Manufacturers : the keys to successful digitalisation for PPE manufacturers

As a sales rep for a renowned PPE manufacturer, I used to curse my information systems. This is why I founded PPE analytics. For the past 3 years, we have been combining PPE and IT expertise to solve the problems of PPE players. Here are a few “tips” learned along the treacherous path between theory and practice.

Manufacturers: start off by (adequately) digitising your products

After 3 years collecting data from around 100 PPE manufacturers, we noticed a wide gap in the market in terms of product data management. Some manufacturers rely on powerful PIM tools (Product Information Management) on their sites. Multilingualism is seamlessly integrated, and data sheets are generated on the fly. Organisations only need to change one data entry to update their data sheets, website, documentation, manuals, permeation data, ERP and CRM in all languages. Conversely, other less equipped manufacturers make these changes by hand, sometimes using “in-house” tools (Excel or PowerPoint) for every language or format. So here is our methodology for (adequately) digitising your products:

Start off with an audit of your current data

What do your visitors see, what do Googlebots see? The PPE analytics audit is free, contact us!

Develop a versatile attribute structure.

The “matter” that makes up product data must be structured to span a vast array of uses such as catalogues, technical data sheets, selection guides, or data exports. Information regarding a “nitrile foam palm-coated glove” can’t be stored in a text field. There are 5 different pieces of information to be stored in 5 different well-standardised attributes, which, once entered, inform other attributes such as waterproofness for instance. If you want to save time, we provide you with our own PIM structure, which results from 3 years of expertise, and populate it with your product data. In fact, our PIM is delivered fully populated and structured; all you have to do is customise it. If your PIM structure is already top-notch, we can duplicate it in Deck. (Estimated budget: €5K/year).

Augment your PIM with product expertise algorithms.

Once the data has been properly modelled, your PIM should help you save time and reduce data entry errors. We have trained our algorithms to make them capable of deduction. Entering a standard such as EN388 lets you deduce dozens of attributes without any input or risk of error. We have also developed control algorithms that can detect false or missing data. A PIM able to think like an expert changes everything!

Connect ALL data related to your products

The majority of manufacturers process their product data in silos: references are in the ERP, sales statistics in the BI tool, sales plans by country on the site, and stocks in the warehouse. When making a recommendation to an end user, you need to know what to sell, if the product has already been sold, what the reference is and whether or not you still have it in stock. Deck allows you to create as many environments as you have sale areas to centralise the data from your different silos. (Estimated budget: free for any subscription to a product segment, see article “I want to define the product scope of my Deck platform”)

Reap the benefits

Compare the time spent on this data by your teams with the cost of a PIM solution to estimate its added value. Add the cost of defects and errors (sending technical data sheets that have not been translated or updated by your sales reps, endless hours spent chasing down information, etc.) and you’ll quickly see its immense benefits.

Communicate your product data through (real) digital tools

No, a PDF catalogue is NOT an online catalogue. And a filter system is not enough to help visitors with (very) different levels of expertise browse through hundreds of nearly indistinguishable PPEs. So bet on real digital tools:

Technical data sheets generated on the fly

This is a legal obligation: your technical data sheets must be readily available. Overcome the challenge of updating them in several languages by entrusting us with the generation of these data sheets based on your own template. Whenever you edit data, we update your technical data sheets in all languages on a server.

(Estimated budget: €5K/year)

Product pages and online catalogues

A PDF catalogue has only one benefit over paper: keyword search. A good digital catalogue adapts to its reader. It is customisable, and can sort products in different ways according to the reader's needs. The products displayed vary with each reader. If you have a PIM solution from PPE analytics, we can handle the catalogue for you and build the “Products” section of your website.

(Estimated budget: €5K/year)

Selection guide: allowing everyone to find the right product within your range

The problem with developing a selection guide is that you don't know who's going to use it. It is essential to help people of varying technical expertise find the product they need within your range, whether they are craftsmen or expert PPE distributors. This is the purpose of the search card: it allows you to adapt to the end user’s level of expertise and guide them throughout the selection process. By carrying out this work for your range, you support your sales executives and agents in their recommendations, and increase your distributors’ ability to provide guidance independently. This means no one leaves your site without an answer.

(Estimated budget: €5K/year)

Private environments for your customers

What if your website could dynamically adapt to your customers? We are currently working with our clients to provide private spaces for each of their customers on Deck. Accessible by invitation from your website, these spaces display catalogues and selection guides customised according to your customers. They can retrieve an analysis of their purchase history, and ideas to substitute the products they don't buy from you. Above all, your customers discover and learn more about Deck, which could very well become their PPE management platform.

(Estimated budget: €5kK/year)

Put away your stacks of catalogues and generalise benchmark for all

Hell is other people, especially when benchmarking... Whether it is used to assess a product’s business potential, or to anticipate a competitor’s offers, comprehensive knowledge of competing products is key. The issue is that catalogues are rarely up to date, constant monitoring would require an entire department busy full time, and you simply can't memorise all the products. To solve this problem, we have created a database of all public market information. By building up a scope for the products you are interested in, you offer a complete, relevant and up-to-date database on the products of your market. A newsletter will keep you informed of any development on this scope. Finally, you will be able to target customer groups by criteria in order to refine your benchmark and monitoring. Another major advantage is that this benchmark is (extremely) simple; your sales representatives can do it from their phones. They can find, understand, and substitute any product on the market. Wouldn't that be what we call an augmented salesman?

(Estimated budget: see the article “I wish to define the product scope of my Deck platform”)

Quantitative and product-by-product modelling of your market is possible!

What if every piece of information, every price quoted, every tender passed through the hands of your colleagues could make up a comprehensive knowledge database? By aggregating the volumes of calls for tenders over the last 5 years across Europe, you get...? ...the modelling of a quantitative sample for each product that accurately represents your market. Each of these data points is a potential lead. You know the volumes that your own products can substitute for, so all you have to do is send out your sales representatives on the offensive! But beware, a sales rep on their own is a less effective sales rep.

(Estimated budget: contact us)

Implement a tool to connect your sales staff with each other and with your customers

CRM is probably the tool most criticised by salespeople. While the time spent on it is manifest, the benefit is less so. That’s why in Deck, we are building a CRM that provides information before you even ask for it. By representing each customer one by one and connecting ALL the data that concerns them, we offer preparation time, leads, and we curb the salesperson’s reporting time. In turn, they’ll most likely be more willing to report back from the field. They will genuinely benefit from this information, and share it with others. This is the philosophy of our CRM module, which includes our BI module. The other challenge is to properly index the information. A price in a text field is unusable. On the other hand, when correctly indexed, this price can be used in the next benchmark and will have an impact on upcoming negotiations. And because this CRM is also accessible right from your phone, adoption will be a breeze.

(Estimated budget: contact us)

And above all, choose the right partner to integrate it all

As illustrated, we can provide you with the right data, the right tools and the right methodology to help you in all, or part of these steps. So unleash your teams, provide them with tools that help them focus serenely on their core business!

Talk to you soon,

Florent BRETEY

CEO PPE analytics

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