company may also be able to reduce the operational costs associated with printing packaging for its products. At the moment, the global specialty manufacturer shares packaging information with printers in flat text formats, which they must re-key into their publishing systems. By building a direct feed from its MDM system to the printing systems, it could all but eliminate the risk of human error entering the process, as well as the need to spend thousands of dollars on insurance to limit its exposure to packaging printing errors.

By embracing IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management Collaborative Edition, the company’s marketing communications team is already achieving 55 percent cost savings by capturing complete and accurate product specifications before a product launches—reducing the need to re-publish product details for channel partners.

MDM is now a core part of the company’s product initiation process—and the business doesn’t go to market without the data. Looking to the future, the company sees that even more departments across the business are going to benefit from the IBM solution as its redesign initiative progresses.

One example is the company’s customer support teams. Today, the contact center personnel field calls from customers looking for very specific information, which they often simply do not have access to. By building a centralized repository for data on all its 300,000 products, the company will be able to give them that information then and there.

A spokesperson for the company concludes: “The better we can inform our customers, the more sales we will drive—and we are very excited to unlock the potential of our MDM solution in this area.”

About Global specialty manufacturer

This leading global provider of plumbing, heating, and water-quality products operates a portfolio of companies and brands in North America, Europe and Asia.

Solution components

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