The success story in Finland can be summed up in two factors: digitize quickly and work together for uniformity.
In the early 1970s, the Finnish Electrical Wholesalers Federation created the so-called electrical product numbering, and the register was published online in the late 1990s on the website. With the product number, one could access a comprehensive collection of product data. Initially the product numbering had aimed to serve the wholesalers' interest in identifying the products in a uniform way in Finland. Later the wholesalers demanded enrichment of the product data. Today the data is integrated to designers' and contractors' software and to wholesalers online stores.
The federation is nowadays called Finnish Electrotechnical Trade Association (STK), and it accepts both wholesalers and manufacturers as its members. STK's Development Manager Katri Huhtinen emphasizes the importance of a consistent long-term cooperation.
"We created a Product Information Standard for the industry and worked with manufacturers and importers to develop general names and technical name guidelines for products. After that, we opened an online self-service, where manufacturers maintain their own product information", she says.
Next, the international information content standard ETIM was translated into Finnish in various working groups, and the ETIM categories were linked to general names. In addition, several new categories were created for energy distribution products that were previously completely missing from ETIM. ETIM is constantly being developed, so the work on it continues actively.
Product information boosts trade
"The importance of product information has been realized in companies", says Jarmo Raninen from STK, who gives Sähkönumerot.fi and ETIM introductions to the trade. "We actively participate in trade events and product information work is seen as a valuable part of marketing and sales. More and more often, designers and contractors choose a product from the Sahkonumerot.fi database by searching for certain product features instead of the product name. Only the products with comprehensive product information will appear in such search results. This has prompted companies to enrich their product information, he explains."
It takes a lot of work for manufacturers and importers to gather data on their own products, but once done carefully, it saves time and diminishes mistakes in the business processes. The work is done by product managers and experts, many of whom are self-service users of Sahkonumerot.fi.
Images for everyone to use
The cable manufacturer Meka Pro from Oulu, Finland has been systematically maintaining product information in their own system for years. The most recent examples are the product dimensions revised last year and the product images that were updated by the designers.
"For example, it took us a year to check the dimensional data of all products, but the effort is worthwhile, because the information is now conveniently available to all customers through the sahkonumerot.fi service. The product images rendered by the designer should not be hidden in your own product information management system, but instead they should be made available to customers on the Sahkonumerot.fi service", says product manager Tommi Pasma of Meka Pro.
The effort brought an award to MekaPro
Product Manager Aki Lamponen of Meka Pro considers the supply of product information as means of helping the customer. It is an ongoing process supported by its own certified product testing laboratory and Product Information Management System (PIM).
He says that the product name and code were enough 15 years ago, but now both the designers and the wholesalers need pictures and precise information about, for example, dimensions and surface treatment. Building officials, in turn, are demanding information with documents on what has been installed on the site.
STK gives out a yearly award called "The Exemplary Product Information Updater" in order to encourage and acknowledge the companies’ endeavors in enriching and maintaining the quality of product information. In 2021 the winner was Meka Pro.
"The development is not going to stop here", Aki Lamponen says. "Next the company wants to use the Sahkonumerot.fi REST-API interface connection and get rid of excel sheets and manual work. By using the API the product information will also be automatically updated to the wholesalers."