Companies in all industries are no strangers to navigating complex business challenges, but the obstacles in today’s business landscape are testing even the most diligent and innovative brands.
An expanding global market, the growth of private labels, and the rise of “digital-first” brands are forever changing how companies compete in the industry. In response, new tools and technologies, like specification management software, are filling the gaps left by antiquated systems and help give users a competitive advantage in the market.
So far, the results seem promising.
Specification management software has enabled companies and brands to simplify product packaging specs, accelerate product development, consolidate SKUs, reduce costs, and increase speed to market to grow their profitability and provide a better buyer experience.
At its core, specification management software isn’t just a piece of the technology stack, but rather a tool that can serve as the central anchor point that unifies all other technology platforms for a cohesive experience.
For companies who want to remain forward-thinking in their industry, it’s time to provide a seamless, consistent process for workers, vendors, and end-users alike.
Packaging Problems: The Lack of Unified Specification Data
Specification data is one of the most critical elements for all consumer packaged goods. To start, the term encompasses raw materials, formulas, ingredients, bill of materials, quality documents, and many other items needed for companies to remain in compliance with labeling requirements and provide the end-user with complete, accurate product information.
Despite its importance, spec data is often treated as an afterthought rather than an integral part of the production, packaging, and shipping processes. For most companies, there is no common language around spec data, which often creates a domino effect of negative events for production and shipping. Without some, or all, of the necessary data for packaging and shipping the products, the company may experience (at a minimum) production delays which can result in unexpected costs. At its worst, it can result in a need to re-run product or packaging, resulting in additional expenses.
Companies often have a hard time sharing current spec data with outside vendors and partners to complete their projects. For example, marketing companies may not know if they have the most recent artwork, while quality managers may struggle to track issues. Companies are unable to answer basic, yet critical, questions such as what raw materials are used or what they cost.
The result of these issues is multifold. Delays or errors in production, packaging, and shipping can be costly, plus there’s the risk of negatively affecting the consumer experience. When your end-user isn’t pleased, whether it’s an availability issue or an issue with the product itself, brand trust and loyalty may diminish.
To add another layer of complexity, companies are seeing an increase in the number of SKUs they need to manage, which can add more confusion to the process. With most information available a click away with Google, the expectation of knowledge within organizations is increasing and acceptable response time is declining. When answers aren’t readily available, it creates a trail of waste throughout the supply chain in terms of time, talent, dollars, and environmental resources.
Most Tech Stacks Aren’t Built for Spec Data
According to a recent McKinsey study, successful packaged goods companies are twice as likely to treat analytics as a critical business component and tool. It’s no surprise, then, that these companies are increasingly embracing technology to tap into their data and analytics, inform business decisions, and streamline the supply chain.
The typical tech stack includes common systems like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), and data visualization tools to help companies collect, view, and aggregate data. However, these systems aren’t designed to structure, manage, and share data at the spec level.
ERPs are financial tools, while PLMs are used to create complex products (e.g. a jet engine). Data visualization tools are better for aggregating data than structuring and managing it.
Specification management software was developed specifically to fill this gap and give companies a way to unify their systems. Currently, many specifications are stored as static spreadsheets or PDFs. With specification management software, all information is stored in the cloud and updated in real time, so users can trust they’re seeing the most recent information. Specification management software turns previously static data into living, breathing, up-to-the-minute data. By using APIs and integrations to streamline communication, specification management software becomes a single source of truth for all spec data to save time and resources and improve speed-to-market and quality.
Companies need their systems to function together to provide consistent data and insights. As a result, business leaders are better positioned to make informed business decisions. This is the precise role that specification management software is designed to fill.
Using Specification Management Software to Fill the Gaps
Interestingly, when the details of your products are accurate and accessible, the other downstream systems and process automatically become more efficient.
If you think of specification management software and the rest of the tech stack like a pyramid, spec management is on the bottom to provide a foundation for the rest of your downstream technology. It’s a cloud-based solution that can be accessed by internal employees, outside teams, vendors, and partners alike, and it can connect with your other systems via API or integration to share and transfer data with accuracy and consistency.
For example, if you generate an SKU for a product in your ERP system, that data will flow to the specification management software and become part of the master specification data, which may also include the ingredient list, nutritional information, packaging design, and vendor information. Furthermore, the linkages between these specifications will enable users to gain deeper intelligence about their supply chain.
Specification management software is not intended to be a replacement for other systems like ERPs, but rather to solve a problem that those solutions never addressed. As a result of managing data at the spec level, companies are better positioned to use that data at a granular level to spot trends, strengthen communication, and improve their supply chain from end to end.
Spec Data Management: The Missing Link in the Supply Chain
Just as most people cannot picture a life without the internet, or the idea of having to carry quarters with you in case you need to make a phone call, leveraging cloud technology to manage specs at a granular level is taking a step forward into the future. When you think of successful, profitable companies of the future, they are powered by specification data management.
Unlocking the potential of specification data management can help to improve multiple areas of the supply chain while complementing other business systems and ensuring the accuracy, integrity, and accessibility of business data without compromise. To learn more about specification data management at its best, download our ebook today.