Title card stating Product Information Management Systems.

Linking Supply Chain Metadata to Products

by Murray Oles
March 3, 2021

The three P’s of supply chain metadata are; Process, Product, and Project. In every product’s lifecycle P3 metadata informs, records, and updates as Products move through Processes to deliver compliant Projects on schedule. Digital transformation is changing how and when metadata is entered, and by whom or through what rule. Metadata is simply data about digital files. The first recorded instance of metadata was the file name, followed closely by the file folder and its name. The introduction of relational and xml databases and DAM systems followed.

When DAM systems were introduced three decades ago, all metadata entry took place after the production of projects and jobs was complete. There simply were no workflow systems to connect the librarian within the process. This practice gave rise to the “Cyber Librarian”. This enterprise service took on the responsibility of creating intuitive ways for associates to find and recall project and job assets along with the P3 metadata critical to understanding and advancing the product lifecycle. As the volume of digital assets and the need for process documentation has increased over the past decade, so too has the cost of timely management, and accurate maintenance of P3 metadata.

Cyber librarians link digital assets to; key words, tags, properties, taxonomies, full-text-search, and machine learning algorithms. Their task is to support secure supply chain access to digital business, brand, and production assets. The challenges of managing P3 metadata for every Process interaction with brand Products is to create one single source of truth for all Projects across the supply chain.

Bad metadata is costly. This is especially true when the process involves regulated consumer packaged goods. Ask any commercialization team; “what keeps them awake at night?”. Many will fear that a non-compliant product reaches the market and hurts the brand, or a customer. The cost of “bad metadata” has justified many DAM technology investments. The staff to manage the organization and ongoing flow of P3 metadata contributes their expertise from every perspective. Marketing looks at product, project and process quite differently from operations and compliance. The IT team is often tasked to sync metadata across the locally connected enterprise and with strategic partners over an extranet connecting other resource management and manufacturing systems.

Product Information Management Systems have emerged as an important component in managing the digital and physical information that drive the supply chain. The PIM system is billed as the single source of truth for every product. Central to every PIM is the its’ database. Best practice is to assign a unique item identifier for every managed product. Every item, task and service that goes into a product is, in some way, linked through the PIM database. The puzzle with implementing a PIM system lies in the detailed definition of “in some way” as it applies to how product, process and project metadata are captured and shared in real time.

The easiest way of establishing a PIM system is to grow it through process management designed to ensure every item’s brand compliance and regulatory integrity across all manufacturing, marketing and promotional projects. Business Process Management, like digital asset management, is a practice espoused by professionals organized for the purpose of creating and exchanging workflows between systems. BPM systems are designed to be user configurable. That is the user can create and run projects and jobs through bespoke workflows.

A DAM-enabled BPM system can be configured to run any workflow while facilitating and automating the exchange of product and project information at every task in the process. The DAM service manages file transfers, archiving and version control. Optimize the DAM-enabled BPM system with project management tools and use web-based APIs to automate the information exchange between systems of record to reduce errors and improve the process.

Workflow Team ID
Item ID
Task ID
Item Description
Project ID
Task Performer
Project Name
Action Triggered
Job ID
Task time & Date (reached & completed)
Job Name
Process Channel
Production product
Safe Handling
Instruction manual

The examples above may be labeled in many ways, but from the enterprise perspective there can be no ambiguity. The metadata grows organically as jobs and projects are run through selected workflow models configured for teams across the enterprise. The DAM-enabled BPM system optimized for manufacturing project management captures and shares data between people and systems in real time. The data provides familiar ways to search for digital assets needed for the process. By sharing integrated access to digital asset management through the workflow, virtually all P3 metadata is either published automatically or captured in real time.