What exactly is chemicals’ Product Master Data?

Most chemical companies have understood that they need a single source of truth of all their product information, their Product Master Data (PMD). 

But misconceptions as to what a PMD really is, are quite frequent. Here are the 2 most common ones.  

Misconception 1:

“A PMD is just all the documents related to a product”  

Some think that they have a PMD because they have centralized all their product-related documents in platforms like Sharepoint, Google Drive, or a Document Management System. They invest significant effort in consolidating these documents, often implementing naming conventions and tags to facilitate storage navigation.

But soon they realize that simply having documents is insufficient for creating a comprehensive online catalog on their website. They lack the capability to implement filters (e.g., by application, performance, or nature of the product), which limits the catalog's effectiveness.

Misconception 2:

My PMD is the aggregated data of each of my products 

In other cases, more advanced companies hold a misconception that their Product Master Data (PMD) consists solely of textual descriptions, values, and numerical data representing a product. While these elements are indeed part of the PMD, this perspective overlooks the critical need to maintain coherence across products.

Consider the case of describing the application as "Paints and Coatings" for one product and then the same application as "Paints" for another.

Or measuring the same property with an ISO standard for one product and an ASTM standard for another. Or even using SI Units for one product and the Imperial System for another.

In both scenarios, this inconsistency would impact the user search experience within the product catalog and compromise data quality.

Product Master Data: definition  

PMD refers to the comprehensive and centralized collection of data that contains all the essential and defining details about a product that an organization manages.  

At ionicPIM, in the context of chemicals, we think that a good PMD is made out of these 4 pillars:

                   4 pillars blog illustration - PMD

1. The Data Model 
Here, we're delving into the granular details that define all your products—the smallest building blocks of product information. The Data Model is defined by three key elements:

  1. Attributes, which are the distinct "fields" that define a product, as seen in a TDS.

  2. Lists of values that attributes can assume, also referred to as taxonomies or nomenclatures. These lists can be flat (single level) or hierarchized and should be standardized to avoid repetition of items and ensure uniform terminology.

  3. The format, i,.e. the nature of attributes (text, single select list, quantitative, Boolean…), text-writing conventions (e.g. maximum length), unit system (International System or Imperial), list characteristics, language, and more.
 2. The Product Templates

How attributes are orchestrated to accurately describe your products is far from trivial. Crafting an effective Product Template demands a profound understanding of how product information will be utilized across various use cases and for different purposes.

Designing a Product Template prompts pivotal questions such as: 

"Should we have a single template encompassing all served markets or individual templates for each market?"

"Is a unified template suitable for commodities, or should there be distinct templates for specialties?"

"What about templates for polymers, additives, pigments, or monomers? Is a separate template required for each Business Unit?"

The answers to these questions can lead to vastly different templates, consequently shaping diverse Product Master Data. A well-designed template has the potential to unlock substantial value, while a poorly designed one can impede your operational capabilities.

3. The actual product data

The actual values associated with each attribute within a product's template. For instance, it includes the descriptive text for the "Description" attribute, the designated values within the standardized list for the "Applications" attribute, and the quantitative value linked to the "Density" attribute.

For many companies without a Product Master Data (PMD) system in place, this product data is often documented but not systematically organized within a database. Furthermore, this data is frequently scattered in different formats and systems, managed by different teams. 

4. The documents 

Technical Data Sheets (TDS), Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), leaflets, and digital assets such as images or videos are all integral components associated with each product. There are those who advocate that documents are an inherent part of Product Master Data (PMD).

At ionicPIM, we align with this viewpoint, recognizing the pivotal role of documents in our industry. They often serve as the primary, and sometimes the sole, representation of a product until it is physically manipulated. 

 As a result: 

  • Product Master Data (PMD) embodies a wealth of industry and company knowledge, reflecting the unique attributes that distinguish a company. By their nature, PMDs serve as structured databases that can only be digital in today's business landscape.

  • Product Information Management (PIM) systems emerge as the software solutions that consolidate the 4 dimensions we mentioned in ONE place, providing access to authorized people and systems.

  • It's crucial to recognize that designing a PMD is NOT an "IT" project but rather a fundamental business imperative. As important as having a clean set of customer information. While IT can provide technical support, it is the business teams that must lead the initiative.

  • The complexity of PMDs grows exponentially in correlation with the size and diversity of 
      • the organization
      • the product set
      • the markets served
      • the use cases anticipated
      • and for the distributors, the number and variety of principals served
  • As PMDs evolve, the role of PMD owners (or PIM owners) will emerge as a distinct position within companies. As a living system, PMDs require governance to adapt to evolving usage scenarios.

Creating your PMD: absolutely mandatory… but complex 

Ultimately, PMD undertakes the daunting task of aggregating sets of information scattered across companies: 

  • from different systems (ERP, document management…)
  • in different formats (PDF, spreadsheets, pictures, videos, paper documents, databases…)
  • managed by different teams (sales, marketing, technical/lab, regulatory, sustainability, quality, product management)

Creating your PMD is probably one of the most important missions of a company in a digital world where customers digitalize fast and where internal processes require a growing amount of quality data. 

It is also a new field for most companies. If you have never designed a PMD, you’ll probably not get yours right at the first shot.  

This is where ionicPIM can definitely help you.

Contact us for an ionicPIM demo

About ionicPIM: 

ionicPIM is a unique solution brought by SpecialChem and Agilis. We empower chemical suppliers to create their own Product Master Data (PMD) swiftly and confidently. We offer the first chemical-specific, stand-alone PIM software and its online catalog, together with the knowledge of chemical experts capable of organizing, cleaning, and editing extensive sets of product information, from any formats and sources. We have established the world’s most comprehensive Product Master Data of commercially-available chemicals featuring 350,000 products from 6,000 producers amassed for more than 20 years on SpecialChem.com, and our software solutions are currently utilized by leading chemical companies on five continents. 

Christophe Cabarry

Christophe is the Founder & CEO of SpecialChem. After more than two decades of full dedication developing the world’s leading Material Selection Platform, Christophe has become one of the prominent thought leaders on digitalization of the chemical industry.Before launching SpecialChem, he held various positions in sales, marketing, business development, and purchasing over his eight years with Elf Atochem (now Arkema), both in France and in Germany. Christophe holds a Master Degree from the Ecole Centrale de Paris and an MBA from the Toulouse Business School”

Ready to know more?

Eager to know more about PIMs? About why is ionicPIM for you? Our team will be happy to share a demo for you.

Request a demo