ETIM: talking your data language

The EDA are on a mission to get the electrical distribution industry united under one data language: ETIM.

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The EDA are on a mission to get the electrical distribution industry united under one data language: ETIM. Here’s how it will help electrical businesses achieve their digital goals – and the three steps you need to implement it

How can everyone in the electrical industry start speaking the same data language?

This was the big question asked by the Electrical Distributors Association (EDA) as they looked at how they could help their members to take full advantage of digital and online opportunities. 

In an EDA Members survey back in 2016, 80% of wholesalers said their biggest threat was from new online entrants, with 73% identifying online sales as their biggest growth prospect. 

Data held the key to grasping opportunities (and beating the online competition) but at the time of the survey, 68% of members held no enhanced or enriched product info, despite 74% recognising that it helps online trade. Suppliers, too, wanted to see better data in the market, with 93% of manufacturers seeing an increased need for richer, broader data sets. 

As a result, the EDA launched not-for-profit data pool EDATA, a project to get their members to align under a common digital goal and speak the same data language: ETIM, the system of classification that defines data standards for electrical and electronic products.

Once aligned and successfully used, ETIM allows easier transfer of data across a business, brings increased accuracy and depth of information to customers, and reduces time and effort taken by teams to, well, ‘sort out data’. 

Essentially, transparent product information = more online sales, as customers get a clear view of each product for better browsing and comparison. And with one pre-defined system of categorisation, teams have an established approach to filling in the data that’s needed.

But just like getting to grips with any language, ETIM is not an overnight project: it can take a good while to reclassify all data – especially on thousands of products – and it can be difficult to know how to approach it.  

So, if you’re an electrical wholesaler, what do you need to do to onboard ETIM and be part of the EDA’s data pool? 

At Comma, we see ETIM conversion as a three-phase approach. 

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Step One: map out your existing categorisation to the ETIM classification.  

How much of your existing data categorisation fits the ETIM model? Stuart Squires, Consulting Director at Comma Group, who has worked with businesses on this journey, says, “It is rarely a case of, ‘every product in our lighting hierarchy can just be moved to ETIM lighting classification. You could have subsections or crossover categories that complicate matters. My advice is not to underestimate this effort – and don’t go it alone. Advanced data tools and services, used alongside industry knowledge, accelerate the process of mapping and filling in those gaps.”


Step Two: ensure that newly classified data fits the standards dictated by ETIM 

Whether it’s making sure that all lighting products have a luminous flux, or that thermostats have a rated voltage, you need to make sure that this information is stored in the correct units of measure for its category. 

Step Three: define your data management

Making sure that the management of your data is clearly defined and supported by appropriate organisational structures, process and technology is vital to ensuring that you maintain consistent ETIM standards after your initial classification project. In January 2019, ETIM UK released one of the principal findings from their 40 ETIM-Ready Audits: “manufacturers and wholesalers need...often to invest in a Product Information Management System” to make a conversion to ETIM a success.

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But PIM or MDM technology alone isn’t enough to keep on top of ETIM standards. Processes are important – and that means addressing the way that data is flowing through your business and engaging with individuals. A data governance initiative is the best way to do this, but again, don’t feel you have to tackle this challenge alone. 

Comma can simplify the ETIM process by using best in class data tools and consultants to classify your data within ETIM structures and test it against the standards. Our data professionals also have deeply rooted experience implementing processes and systems to fit with industry data standards (ETIM, eCl@ss, GS1, etc) and setting data quality parameters that ensure data stays well managed.

So if you need any help on your own ETIM journey, speak to us: call +44 1926 911 820 to speak to the Comma team, or contact us here.