Best Practices for Harmonizing Global Product Data

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The first step to successfully implementing a product life cycle management (PLM) solution begins with getting your data streams in a row.

Global brands often experience inconsistencies in data management for the same product being produced in multiple countries. Discrepancies can occur between two clients in the same country, or even between two departments within the same organization.  

The process of standardizing product data, ingredients and suppliers results in a more consistent and cost-effective product. A global view of data allows for better insight into information that dictates decisions such as budgeting and supply chain management.

Defining the importance of information and data management 

Keith Smallwood, who oversees Selerant Solution Management team, maintains that, “all businesses can be defined as comprising two fundamental pillars: what the organization knows (explicit and tacit), and what the organization does with what it knows.” 

Robust data management leads to improved operational efficiency, reliable reporting, assured regulatory compliance and better customer and supplier relations. 

Here are suggested steps that should be taken for global product data harmonization: 

Step 1: take stock of your multiples systems and their data

Oftentimes, the task of filtering and reviewing these discrepancies in product data can seem ominous and complicated. All data sets from the ingredient level through to packaging must be reviewed and differences identified in order to begin the process of harmonizing the data.

Our VP of Client Services, Jobi Varghese, weighs in on common trends he sees during data harmonization efforts:

“Typically, we see issues arise due to disintegration across multiple systems. Each system has its own unique naming model and organizational methods, which creates disharmony.”

The common data challenges are usually found in the following areas:

  • Multiple definitions
  • Missing data
  • Incorrect data
  • Data incompatibility
  • Different versions
  • Isolated data
  • Duplicated data

In order to avoid these issues, our PLM experts at Selerant advise brands to take a calculated approach to assessing and standardizing their various product data sets.  

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Step 2: create a master plan

Organizations should implement data harmonization efforts in a four-part approach:

  1. Data migration
  2. Data cleansing
  3. Data harmonization
  4. Data governance 

In order for an organization to be able to scale its data harmonization efforts across multiple departments, it’s crucial to put in place a framework and set of rules for how to standardize data. 

Data harmonization affects all levels of product hierarchy—from formulation to finished product. As such, data harmonization needs to be a team effort with a few individuals taking ownership of the process.  

This typically happens within a company’s  Supply Chain Management Department.  However, it is  important to underline that successful data quality and management improvement initiatives are about changing the way an organization thinks about and uses its most valuable assets. 

Identifying discrepancies: what makes a product different?

The first task of the harmonization framework is to define what makes the product different. For example, just because one ingredient is from two unique vendors, doesn’t necessarily mean there exists a formulaic difference between the two ingredients.

Next, the organization must gather details from each cross-functional team that impacts the products life cycle. Example teams can include R&D, purchasing and labeling/packaging.

Step 3: trust the experts

Devex PLM, Selerant’s product life cycle management solution for formula-based manufacturers, comes equipped with a wide variety of guidelines, tools and best practices that address the creation of this set of rules to standardize data. From coding conventions and system connectors to material/specification comparison and where-used mass replace capabilities, Devex makes global data harmonization approachable and attainable. 


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