Definition: PIM is an acronym for product information management. The term has gained a popularity in the past few years, as apparel companies have began to look for ways to keep their product information consistent across all parts of the business.

Why do I need a system to manage product information?

In the 90’s when ERP systems first started coming into fashion, the goal was to provide "foundation data" that would help manage and run the apparel enterprise. As more business processes have gone digital, additional layers of information have been added to the product life cycle and spread across different systems.

"Excuse the mess, but we live here." ― Roseanne Barr

PIM - Crossed Wires - Courtesy of Howard Lake

Beyond the core data, a modern apparel or footwear product will also generate a complex set of information around pricing, composition, weight, dimensions, SKU’s and other logistical items. Once the product is manufactured, marketing data such as descriptions, labels and images are created and often siloed away from all other stages of the process.

The best way to cope with this influx of additional data is to implement a product information management system (PIM) that serves all aspects of the business. This helps to reduce errors associated with rekeying information and ensures that key assets are available to any team member who might require them.

"A PIM solution must make all product information available from a central point in a reliable, meaningful, and timely way to people, processes, and applications that rely on it."
- Scott Cairney

How does a company go about implementing PIM?

Adopting a proper PIM approach within an enterprise can be a difficult task. The first step is to extract the data from its existing sources. Take inventory of all the places throughout the organization that data is stored and create a strategy to gather it. This step can be difficult, as no two organizations are the same and there is often information that is stored solely within the minds of specific employees.

PIM - Product Information Managment Vector Graphic

Once collected, you must analyze the information and remove any inconsistencies or redundancy. When the data is clean and free of error, you can then start classifying it and making decisions about what business processes own the information and who can add or edit it. With all the tough decisions done, you can deploy your PIM system and distribute the data.

"We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us." - Marshall McLuhan

Data is a tool which enables your apparel business to accomplish your goals. By bringing your product information into a single location, you’ve created a powerful tool that can be used to shape the future of your organization. While the initial process of implementing a PIM system can be difficult, the gains made in speed and agility of your organization will be well worth it and reflected in your company's bottom line.

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Image Courtesy of Howard Lake