Nothing But the Truth

Embarking upon the Journey

Challenges in Getting to One Version of the Truth

The Dynamic Truths of Product Information Management

  • Who internally and externally is asking for information about our products?

  • What type of information are they asking for?

  • Do these data exist at all? If so, where do these data reside currently in our organization and in what format?

  • How are they expecting to receive the data, and in what format and type of media?

  • In what way will they use the product information we send them?

  • Are they expecting to get updates of the data if it changes, or on a periodic basis, or is it just as a one- time publication requirement?

  • How often do the data change, and who is responsible for keeping the data updated?
External Factors Contributing to the Challenge

  • Global data synchronization standards are evolving. These standards affect the exchange of global product data attributes between trading partners and the exchange of product data attributes specific to industry verticals such as hardlines, fast-moving consumer goods, office supplies and entertainment. New product attributes are destined to be introduced for additional industry verticals over time.

  • New trans fat labeling requirements that went into effect on January 2006 stimulated massive product reformulations across food categories, increasing the need to better track and maintain information about products on an ongoing basis.

  • Nature can have a sudden, unplanned impact on the maintenance and sharing of product information. The recent devastating hurricane season in the United States displaced consumers, forced retailers to close their doors and triggered significant shifts in demand across various product categories. These events also resulted in price increases for fuel and the key ingredients found in many foods, straining consumer budgets and pushing up product packaging and distribution costs.

  • Originally enacted in 2002, there are renewed calls for food traceability provisions requiring the implementation of beef country-of-origin labeling and tracking for beef, lamb, pork and other meat products. Moreover, country-of-origin labeling is limited neither to meat products nor to the United States. In fact, some countries have more stringent requirements than those of the United States.

  • Proposed environmental protection regulations require disclosure of health and toxicity information regarding pesticides and other chemicals in fruits and vegetables. Other environmental regulations call for labels on pesticide products to include storage instructions to prevent cross- contamination, as well as disposal instructions to ensure proper and safe handling. Similar disclosure demands are being made for bioengineered food products, too.

  • For businesses that manufacture or sell clothing or household items that contain wool, including specialty wools, they must comply with the Wool Products Labeling Act, requiring that product labels accurately reflect fiber content, the country of origin and the name of the manufacturer or marketer. In addition, apparel items must also be labeled to show a safe cleaning method.

  • With renewable energy is gaining momentum, new requirements (or opportunities) are arising to include information about the use of certified renewable energy in product manufacturing.

  • The increase in working parents during economic downturns has prompted some food companies to simplify language used to describe cooking instructions that are eventually passed on to consumers. Unfortunately for most companies, there is no central repository for maintaining this information, and consequently changes must be made in several places.

  • The economic downturn has also contributed to the growth in demand for private labeled goods (i.e., department store or grocery store brands), requiring product information from the manufacturer as well as from the brand owner.
Internal Factors that Challenge the Truth

The Case for Improved Product Information Management

About the author: Larry Rushing, director of product management, is responsible for the strategic direction of GXS' product information management and data synchronization solutions. For the past few years, Rushing has been very heavily focused in the analysis, planning and management of solutions in the areas of global data synchronization and product information management for suppliers and retailers. More information at