Five Trends Driving a Spec-first Approach

As summer ends, we’ve been thinking about the trends that are moving our industry forward. Product variety has exploded, consumers are demanding products faster, and technology is evolving to help us meet sustainability and visibility initiatives. These trends uncover why now is the best time to employ a spec-first approach to data management.

Posted on 
September 14, 2023
Matthew Wright
Founder & CEO, Specright
Learn more in the Adoption Guide eBook

It’s back to school time for many households.  Many have a tradition of picking out a new backpack, lunch box and first day of school outfit. It’s exciting for students to fill that backpack with supplies for the classroom and celebrate going back to school with a fun dinner the night before.

While I don’t get a new lunch bag or briefcase, I’ve always used that first day of school as an unofficial reset at work. We’re a little more than half way through the calendar year, and the distractions of summer are behind us. Being outside of annual planning cycles gives me the chance to reflect on trends and where we should be headed.

This year I’m thinking a lot about five big trends that are moving our industry toward what I call  a spec-first approach to data management.

#1. Product Variety has Exploded

A few years ago, if a company made a product, that product did not change. They could store the specification data for this single product in a spreadsheet or shared drive because in theory it wouldn’t need to change.. Today, we know that the same product may have multiple variations (think flavors or scents), or even different packaging in each of the countries where it is distributed. It may even look different seasonally. This complexity makes it hard to scale in a static spreadsheet or within pdfs. We don’t just have more data, we have a bigger variety of data.

#2. Secondary Product Visibility is Now a Must

The second change is that a lot of companies procure things for their products that they do not actually make. Take bottled water for example. Most water companies don't manufacture the bottle used in final customer delivery, instead they procure the bottle from a supplier. Ten years ago, you didn't need to know the details of components of your products if you were buying from someone else. Today, you have to know the specifications of that bottle because you can't report on things like  sustainability for regulators, investors or consumers unless you know theDNA-level packaging data.

#3. Our Pace of Change is Accelerating

92% of all respondents in the 2023 survey stated that they had to make up to 20 revisions to specifications before they were final. The pace of change is accelerating– new distribution channels, reporting on dynamic supply networks and the addition of new regulations on a regular basis.I go back to how is your company scaling data management to keep up with this change? Static or disconnected legacy systems won’t serve you proactively to keep up with and get ahead of change.

#4. AI Advances Need Specification Level Data to Realize Potential

Gartner estimates that ‘poor’ data costs large organizations an average of over $9.5 million USD per year. Without comprehensive, accurate data, strategists will struggle to effectively inform their organizational decisions. Artificial intelligence (AI) has incredible potential but it requires accurate and complete data to optimize your environment. Bad data is extremely costly because bad data equals bad recommendations. To realize the potential of new algorithms, accurate and complete specification data needs to be activated.

#5 Sustainability Regulatory & Compliance Pressure is Mounting

From the Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA) and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation , Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to the UK Plastics Tax and individual state guidelines, companies are facing endless challenges when it comes to quickly adapting to these rising guidelines.

Companies that are taking a spec-first approach to data management find compliance checks and audits much more manageable and scalable. By centralizing and digitizing your specification data, your teams become more agile to address the continuous changes in sustainable packaging legislation.

If these trends have you thinking about the future, learn more by reading your “Specification Management Adoption Guide: A call to prioritize purpose-built Specification Management tools”.


Matthew Wright

Matthew Wright is the founder & CEO of Specright, the first cloud-based platform for Specification Management. Specright has been recognized by Fast Company’s prestigious Most Innovative Companies list, named a Gartner Cool Vendor, and as one of the Top Places to Work by the OC Register and Built in LA. Wright is also a published author and his book, “The Evolution of Products and Packaging,”was named to the Amazon Hot New Release List for Industrial Relations Business and has a five star rating. 

Prior to founding Specright, Wright spent more than 25 years in the packaging industry, holding leadership positions at International Paper, Temple Inland, and rightPAQ — a packaging company he co-founded. He has also been involved in leading multiple M&A deals in the packaging industry, currently sits on the MSU School of Packaging and Industry Advisory Board and previously served on the Packaging Advisory Board at Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo.

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