Maintaining electronic catalogues is proving to be one of the crucial issues in e-procurement as companies grapple with how to enter and maintain raw product information from different suppliers.
Clear Communications has been running Oracle’s e-procurement system for six months and employs a person to enter product names and changes into the system’s electronic catalogue, though Clear supply chain manager Peter Davies says it’s not a permanent solution.
David Taylor of Oracle consultancy Taylor Rogers, which is developing a simple interface for transferring the information from the spreadsheet to Clear’s Oracle system via data cleansing, says apart from managing the catalogue itself Clear could use a third-party service which would cleanse and format suppliers’ data and possibly host the catalogue. But he says such companies are still expensive and the concept is still maturing.
In the interim Clear will ask suppliers to provide information such as supplier number, item description and pricing in the form of an Excel spreadsheet it will send out. “Just about everyone of our suppliers has a different system,” says Davies. “We tried to think of the most simple common denominator across all and we decided that everyone has Excel spreadsheets.
Davies says ultimately Clear will move to a third-party catalogue provider and is looking at the online marketplace provider e://volution. Clear already has a relationship with e://volution, offering its online procurement system to Clear customers through a service called Trading Point.
“First we have to rationalise our catalogue and that start’s bringing out bigger issues like long-term relationships. We will probably look at 10 to 12 key suppliers as the first step and then roll it out from there.”
Davies says Clear has about 200 suppliers although not all of them will end up on the electronic catalogue.
“One thing I’ve realised is that there probably won’t be an end to it. I see e-cataloguing as ongoing process.”