5 reasons to use ERP for product information management

Posted by Jonathan Davies on 19 Jan

Keeping your product information up to date is a big task, especially if you have a lot of data. Chances are, you're working with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, and you're considering your options for maintaining product data. One of the solutions is to connect a Product Information Management (PIM) system to your ERP. There are many instances where this makes sense. But before you jump straight in and start looking for a new PIM, consider whether this is a step you need to take.

Differences between ERP and PIM software

ERP is essentially the central database within your company that holds all the data and resources relating to the operations of the business. It maintains all the data points related to these resources, whether they be customers, products, stock availability or anything else. It's important to recognise the central management function of the ERP software within the company. It connects to all services and software, integrates information from all the departments, across all stages of the business, and automates data management and reporting. As such, ERP software often integrates with PIM software. Both serve as databases for company information. The difference being that a Product Information Management system, as the name suggests, centralises product data exclusively; this would include marketing data and sales materials. Essentially, a PIM system takes information from your ERP and enriches it for sales and marketing purposes. For example, it can ensure your catalogue is always up to date and error-free. It gives sales and marketing the ability to add product images and descriptions, channel/partner-specific information, and anything that improves the marketability of your products. A PIM system is a helpful middleware that can work with your ERP sales and marketing information. However, given the central function your ERP already plays within your company, do you need a PIM system?

When you should use a PIM system

Your ERP software is your company's central database and your store and manages your product inventory from within your ERP. But if you have a considerable range of products, product variations or Stock Keeping Units (SKUs), it may make sense to consider integrating a PIM system to your ERP software. Other factors which may influence your decision are multiple channels, suppliers, sources of product data, product relationships (cross and upsells) and dynamic products (seasonal) etc. However, there are many cases where product information can be used effectively within ERP without the need for a PIM system. There are many significant advantages to sticking with your ERP for product information management.

Advantages of using an ERP for product information management

1. Store and manage all product information in one location

ERP already functions as your business' central database, so it does make sense to store your product information there as well. It will give you quick and easy access to current and past product information. This data can be leveraged for the lifetime of the customer, from prospecting to design to ongoing customer service. You can quickly access sales orders, design authorisations, estimated and actual tooling costs, bills of material and even supplier and subcontractor information.

2. Easily customise orders

Create bills of materials for bespoke orders easily, without the need to keep extensive files of product combinations, or manually generate combinations of data. ERP gives you the functionality to standardise product requirements, reducing the chance of missing components in quotes or sales orders. Product components are linked to the inventory database, making it straightforward to provide accurate lead times, together with a flexible available to promise (ATP) algorithm. Configured product sales can be shown in reports to help with future sales and R&D decisions.

3. 360 view of business operations

It's not unusual for a customer to request a change mid-order. You need to accommodate that change request while respecting the delivery date. As ERP system can connect all departments (sales, customer service, supply chain and production), changes are seamlessly reflected throughout the production chain, making it easier to accommodate mid-order requests or even rushed orders.

4. Better customer service

Integrated systems will include customer relationship management (CRM) system, as well as other front-office applications. This makes it easier for sales and marketing to identify upsell, cross-sell and other opportunities, and provide after-sales service, thus increasing the lifetime value of your customers.

5. Real time access to information

ERP software will collect and share your transactional data across your entire organisation - this will help eliminate duplication and provides real-time information to make quick decisions around your products and other mission-critical resources.

Key takeaway

Product Information Management is a complex task that requires access to a lot of information, often in real-time. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is a centralised database of your business' operations, so it makes sense to centralise your product data in that environment as well. Where product complexities increase significantly, this may no longer be the case, and you may need to integrate a Product Information Management (PIM) system into your ERP. In any event, your ERP remains the core database in your company.

>> See WinMan's ERP software functions here

Topics: Manufacturing, ERP Software, Product Configurator, Distribution, eCommerce, Business Efficiency, supply chain, Productivity

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