The need for a unified product information processing system is imperative due to the growing trend of globalization and the ever-increasing volumes of product data. Especially in the tech industry, where the number and complexity of new products increase daily. It is a nightmare for wholesalers of technical products to collect and process product data from different suppliers without a unified classification system.
Luckily, these problems can be solved with the help of ETIM which structures disorganized data and gives electrical products an accurate description according to ETIM's own classification attributes. In this article, you will learn about ETIM, how it works, and how you can use it in your business.
Electro-Technical (or European Technical) Information Model, known as ETIM, is a standardized classification system for technical goods within the electrical and electronic industries.
This model was created to establish a common language for describing technical specifications. This standardization streamlines communication between those involved in the production, distribution, and use of these goods.
ETIM International, the organization behind the ETIM classification model, provides membership options for businesses to engage with the community and contribute to its development. Membership offers access to the latest updates, collaboration opportunities, networking opportunities, and representation at national and international levels. Members can participate in working groups, committees, and events, exchange knowledge, and have a voice in shaping product data management standards and practices.
ETIM is currently used and has members representing the following sectors –
• HVAC and plumbing
• Building materials
• Tools, hardware, and site supplies
The primary purpose of such a model is to save time and minimize errors, inconsistencies, and redundancies in item descriptions. Such inaccuracies may result from the various methods manufacturers use to document their product data. They may employ various formats, categorizations, or units of measurement, which must then be manually entered into a wholesaler's or distributor's database. This is inefficient and time-consuming for a single product item.
Classification models, such as ETIM, provide a consistent approach to documenting an item's description by assigning standard categories and characteristics to it. Every product has its own class and is defined by all of its key features and represented uniformly within the model, regardless of manufacturer, language, or format.
The ETIM classification model simplifies product description and data transfer between manufacturers and retailers. It supports multilingual product data, enabling businesses to cater to international markets. This model allows suppliers and wholesalers to standardize data flow and exchange product information between countries, benefiting multinational companies operating globally.
The ETIM model consists of a set of classes and properties that define the characteristics and attributes of products. These classes and properties are organized hierarchically, starting with broad product categories, and drilling down to specific attributes.
The ETIM classification model is built around the following categories or entities:
- Product groups
- Product classes
- Synonyms (keywords)
The product group is a high-level classification that allows a number of product classes with similar products to be grouped together under one heading.
It is the key component of the ETIM model, and it is used to group comparable products together. Every product class is associated with a single product group, but each group may contain numerous classes.
Synonyms are alternate names for each class that can be used to help with searches. Since synonyms are related to classes, they do not have their own identifier code.
Features are the technical characteristics that distinguish every item in a product class. ETIM has 4 types of features:
- Alphanumeric features, like color, material, etc. are associated with a predefined set of acceptable values.
- Logic features have allowable values,"Yes" or "No
- Numeric features will be assigned a number. Some have a corresponding unit; in which case the numeric value must be the value in that unit.
- Range features will have two associated values, marking the two ends of a range (e.g., 50–60 Hz). As with numeric features, they may be associated with a unit.
A fixed alphabetical list of possible values is assigned to each alphanumeric feature of an ETIM class.
Units, or units of measurement, can be associated with both numerical and range-type features, and the values entered must be in the specified unit.
For example, in the electrical industry, the top-level class might be "Electrical Installation Material," which includes sub-classes such as "Cables," "Switches," and "Connectors." Each sub-class further branches out into more specific classes, allowing for granular classification.
Within each class, there are properties that describe the attributes of the products. These properties can include technical specifications, dimensions, materials, and more. By assigning the appropriate properties to each product, businesses can ensure that their product data is accurate, complete, and standardized.
Within the ETIM framework, BMECat functions as a compatible format for the standardized handling of product information. It serves the role of facilitator that has to ensure seamless communication of product data classified and described according to the ETIM model. In practice, BMECat serves as a channel for integrating ETIM-standardized information into catalogs and updates, thereby optimizing information exchange throughout the supply chain.
ETIM is used in over 20 countries around the world by such giants as General Electric, Philips, and Schneider Electric, just to name a few. As a result, various software applications and systems support this classification model.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems used in the electrical and electronic industries offer modules or extensions that support ETIM. Popular ERP vendors like SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft Dynamics may have solutions or integrations for ETIM.
Product Information Management (PIM) systems are designed to handle product data, and some of them, such as AtroPIM, Akeneo, Pimcore, and inRiver, are commonly used to efficiently manage and exchange product information through the ETIM model.
MDM (Master Data Management) systems focus on managing master data across an organization, and some are capable of handling ETIM. Stibo Systems STEP is an example of an MDM system that may support ETIM.
Certain e-commerce platforms used in the electrical and electronic sectors may have built-in support for ETIM. This is particularly relevant for companies selling products online. Magento and WooCommerce are examples of e-commerce platforms that can be extended to support ETIM.
Some companies develop or customize their own software solutions to support ETIM based on their specific needs. This may involve custom integrations or extensions to existing systems.
ETIM, except for certain local language variations, is an open standard that everyone may use for free. However, support, change requests, and participation in the model's development are restricted to members only.
ETIM International offers full membership to recognized national organizations, country sector members, and multi-country members. A Global Industry Membership is available for manufacturers, wholesalers, buying groups, and contractors.
You can apply for your local ETIM membership on their official website by filling out their contact form. If your country is absent from the member list, you can start your own organization and expand the model's reach.
As you can see, implementation of the ETIM model in the electrical industry brings about a lot of benefits, like:
- Improved Data Quality and Consistency
- Streamlined processes, increased efficiency, and smoother workflows with a lower likelihood of errors.
- Enhanced interoperability and collaboration throughout the supply chain.
- Regulatory compliance and mitigated risks associated with data discrepancies and non-compliance with industry standards.
- Innovation and product development, allowing companies to stay and effectively respond to evolving market demands.
If your business is not a part of the electrotechnical industry, but you found the benefits of the classification system appealing, don't worry, there a plenty of universal or industry-specific alternatives.
eCl@ss or simply eClass is one of the universal product classification standards for a wide range of product types. With a diverse range of content, its goal is to standardize how digital product catalogs are categorized.
The UNSPSC (United Nations Standard Products and Services Code) is an industry-wide standard for product classification used in e-commerce for various product categories. This standard is especially popular in the United States and is overseen by GS1.
NIGP (National Institute of Governmental Purchasing) is a very detailed classification standard, mostly used in the USA for the procurement of public goods. This standard's applicability in other industries is restricted due to its high level of detail.
Accurate product data is a critical asset for businesses operating in the digital landscape. The ETIM classification model provides a comprehensive framework for organizing and structuring product information, enabling businesses to streamline their data management processes. By implementing the ETIM classification model, businesses can benefit from standardization, efficiency, interoperability, enhanced customer experience, and future-proofing.
Choosing the right software systems that support the ETIM framework is essential for successful implementation. Whether it is ERP, PIM, MDM, or e-commerce platforms, businesses should evaluate their options based on their specific requirements and goals.
Membership in ETIM International offers additional benefits, including access to the latest updates, collaboration opportunities, networking, and representation in industry discussions.
Implementing the ETIM classification model requires careful planning, data mapping, enrichment, software integration, training, and continuous improvement.