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ETIM - why talking the same data language is a tall order

What can your coffee cup teach you about data standardisation – and why you need it

Etim coffee

What exactly is a regular sized cup of coffee?

If you’ve ever found yourself trying to order a drink in a new coffee shop, you’ll know that this question can be more of a metaphysical conundrum than it has any right to be.

Tall. Regular. Medium. Medio. Moyen. Not only does every coffee chain use a different language to describe its ‘middle’ size, but exactly how much coffee that in-between cup represents can differ wildly between each shop.

It’s entirely subjective. How many other sizes are available? How much volume is in the smallest cup? Is a ‘supremo’ option bigger than a ‘large’ somewhere else, or are there just more smaller options on that particular menu?

Confused? Rightly so. It is confusing. When information isn’t standardised, it makes understanding that information – and making decisions based upon it – a lot more complicated.

Now, if you’re picking up a caffeine boost for your morning commute, the worst that will happen is you spend £3.95 on a disappointingly small (or jitter-inducingly large) coffee: lesson learned for next time.

But take this concept and apply it to another industry – such as electrical goods – and the stakes become a lot higher. Ordering five pallets of 100W instead of 100 lumen lamps is going to cause you more of a headache than buying the wrong size coffee.

Ensuring that different vendors, suppliers and customers are speaking the same data language is vital to avoid purchasing errors, increase transparency, minimise wastage and streamline supply chains. That’s why the construction industry is adopting ETIM, a data standardisation model that is being rolled out across electrical distributors and builders’ merchants.

Coffee etim 2

What is ETIM?

ETIM is a system of classification that defines data standards for electrical and electronic products.

For example, once adopted, ETIM will ensure that stock profiles of every GU10 LED contain the same set of information, in the same units of measure, across every supplier, manufacturer and distributor in the UK.

By adopting ETIM, the construction industry can ensure that everyone in the supply chain (including consumers) has access to clear, standardised data, for more accurate, accessible and reliable information across the board.

Why now?

Back in 2016, a survey of Electrical Distributors Association (EDA) member found that 80% of wholesalers said their biggest threat was from new online entrants, with 73% identifying online sales as their biggest growth prospect.

Data held the key to grasping opportunities (and beating the online competition) but at the time of the survey, 68% of members held no enhanced or enriched product info, despite 74% recognising that it helps online trade. Suppliers, too, wanted to see better data in the market, with 93% of manufacturers seeing an increased need for richer, broader data sets.

That survey took place four years before coronavirus struck, driving more transactions online and increasing the need for clear, transparent product information across the industry. Now, more than ever, electrical distributors and builders’ merchants need to ensure that their customers have all of the information they need, in the format they need it, to order online with confidence.

Want to know more about ETIM and how Comma can help?

We've worked with some of the biggest names in the electrical and construction industries to help them to realise the true value of their data, including projects focused on classifying data to the ETIM standard.

Find out more