Case Study: Hach Supports Water Quality with Master Data Management

By   /  November 16, 2017  /  No Comments

master data managementOn the home page of the Hach company website, there is a red button that says, “Hurricane Assistance.” That’s because the company provides water quality testing equipment to communities, companies, and individuals all over the world, some of whom are dealing with natural disasters.

Above the button, the words: “After the storms, Hach is here for you,” underscore the critical nature of their business and their commitment to meeting a basic human right: access to clean water.

“We are hearing from our customers that they have been impacted in a wide variety of ways, including plant damage from winds and flooding,” said Collins King, Divisional Manager for Hach Company. “Immediate needs vary by facility, but getting drinking water, wastewater and industrial water systems up and running as quickly as possible is critical to the entire community for recovery.”

For many years the company relied on printed paper catalogs to deliver product and parts information to their customers. “When it comes to water quality testing and analysis, accuracy and results are paramount, and incorrect product information can cause business delays, exposure to compliance risk, and reduced customer loyalty.” Hach wanted to expand their online presence and move toward an online e-commerce catalog, but needed to ensure that the solution would be a trusted source for managing over 25,000 digital assets, including photos, manuals, data sheets, technical descriptions, and marketing information for products in more than 20 different languages. Most importantly, because lives depend on the accuracy of the information Hach provides, confidence in the solution provider was essential.

The Solution

Hach wanted to implement a single Product Information Management (PIM) solution that would manage and publish product data to their e-commerce site and seamlessly handle the organization and updating of content. The system needed to be able to synchronize product data for tens of thousands of SKUs and serve as the single source of truth for the latest approved product information. Hach chose Stibo Systems’ Master Data Management platform, STEP Trailblazer, as its PIM solution: “With STEP, Hach can publish, update, and maintain all their product information in 20+ unique language sites around the globe.”

According to Christophe Marcant, Stibo Systems’ senior VP of Strategy and Communications, Stibo was uniquely qualified to provide a solution for Hach because of their history as a company and their unusual corporate structure. “We came from print,” he said, printing phone books, newspapers and catalogs, and developing systems for composing rooms and reprographics companies. “Printing and managing catalogs led us to Product Information Management, which led us to Master Data Management, which led us to being able to address multi-domains,” including product information, suppliers and assets, as well as locations and customer information, he said.

With the need to maintain accuracy in multiple languages, Stibo Systems’ global presence was also a key advantage. The same SKU may have the same part number, but each different language also comes with a set of differences based on the country, the locality, and the unique regulatory climate where it will be used, he said.

“The whole notion of locale can be not only a matter of adapting the content to a different language but also taking in consideration that the locale is possibly a different data set, different content, or additional content that is specific about the location.”

Most importantly, Marcant said, Stibo Systems’ unique corporate structure gives its clients an unusual level of confidence in the company and themselves.

“Stibo is actually organized as a foundation. What it means is that there is no equity in the company, there is no ownership in the company. The company owns itself. So, it’s a different financial structure.”

Removing the need to answer to a set of corporate owners has allowed Stibo to embrace a ‘business-first’ mindset. “Everything we do is for our clients. We live and die by those clients. If they are not successful, we are not successful,” he said. The relationships they have with their clients are “vastly different” from what competing firms have with their clients.

This ‘business-first’ mindset empowers Stibo’s customers in three ways, Marcant says:

  • To grow their online presence with assurance that their data is relevant and meaningful at all times.
  • To be able to grow and adapt quickly because, “change is the nature of the game.”
  • To have the capability to go beyond their initial thinking.

There’s a level of comfort at the outset, he says, that later grows into confidence because, “They have a reliable platform behind them, a strong ‘digital business core’ of operational information.” That confidence builds over time.

“You can go to sleep at night at peace, not knowing what the future is going to throw at you tomorrow morning, yet you’re confident that whatever happens, you’ll be able to adapt because you have the right infrastructure.”

Knowing they can respond gracefully to daily challenges gives Stibo’s clients room to think creatively about new ways to serve their own customers.

Implementation

Marcant says implementation starts with Data Governance, so it’s clear how information will be used throughout the company, who will manage changes to metadata, and who will manage timelines, such as regulation compliance deadlines. “You just cannot say, ’Oh, we need an MDM infrastructure, how much does it cost? Tell me when it’s done.’”

The business needs to be an integral part of the implementation process:

“Because it’s really a solution for business people by business people, and again, it goes back to the business-first mindset, it is very, very important in our best practice that indeed, our business users are involved since day one in the creation of that solution.”

Hach is using STEP to establish the necessary approval processes and make sure that product information is always accurate and up-to-date.

The second step is to understand the current state of the existing data so the scope of the project is clear. “Thinking that you’re going to take it from wherever it is and just import it into the system when the system is ready for it is definitely a source for a lot of pain and suffering,” he said.

For example, if each product needs a UPC and the existing UPC information is somewhat inconsistent, a plan for auditing, filing, and cleansing that data will need to be developed as well, “So you not only have your PIM project, but there is a data project on the side.” Another important consideration is how the new system integrates with the rest of the ecosystem – not just in terms of getting data in and out but by using the opportunity to phase out legacy content. Marcant recommends setting a retirement date and making the content available, but read-only. “It becomes an even larger project because you have other systems in the company depending on that legacy, so you have to plan for this.”

The Results

Along with the PIM, STEP came with a Digital Asset Management (DAM) component that Hach has used to expand their collaborative capabilities. While the PIM holds product information, the DAM allows Hach to “store, group, preview and search through their entire digital asset library.” Marcant considers content collection “painful, tedious, and haphazard.” With a system like STEP, “You have the opportunity to streamline it, make it consistent,” which helps improve conversion rates and increases customer loyalty.

As a customer, if the content you see online matches the product in your hand – meaning if there is no disparity or discrepancy when you compare products side-by-side- this leads to increased confidence in the company and the product, which encourages repeat business.

“Using advanced publishing functionality within the PIM solution, Hach can quickly and seamlessly deliver clean, detailed, and accurate product data to their e-Commerce platform. To maintain up-to-date online product information, the PIM system is also in charge of synchronizing product data to ensure only the latest, approved version of the information is displayed on their websites.”

Going Forward

Going forward, the company will be expanding their use of STEP as a collaborative tool to implement a program they call Enterprise Center of Excellence, to collaboratively share data, services and processes across multiple groups company-wide. According to Stephen Kennedy, Manager, Data Quality at Hach: “Using STEP, the Center of Excellence helps all groups to streamline marketing efforts and increase overall customer satisfaction.”  

Water quality services for hurricane survivors might seem far removed from Master Data Management, but when that Master Data makes it possible for clean water to reach people in need, it’s a life saver.

 

Photo Credit: Namphon2U/Shutterstock.com

About the author

Amber Lee Dennis is a freelance writer, web geek and proprietor of Chicken Little Ink, a company that helps teeny tiny companies make friends with their marketing. She has a BA in English, an MA in Arts Administration and has been getting geeky with computers in some capacity since 1985.

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