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11/18/2004
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Making Online Catalogs Cheaper, Easier To Maintain

Brady Corp. turns to product-information-management software from FullTilt Solutions so it can more easily handle information on thousands of products. The software also helps Brady manage its online catalog.

Brady Corp., a maker of high-performance labels and identification signs, needed a better way to manage information related to its more than 15,000 products than Excel spreadsheets. The manufacturer also wanted better tools to run its online catalog.

So the $671 million-a-year company turned to a little-known vendor, FullTilt Solutions Inc., which makes product-information-management systems. The software has helped Brady automate updates on product details in its online catalog, which lists more than 50,000 stock products and thousands of custom products. Now it's upgrading to a new version of FullTilt's software released Thursday. Perfect Product Suite 5.0 includes built-in workflows.

FullTilt's system makes it much easier to make global data changes, a process that was particularly challenging using spreadsheets, says Laura Talavera, E-commerce coordinator at Brady. Additionally, Brady didn't have a standard way of storing product attributes such as color, dimensions, the type of adhesive on a certain label, or the number of dots per inch on a particular label printer. Consequently, the catalog was missing information that's important to customers' purchasing decisions.

Today, Brady's implementation of FullTilt's Perfect Product Suite contains all of Brady's product data and attributes for close to 30,000 stock-keeping units. The software collects product attributes and other information from multiple enterprise data sources and adjusts definitions to conform to a single standard. The system updates and synchronizes information as it changes, maintains product information, and links to a central repository.

The result? Faster, less-expensive, and more accurate production and maintenance of its online catalog, Talavera says. For example, if the same product appears in multiple sections of the catalog, Brady only has to update the product information in the Perfect Product Suite once and the changes are automatically updated in other parts of the catalog. "The biggest benefit of the software is the flexibility and organization of the SKUs it offers and the ease of being able to load the information in the tool, as opposed to working with a spreadsheet where things can get messed up easily," Talavera says.

Brady is preparing to migrate from its IBM Net.Commerce-based Web site to Java-based technology. With FullTilt's newest version, which Brady plans to implement in the next two months, Brady will expand its use of FullTilt to additional divisions and non-U.S. users. Also, the company plans to create custom catalog views for different distributors and product managers. "This way, our administrators can create customized catalogs of the hottest products for our distributors," Talavera says. "Before, someone had to go through a spreadsheet and manually pick and choose which items to give them."

FullTilt's Perfect Product Suite 5.0 features a business-process-management system that adds workflow mechanisms to the system. In the past, FullTilt relied on third-party workflow tools from vendors such as IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and webMethods. But adding business-process management has enabled FullTilt to manage its own workflow, which in turn lets customers create, manage, and synchronize internal product information across the supply chain, says Bob Moyer, president of FullTilt.

"We look at synchronization as an iceberg, so the tip of that iceberg is external synchronization. What's below the water line and where the real challenges are is the internal synchronization and getting your existing operating systems to act against accurate information and act against current information," Moyer says.

The Perfect Product Suite also offers capabilities that could be useful in the deployment of radio-frequency identification, Moyer says. Most companies keep their product data in multiple databases, ranging from different enterprise-resource-planning sources to Excel spreadsheets and Word documents. That means there's no central data repository, which would include all the information required for RFID tags. And often there are duplicates and inconsistencies throughout databases, he says. "Having product data on RFID tags doesn't help if it's wrong," Moyer says.

FullTilt's Perfect Product Suite synchronizes product data from multiple enterprise data stores, aggregates it into a central repository that's updated constantly, and simplifies product-information processes through automated workflow. This can help companies lay the groundwork for RFID projects by creating a clean data repository that ensures that information on RFID tags will be accurate, Moyer says.

FullTilt's Perfect Product Suite is priced between $100,000 and $1 million, depending on the number of seats and the number of products under management.

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