I was recently asked what I was doing while working as a Project Coordination Intern at Mercedes-Benz (MB), so I decided to write this blog post and share the main purpose of product information management (PIM) and explain how it can save money for corporations.
Defining product information management
PIM is especially useful for large corporations selling complex products. The main purpose is to create a system with aligned processes to collect product information and make it instantly available to whoever needs it. It is possible to set restrictions to access if it is not wished that everyone throughout the corporation should access product information. Another option is to apply for access, which will be granted by the product information department if specific criteria is satisfied. Product information can be anything from product pictures, product descriptions, technical details of products to technical drawings of products. The department in which I worked not only managed product information but was also responsible for the creation process of product pictures. Most of the pictures one sees in ads are not real photographs but highly sophisticated computer generated images (CGIs).
For instance, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class product information consists of many thousands CGIs, from large parts such as wheels, seats, or power engines to detailed parts such as material textures, buttons, or knobs. Every customer wants to have clear product information available when ordering his car, thus every possible configuration needs to be displayed. Furthermore, not every product can be combined with one another, thus clear product description and configuration lists need to be made available as well. Without a centralized PIM system, often called Single Source Publishing (SSP), there would be a great dis-organization when storing and trying to retrieve product information.
Saving money through product information management
For instance, an employee from China wants to access product information of the steering wheel of the S-Class only to realize that the department which created the GCIs cannot find the exact picture on its hard drive due to bad documentation. Besides wanting to have pictures, the employee calls another department which was responsible for the product description, but the text was apparently never saved. A large delay is the result. Perhaps the employee will not be able to finish his task or perhaps the relevant information needs to be reproduced which costs money. Without a PIM system employees do not even know that product information of the steering wheel exists. The result is that different departments might create different product information for the same steering wheel. One department calls the steering wheel „Active Touch Wheel“, the other „Touch Sensitive Steering Wheel“, this creates confusion especially when the customer would ask what the difference between those two wheels is. The seller would have to call the customer service and customer service would have to figure out which department was responsible for steering wheels, only to find out that two instead of one departments were involved. A time-consuming meeting would then determine the exact name but that’s not the end. it would take even more time and resources to change existing product information of the steering wheel. That is an undesirable situation. If one does not make it right during the first time, it will cost a lot more to make it right afterwards. The solution is a PIM system.
Setting up an internal communication strategy
Nevertheless, having a PIM system alone is not sufficient. Leading a product information department successfully requires to develop an internal communication strategy. Employees throughout the corporation need to understand the Six Ws: 1. What does PIM? 2. Who does PIM? 3. When is PIM available? 4. Where can PIM be accessed? 5. Why does PIM exist? 6. How can PIM be used? When employees see the value of using PIM, it increases the probability of its usage, and therefore communication plays an important role to increase awareness and foster employee engagement.