Today, manufacturers are as responsible for their company’s product information as they are for the physical product. But, as many know, the manufacturing of physical goods is often more efficient and lean than the production of the accompanying product information. The creation of product information is mostly a chaotic and inefficient process, with enormous potential for improvement. This inefficiency in the product information management process is equally valid for managing data and digital assets, creating bundles and kits, and merchandising, publishing and syndication. The cost of the content creation chaos is enormous, and it is time to do something about it.
The lean way out of chaos
Chaotic and unstructured ways of working can cause waste in all sorts of production processes. This waste can increase production cost, cause a loss in sales, and be detrimental to the quality of the end-product. Lean production is a tool used by businesses to streamline manufacturing and production processes. Lean Six Sigma defines waste as any step or action in a process that is not required to complete it successfully; these steps are called “Non-Value-Adding.”
When all waste is removed, only the steps that are necessary to deliver a satisfactory product or service to the customer remain in the process; these steps are called “Value-Adding.” Removing actions that do not add value is, of course, common sense. Lean Six Sigma just provides some useful methods to do it in a structured way and to help refine the processes over time.
TIMWOODS for product information creation
Lean Six Sigma defines eight (7+1) primary types of waste in a process, and there is an acronym—“TIM WOODS”—to help us remember them. Nevertheless, the way that the types of waste are defined in Lean Six Sigma are not entirely applicable to the creation of product information, so we need to redefine the types of waste, so they better fit the creation of product information, rather than the production of physical products or services.
Let's look at TIM WOODS with our PIM glasses on:
The content creation factory
To make product content creation and distribution as efficient as all other production and logistics processes requires that we start looking at product content creation in the same way that we do with all other production. We need to build an efficient content creation factory combined with stellar information logistics. Looking at Lean Six Sigma can be one of many starting points to build an efficient content creation factory.
It is unwise to leap a chasm in two bounds; starting small is always advisable. However, every company that wants to win the battle of the customer must start now. Start with the people in the organization, define an efficient process, and procure the right tools. Lean Six Sigma aims to make the work simple enough to understand, execute, and manage. Having simplicity as a top priority will help you design a reliable, predictable, and repeatable process. Good luck in your endeavors to build your product content factory!
Johan Boström, Co-founder and Evangelist, inRiver
As customer interactions are rapidly moving to the digital channels, organizations need to address the inefficiencies in their content production processes. Shooting from the hip just won't cut it anymore, not even in the creative department. You have to have a disciplined approach to get the right product content produced and distributed to the right channels at the right time. Creating and distributing more content faster cannot be done efficiently using a brute-force approach or by simply adding more people. Instead, it needs to be done by working smarter rather than harder—and finding system support to help you achieve efficiency in your content production processes.
Does your organization require a solution for PIM, DAM, or both?
In their search for a solution that can help them to achieve the required efficiency, many organizations ask themselves if they need a solution to manage their product information (PIM) or one that manages their digital assets (DAM). There are some questions that we need to answer before we can decide that:
Products typically need to be described and augmented using numerous different types of information, such as specifications, USPs, descriptions, documents, up-sells, cross-sells, and much more. This information must be of high quality, be granular, and be very structured. Depending on the industry and product type it also needs to be a part of an ecosystem—for example, as a part of a bundle, solution, repair kit, look, or room. To have a complete and compelling product story it also requires an ever-increasing number of digital assets, from 360 spins and how-to-videos to regular static photos.
We can conclude that we must be able to manage product data and product-related digital assets at the same time. Thus, we cannot choose between PIM and DAM as we need both to support the creation and distribution of a complete and compelling product story. Simply put, a DAM cannot manage the product data and the product ecosystem, so as long as you're not selling images, going with just a DAM to manage your product information will not be sufficient. Do you need two separate solutions? To know that, we need to define more granular requirements.
If you do not manage large volumes of digital assets that are nonproduct-related and choose a PIM solution with strong built-in DAM capabilities, you most likely don't need a separate DAM. The built-in one will be sufficient and already tightly integrated. However, if you do manage large volumes of nonproduct-related digital assets, you should consider adding an enterprise DAM solution and integrate that with your PIM system. The integration with a PIM is necessary as it will drastically reduce the metadata maintenance and automate the distribution of the assets to the channels.
How to manage the selection and review of assets?
WIP, short for Work In Progress, usually represents the first step of the creative workflow, right after or during the photo shoot, but before final delivery to a PIM or a DAM. Sometimes I meet with organizations that believe they need a DAM, when in reality, they are need of a Work In Progress system. A tool that manages the WIP process can be used to streamline review and approval for digital assets and make the selection process easier and faster, so it makes sense that some DAM solutions have this built-in as a feature. Whether you choose to integrate a DAM or use the built-in one in your PIM, adding WIP process support can provide additional efficiency gains.
Whatever you do, don't hamper your sales by shooting from the hip in the content creation process.
Johan Boström, Co-founder and Evangelist, inRiver