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This Week in IDEA | December 3, 2008

Our eNewsletter, This Week in IDEA, keeps you informed with the latest news and education about IDEA, our solutions and services, and our customers and partners. IDEA’s knowledgeable staff and other contributing writers share insights, resources and special offers to help you Unleash the power of e. Subscribe now to receive This Week in IDEA in your email inbox every other Thursday and add our RSS feed to your reader.


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New IDEA and IDEA IRD Customers

IDEA announces one new IDEA customer and seven new IDEA IRD customers. Read more about these companies and how you can begin trading with them electronically to expand your business.

New IDEA Customer

Kansas City Electrical, a distributor from Kansas City, MO, became an IDEA customer on November 19, 2008. Kansas City Electrical is a family & locally owned business founded in 1927. They will take advantage of the cost savings and reliability of Industry Data Exchange (IDX). Kansas City Electrical is a proud member of IMARK Group and NAED. Find out more at  

New IDEA IRD Customers

IDEA, a 1SYNC Data Pool On-Board Solution (OBS) partner, implements suppliers that subscribe to the 1SYNC data pool using IDEA's IRD CERICOMX® application. IDEA was recently assigned seven suppliers:

These companies will be trained to use IRD CERICOMX®, an IDEA branded product for supporting and uploading supplier product information into the GS1 Registry® and GDSN via the 1SYNC Data Pool.

If you would like to find out more about the CERICOMX® product, please contact , IRD Product & Customer Support Manager, at .

Tags for this post: customers idx ird kansas city electrical

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A Journey through Data Discovery: Part Two

Two industry experts travel through time to share their personal data adventures

Crescent and Hubbell have experienced significant cost savings through data synchronization made possible by the incorporation of the Internet, electronic automation and standards (see Part One of this article series). These two industry leaders are prepared to increase their savings through synchronization. Phil Barrios, Senior Director eBusiness, Hubbell Incorporated (CT) and Ron Schlader, VP Operations and Quality, Crescent Electric Supply (IL) share their past experiences with the hope to inspire the many companies that want to reach an advanced level of data sophistication.

The Paper Times

In the earlier days of data sharing, Hubbell Incorporated sent their product and pricing data to Crescent Electric Supply via print catalogs and price sheets. Crescent staff and a third party service provider manually keyed the information into their business system and Crescent used that information to place paper purchase orders for end users. These orders were then faxed to Hubbell for order fulfillment. Ron Schlader, VP Operations and Quality, Crescent Electric Supply (IL), shared some set-backs encountered during this time period that resulted in high order errors and unnecessary expenses.

  • Inaccurate data – Everyone makes mistakes and data entry is no exception. Unfortunately, small mistakes can lead to significant monetary repercussions in data entry. Each business process that incorporates human intervention dramatically increases error risk. Some examples include typos and misplaced data (e.g. someone enters the item price of $1.00 when it is actually $10.00 or someone enters a price unit of measure as “per each” instead of “per thousand”).
  • Obsolete data – product and pricing data was typically out-of-date by the time it was mailed, manually entered into our business system and quoted to end users. It was nearly impossible for us to know when a product was no longer in production until it was too late to sell off our inventory. Obsolete product data led to unfulfilled orders and higher inventory expenses.
  • Missing data – We outsourced most of our data collection and entry to a third party service provider during this time because we did not have the in-house resources to manually collect or manage all of our vendor data. The data provided by the third party was not reviewed by the manufacturer before it was entered into our business system, which often resulted in insufficient or inaccurate product and pricing information.

The Electronic Age

Hubbell started sending data to Crescent via CDs and electronic spreadsheets. This method of data sharing helped reduce paper usage while speeding up data processing; however, it introduced an entirely new set of problems for the two companies.

“Crescent received electronic data in different formats from each of our vendors and Hubbell received different data format requests from each of their distributors. Therefore, both of our companies spent valuable time trying to translate or interpret the data from our trading partners into our own internal language,” said Schlader.

The problem – there were no industry standards in place for both Hubbell and Crescent to communicate in one common language or format.

Phil Barrios, Senior Director eBusiness, Hubbell, used a glue stick as an analogy to describe this communication barrier, and impact to data without standards.

“If you place a glue stick vertically on the desk and ask someone for an approximate length, width and height, then place the glue stick horizontally and ask the same question, you get two different interpretations. Similar misinterpretation occurs with electrical product data when there is no industry standard implemented.”

The Standards Era

Electrical manufacturers and distributors collaborated to form IDEA in 1998 to address the industry’s problems with the previous methods of data sharing – something that had never been done before in the electro-industry. Both manufacturers and distributors had a common goal to eliminate costs from the supply chain through standards, data synchronization and eCommerce. Barrios and Schlader were no exception.

“Crescent and Hubbell became Charter IDEA customers when the company was introduced to the industry 10 years ago. Phil and I recognized the need for standardized electronic processes and we knew IDEA was the answer,” said Schlader. “IDEA provides the resources and tools that manufacturers and distributors need to synchronize data… it is our responsibility to utilize those resources effectively.”

Barrios walked through the steps Hubbell took to prepare data for synchronization with Crescent via IDEA’s Industry Data Warehouse (IDW).

