Establishing a new data standard for an entire industry is a major undertaking, but manufacturers like Champion and Krowne are upbeat about the early results for the FEDA Data Repository project.
The initiative was launched at the end of 2021 with the goals of instituting industry-wide uniform standards for accurate product information and establishing a database that would provide ongoing access to that information for dealers. The plan was ambitious and required buy-in from both dealers and the manufacturers that would be supplying the data.
“When we initially heard about it, we spoke to some of the FEDA dealer members to understand why it was important to them,” says Will Means, president of Champion Industries, a manufacturer specializing in dishwashing machines. “They needed an opportunity for more transparency and the ability to have another source to get data. When we understood it was important to them, it became important to us.”
Champion was among the first manufacturers to begin uploading data to the repository in late November and early December 2021. So far, the company has added product information for nearly 100 items, representing most of its products that are not custom made. The number of uploads can vary greatly between individual manufacturers, with some only needing to include a few dozen products to represent their entire catalog while others, like Krowne, a manufacturer of underbar equipment, have 1,800 items in the database.
Adding potentially thousands of products to the repository and ensuring they all meet the established standards may seem daunting, but FEDA offset that setup work by providing detailed resources to help manufacturers understand how to upload the information in the proper format. An especially helpful resource is the FEDA Product Data Mapping Tool, a macro designed to help dealers easily translate their existing data terminology and formatting to one that fits the FEDA Data Repository rules.
Allison Kane, marketing coordinator for Krowne, worried that uploading information would be difficult until she read through the FEDA Data Repository instructions posted on learn. feda.com. “It was quite simple once I realized how the Excel spreadsheet worked,” she says.
Once the data is configured, manufacturers have two ways they can upload or update information: a CSV file that includes all the product information on a spreadsheet, or an API tool that pulls existing data from the manufacturer’s system automatically. Kane prefers the CSV file because it allowed her to easily transfer Krowne’s data into a spreadsheet. “I could compile the data quickly with different formulas, and it was very easy for me to do mass changes to the spreadsheet,” she says. “When I had to update the pricing for our products, it was very easy to use the CSV to change these prices within two minutes.”
Likewise, Daniel Short, marketing director for Champion, found it easy to translate the company’s existing product information for attributes like weights, shipping and descriptions to the corresponding fields in the repository’s upload document.
Short did run into a few questions during his first upload attempt. After dragging the file into the upload field, the repository scanned the information and flagged some of the data as improperly formatted or using the wrong measurements, but the database is designed to inform users where those errors occurred to make them easy to identify. Short was able to resolve the problems after checking with FEDA’s data repository project team. “It looked like a mountain of a project at first, but once we started loading data they worked with us to keep us on track,” he said of the standards.
Now having used the FEDA Data Repository for several months, manufacturers and dealers are starting to see the benefits of improved product information sharing. “With the volatility in market pricing, it is critical to have current information in an easily accessible place,” Means says. “Our benefit is the time we save by focusing on this database as opposed to many individual customer databases.”
With more products being added to the repository every day, the value to both distributors and manufacturers will only continue growing. Means sees participation as a way for manufacturers like Champion to support dealers and ensure they have the tools available to compete in the market. “We do anticipate our investment of time to the database will continue to strengthen those relationships we have with our dealer partners,” Means adds.
Dealers and manufacturers wishing to learn more about the FEDA Data Repository and how to use it are encouraged to contact Norman Mackay at firstname.lastname@example.org.