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Nouryon, formerly AkzoNobel’s chemical division, had just started using a new Product Information Management (PIM) system. The system was intended to ensure that product information on the company’s own website corresponded to the information on external channels. Given that the organisation had 3600 different products dispersed across 21 industries, it was faced with an enormous challenge.
Over recent years, the wide range of industries had all developed their own way of collecting, recording and storing product information. To be able to make good use of the advantages of a PIM system, this all needed to be done in a uniform manner. The basic information (product name, description and image) had been standardised by the time we joined the project. Our help was needed for the next step. Products in the chemicals world are compared by means of their specifications on product data sheets. These technical documents are essential, because clients make their purchase decisions on the basis of the information they contain.
Over the last decades, Nouryon’s 21 different market segments had all developed their own version of this document. The challenge was not just to arrive at a single standard design and format, but also to have the PIM system automatically generate PDFs of the product data sheets in different languages. This would mean that employees only had to fill in the correct information in the right fields and the system would do the rest.
After collecting all 3600 product data sheets, the first major challenge emerged: how to align 21 industries and jointly decide on a single template for all product data sheets? We put a lot of effort into that alignment process with the help of our client. We demonstrated how much more efficient the organisation would become when the PIM system could automatically create product data sheets and explained that choices had to be made.
Deciding on the template doesn’t mean you’re finished. After linking the raw data to the new template the next step is extremely important: data cleansing, or cleaning up all the information. Is the information complete? Is it correct? Does it contain clerical errors? Data consistency matters in this phase. After that, you have to prepare the clean data for migration to the system and for validation after loading.
A good data model makes the difference between the success or failure of a large content migration project like this. This model describes the relationship between the products and the specifications. It summarises the structure of your product information, and all the parameters you have agreed for each element, such as the colour of a chemical product. A good data model is scalable, robust as a model, but flexible as regards data. It ensures that data has a unique place in the system, known as Single Source of Truth. The data model is constantly under development during the project. If new fields are added to the data model, they always have an impact on the template in the PIM system.
All 3600 products and their specifications have now been stored in the PIM system. The product data sheets are automatically generated in various languages with – needless to say – the correct Nouryon branding and clearly defined wording for colours, sizes and standard terms. In other words: we achieved a recognisable and consistent brand experience.
The fact that the process has been considerably simplified, the system automatically generates PDFs and the individual product data sheets no longer have to be sent to a translation agency has led to substantial savings. The only thing employees have to do now is enter the right data in the PIM system. The rest happens automatically. And if new divisions or products are added? Then the implementation of those products can be done much faster than before. Built-in reports enable management to see exactly where a new product is in the implementation process and which information is still missing.
In conclusion, Nouryon’s products are now much easier to find and compare on the website. After all, the PIM system is also the engine driving the website’s search module. When we dive into the material so deeply, it’s easy to forget what we’re doing it for: to help and serve the end customer as well as possible.