  1. Clean up old data – determine current sellable merchandise and purge or archive your old product data.
  2. Separate product data, based on usage – determine which product data will benefit distribution and populate the Industry Data Warehouse (IDW) accordingly.
  3. Export core/transactional data– this includes the data needed to conduct a business transaction (e.g. product, pricing and packaging data). Sort all distribution products by Catalog number and check for problem areas.
  4. Develop internal standards – define acceptable data values for the problem areas identified (e.g. Hubbell discovered that some product descriptions stated “no description available”).
  5. Fix problem areas – apply the internal standards to all your current data and take the opportunity to teach product managers best practices for data quality.
  6. Re-import data into your business system – now that you have cleaned up your data, import it back into your business system to have “one version of truth” – current and accurate data.
  7. Develop a product life-cycle management process – decide how you will keep product data up-to-date (e.g. you can’t launch a product until certain information is available and stored in your business system). This requires the most discipline and is often the hardest step of the change management process.
  8. Sync data with trading partners – now you are ready to convey the updated (clean) data into IDW, to ensure your internal data matches the data your customers use to search for and sell your products.
  9. Keep data updated – send product updates to IDW as it becomes available and give your trading partners advance notice of important changes using IDW features such as product life-cycle or future pricing indicator codes.
  10. Focus on attributed data – once you complete the heavy lifting of basic data synchronization - you are ready to take the next step to develop and synchronize attributed data (e.g. UNSPSC codes, images, spec sheets, marketing materials, etc.).

“Crescent has maintained a strong business relationship with Hubbell because they make business easy and profitable - they continually provide quality and current data to IDW which reflects on our bottom line. Distributors expect manufacturers of all sizes to follow in Hubbell’s footsteps. Suppliers that do not go electronic now won’t survive in tomorrow’s marketplace,” said Schlader.

Make sure your company doesn’t get left behind in the old data era –IDEA can help you begin or advance the data synchronization process with your trading partners. Contact your account manager to find out how your company can reap the benefits of data sync.


Tags for this post: idw standards data synchronization hubbell crescent electric

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Y it Matters if Your Products are P, O or D

Don’t let the name “industry data warehouse” fool you, IDEA’s Industry Data Warehouse (IDW) is the only platform which acts as a product life-cycle updating service to provide critical information to trading partners. It is critical that the manufacturer data in IDW (i.e. Item Status code field) is current and frequently reviewed by the manufacturer.

Synchronizing manufacturer Item Status codes via IDW is one of the keys to data synchronization, growing profits and cutting hidden costs. Item Status codes represent short-hand notes that can be interpreted by a computer to indicate when active production items will be discontinued. There are several Item Status codes available to pinpoint the different product life-cycles stages. These codes should be used to notify a distributor of a product phase-out in time to successfully retire an item. The most significant codes manufacturers need to utilize include:

“P” Planned obsolescence – the item will be phased out of production
Message to distributors – you may want to remove this product from your buy list and take steps to sell off remaining inventory.

“O” Obsolete – the item can no longer be purchased
Message to distributors - check with local rep on replacement products.

“D” Delete – the item can no longer be purchased and it will be removed from IDW in 30 days
Message to distributors: there will be no more updates on this item in IDW.

Popular distributor enterprise resource planning (ERP) software incorporates built-in reporting designed to react to the different Item Status codes. This helps save distributors and manufacturers time and money and prevents unnecessary returns. When a distributor does not receive Item Status code updates via the manufacturer’s IDW changes, the distributor could make an incorrect or poor purchase decision. For example, if a manufacturer does not flag an “A” - Active item as “P” - Planned obsolescence, the distributor will not be warned of depleted supplies. The distributor could reorder an obsolete item in large quantities for inventory if they are unaware that there is a new and improved replacement product available.

One way a manufacturer can keep Item Status codes updated is to review their IDW data against their back-end system data before and after every major price change to ensure that all items have current pricing. The items without current pricing should have a change in the Item Status code to indicate whether the current product life-cycle status is active or inactive.

Item Status codes were created and are periodically reviewed by the IDEA Standards Committee. The IDEA Standards white paper entitled “Product Change Management” is available for download on the IDEA Customer Portal under >My Training and Support>Standards>IDW. This document defines each Item Status code and how they should be properly utilized in the electrical industry.

Manufacturers can contact or to find out how well they are keeping up with their product life-cycle updates.


Tags for this post: idw product life cycle

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Exclusive 2009 Forum Sponsor Sneak Peek

Take a first look at the IDEA E-Biz Forum 2009 sponsorship opportunities to stand out from the rest at the electrical industry’s eBusiness event in Tucson, Arizona, September 22-24 themed “Guiding Change by Leading Change”. Sign up now to be recognized during the official 2009 website launch.

What’s new?

  • Added sponsor benefits such as company literature in attendee bags, company branding at sponsored event and logo on general session theme slide
  • New sponsor level (Premiere Partner) - limited availability for two companies that want to gain additional exposure

Why sign up now?

If you sign up in the next two weeks, your company will lead the change with your logo live on the Forum website for the official 2009 launch. Sign up by February 20, 2009, to get longer visibility with decision makers through:

  • Speaking slot – Gold level and above (limited space available)
  • Recognition in official Forum press release
  • Recognition in pre-event mailer
  • Earlier and longer visibility on Forum and IDEA website
  • First choice of sponsored event

Early sponsor benefits end 2.20.09 - Download the Exclusive Sponsor Sneak Peek!

Please return your sponsor form or contact at right away to gain the most from your eBiz sponsorship.

Tags for this post: ebiz forum news sponsors

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Did You Know? IDW Hot Fact

There is data quality maintenance training available in which manufacturers can receive customized training to learn how to properly load and maintain their own data. Some topics that can be covered in this training include:

  • EZView fields (in context to the manufacturer's unique data)
  • Product change management (including Life Cycle changes definitions & application)
  • How distributors interpret and use IDW data
  • How to handle data loads and updates for pricing and non pricing changes
  • Data quality maintenance recommendations

Please contact at to find out how you can provide better data to your customers.

Tags for this post: idw training hot facts data quality

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