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IDEA’s February Data Compliance Deadline Looms

By Bridget McCrea

With the February 1 deadline looming for manufacturers to input their new product data into IDEA’s existing data warehouse, and with just half of the new products currently in the warehouse actually meeting the requirements, the question right now is: Will 50 percent of the new products in the IDEA Data Warehouse (IDW) disappear if nothing changes over the next two weeks?  

Mike Wentz, IDEA’s executive vice president of sales and marketing, assures us that will not happen, although he says the organization has been working to make manufacturers aware of the mandate and encouraging them to get their products into compliance by filling out the 43 required fields. That requirement (which was previously 16 fields) was a part of the new data certification that IDEA rolled out in September 2014. Wentz says the certification was designed to help the organization measure both compliance and data quality/excellence. 

“The first piece we’re implementing is compliance, and it’s based on the fact that there are 43 critical, mandatory fields of data that have to be populated by all manufacturers whose products are in the IDW,” Wentz explains. As mentioned, manufacturers had until February 1 to complete those 43 fields for any new items that are being added to the database. By October 1, 2015 all existing data in that warehouse must include all 43 fields. 

The Glass is Half Full 

Wentz says the new data compliance rules can be traced back to an independent benchmark study that IDEA conducted last June. Through that exercise, the group learned that just half of the critical fields were populated at the time. That prompted IDEA to step up its compliance rules around the input of such information – a move that Wentz says has resulted in some progress over the last seven months.

“Right now we’re beginning to publish scorecards that show manufacturers and distributors how many of the mandatory fields are populated in the IDW,” says Wentz. “We’ll begin giving that visibility to the manufacturers that are working on it, and to the customers/distributors that need the information for their ERP systems and websites.” IDEA also plans to publish “public ratings” revealing where every manufacturer stands, based on their progress towards “completing 100 percent of their active items.” Those ratings will be made available to the whole channel, Wentz says. 
So exactly what will happen if February 1 rolls around and new products don’t meet the requirements for inclusion in the IDW? Wentz says that the manufacturer that tries to input a new item using just 20 of the 43 fields, for example, will see that item “suspended” until the rest of the critical fields are properly addressed. “When that step is completed,” says Wentz, “the product data will then flow out to any authorized distributor that normally would have access to that information.” 
Taking the Wheel 

On average, IDEA gets about 2,000 new items per week, or 8,000 per month. “Those are the products that manufacturers are now working to be sure that all 43 critical fields are filled in for,” says Wentz, who adds that IDEA is assisting manufacturers with this charge on several fronts. For starters, he says the group clearly communicated the new rules and instructed manufacturers on how to populate the 27 additional fields (which now include packaging data, brand information, and Buy America details, to name a few). IDEA also lets manufacturers know where they stand on their individual progress using charts and graphs showing which products are (and aren’t) compliant. 
Wentz says IDEA is also asking suppliers for forecasts related to the October 1 deadline, and that the group is partnering with third-party data management experts DATAgility to help manufacturers address the critical fields. “We have data management specialists assigned to work with the manufacturers,” says Wentz, “and to help address any questions regarding what they need to do to populate the data. We’re activity engaged in supporting, monitoring, measuring, and communicating with all of the trading partners.” 

The Distributor’s Role 

Electrical distributors should also be supporting and helping manufacturers get compliant and onboard for both the February and October deadlines. In fact, Wentz encourages distributors to stress the importance of quality data to their own supply bases. “Distributors really need quality data in order to be more efficient,” says Wentz, “and the trading partner relationship requires that information in order to be more profitable for both parties. It’s a win-win situation for both sides.”

And remember, Wentz adds, that the value of quality, accurate data goes beyond just the web and e-commerce, even though that’s where a lot of attention is currently being directed. “Distributors are becoming more sophisticated, with many of them using automated warehousing systems and automated shopping platforms,” Wentz continues. “That’s where packaging information (one of the newly-added fields) comes in, for example. Distributors need that data in order to be more effective and efficient in their own operations – and to get a better return on investment.”
Those trading partners that support these distribution efforts will be the ones that not only get their products into the IDW, but that also get the order when the time comes to place it. In return, suppliers benefit from healthier, stronger distribution networks that increase sales in the most efficient manner possible. “Both trading partners gain the ability to sustain their relationships and grow their businesses,” says Wentz. 

Moving in the Right Direction

On a positive note, Wentz says more manufacturers are making an effort to get compliant with IDEA’s new requirements. And while he doesn’t have any solid numbers to share, he believes that the current level of populated critical fields now surpasses 50 percent. 

But there is still concern over the looming mandates and their associated deadlines. At a recent industry conference, for example, Wentz says IDEA conducted 30 meetings over a 3-day period – all with manufacturers. “Some were concerned about the deadlines and about whether they’d be able to get all of the work done [in time],” he says, “but very few actually question or challenged the level of data needed; so that’s a good sign.” 

McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.

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