Article Series

Supply Chain Touchpoints

Supply Chain Touchpoints Part 2: The Right Product

Dec 11, 2018
   |   by 
Bill Robinson

Retailers of all stripes, shapes, and sizes expend huge effort to bring “The Right Product” to their shoppers across all channels. But how do you identify and distinguish the right product from the wrong? The good news is that in this digital age abundant product information will assist you in this mission. The problem is that most apps-whether facing the back office, the customer, or supplier–are very restrictive in what product information they manage. Our view is that every morsel of product information can be put to some productive use. In this blog, we focus on the potential value across the enterprise, where that data might be sourced, and how to integrate it.

In our next four blogs, we’ll continue our series on Supply Chain Touchpoints by investigating the typically-siloed processes that drive the Right Quantity, Time, Place, and Cost.

Here is our view of the processes most retailer use to achieve “Right Product.”

Product Life Cycle Management (PLM)

More and more retailers are implementing PLM software to manage and provide a central repository of product information throughout a product’s life cycle. Solutions can be obtained from the well-established retail ERP vendors, mid-market generic solutions that can be tailored to retail, and enterprise-level point solutions.


Design software allows users to use computer assisted design (CAD) to consider the all variables that go into the design of a final product. Across the industry, retailers are moving to some form of vertical integration to the point where they take responsibility for design. Whether you are the product designers or not, the output of the design process is a the visual, or physical representations of the product with underlying details necessary to start manufacturing. These can take the form of 2- or 3-dimensional layouts, holograms, design specification, samples, prototypes, etc. These are invaluable as you endeavor to separate your winners from your losers or deploy online merchandising techniques, or digital advertising. Yet, without data integration, this vital data is often siloed, leaving users across the enterprise ill-informed about the product pipeline, packaging and features, and ultimately their competitive advantage.


Manufacturing software controls a wide range of interrelated processes conducted by the party making the product. Most retailers do not focus on the details of manufacturing. But they often want to know about critical factors which might affect delivery and quality.


Sourcing software allows retailers and wholesalers to collaborate globally with multiple vendors to bring products to market. Data flowing from each step informs about such things as fabrication, assembly, cutting, customs, shipping, brokering, etc. Again, this information is useful to any retailer attempting to forestall the impact of supply chain disruption or deal with sudden changes in currency, or duties. But, again, this information is usually locked in specialized software only available to supply chain staff.

Product Information Management (PIM)

Product Information Management capability is locked in every software package involved in the retail supply chains. But the demands of multiple channels coupled with lack of consistency and standards, have given rise to PIM which attempts to become the central entry point and enterprise repository of all product content, like PLM capability, but less ambitious in scope.

Content Management (CMS)

The advent of digital commerce has magnified the amount of information surrounding products and given birth to Content Management Software (CMS). At its most basic level, CMS permits retailers to post news, images, videos, and other information on the web. This information augments PIM information to enable such vital services as training, answering customer queries, comparative shopping, wardrobing, and consumer feedback.


Procurement software is the direct link between retailers and their supply chain where purchase orders frame an active dialog between trading partners: Is the order confirmed? Can you meet the ship date? Will you provide store-ready packaging and labeling? How will you ship it? When? Status? Can you ship it early? Late? Never? Retailers and their suppliers have worked out standards to enable dynamic interchange between themselves. Yet most procurement systems have a static view of the supply chain. We think your PO application should be your window in the supply chain.

Our vision is that product information should flow effortlessly between every touchpoint in the supply chain. This can only happen when you take a strategic approach to data integration addressing the areas where you can gain the most advantage. In the blogs that follow, we continue our survey of supply chain processes common to retailers. Next up, we address the RIGHT QUANTITY.

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