ETIM xChange explained: Product data exchange for global industrial manufacturing

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How does a US manufacturer of air conditioners ensure its distributor in Spain has all of the necessary technical and transactional information to comply with local regulations and sell to Spanish buyers effectively? It standardizes its data into international formats like ETIM.

The ETIM classification standard is the most widely used standard for classifying technical products and describing their technical features. It is used by manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, contractors, distributors, and wholesalers in the electrical, HVAC, plumbing, building, sanitary, and other related industrial sectors.

In February 2024, ETIM officially released the inaugural version of ETIM xChange – a new JSON-based exchange format for international manufacturers and distributors. Before realizing the impact of the standard, let’s examine what makes the format unique.

What is ETIM xChange?

For companies operating globally, establishing a universal format to exchange product data internationally is crucial. Otherwise, the process becomes highly inefficient if you have uniform classified product data that you have to then adjust to different local formats when sharing with your respective trade partners.

ETIM xChange is the first standard for exchanging product data that is entirely controlled by ETIM International and its community.

The format was designed for universal and global adoption, as it's rooted in European Master Data Guidelines (EMDG) and incorporates insights from other prominent product exchange standards, like DICO, BMEcat, and FAB-DIS. It also offers a robust validation structure, exemplified by its adherence to JSON-schema protocols.

Specific characteristics of ETIM xChange

Commerce driven, and strongly accelerated by ecommerce best practices, product data exchange is a strategic business enabler with growing complexity. ETIM xChange has been designed to replace ETIM BMEcat and provide a better framework supporting the constant evolution of new content requirements (e.g. rich media, legal, environmental, etc.)

Let's look at the benefits of this new standard and why it could become your favorite format for global product data exchange in the distribution network.

  • JSON-based: JSON is commonly known in many developer communities. The format is easier to read and a very sound alternative to XML (BMEcat is XML-based). In addition to file exchange, JSON is also suitable for web/API exchange.
  • Flexible scope of use: ETIM xChange can be used for full catalog transfer or limited to delta changes only. The information is compartmented into a well-defined hierarchical structure where most sections and subsections are optional, so you can provide more or less information without compromising the readiness and structure. You can also combine information from multiple suppliers in the same file, making it especially suitable for data pools.
  • Structure and data validation: The documentation provides a comprehensive semantic description of all data fields. ETIM xChange also provides a JSON Schema for technical validation of your data structure.
  • GS1 standards for identification: The format uses GS1 standards for identifying items (GTIN) and locations (GLN) to ensure accuracy and consistency across multiple systems. ETIM classification completes the GS1 information by describing the technical features of a product. ETIM xChange encapsulates all technical and transactional content into a comprehensive and easy-to-integrate format.

  • Need help aggregating multiple data sources, including GS1, BMEcat, xChange etc?

    Learn more about Distribution PX.

  • A better distinction between Products, Trade Items, and Packaging Units: Inspired by the GS1 hierarchy, ETIM xChange aims to help clarify each product of the multiple buying options and packaging units, while limiting the redundancy on product information basics.
  • Multiple product classifications: To ease adoption amongst the community, ETIM classification is not mandatory (although strongly recommended). ETIM xChange allows the option for ETIM, ETIM MC, ECLASS, UNSPSC, and company-specific classifications to be embedded.
  • Multilingual catalogs: Since the xChange format supports the exchange of single-language or multilingual catalogs, many text fields (e.g. product or item descriptions) are defined as multilingual. Attachments can also be localized with different filenames or URLs and descriptions per language.
  • Sustainability, climate, and environmental considerations: Customer expectations and legislation for sustainability have increased considerably. To strengthen the visibility of these topics and facilitate the information exchange between partners, ETIM xChange dedicates specific sections to Legislation and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) with numerous specific attributes.
  • A global standard taking care of local requirements: Designed to be a global standard, ETIM xChange leaves space for country-specific fields and specific extensions. The local guidelines align with the local ETIM organization. You must register as an ETIM member if you want to influence the classification and the format.

For further information on the specifics of ETIM xChange, you can download ETIM International’s documents here.

How manufacturers and distributors can work with complex formats

While standards like ETIM xChange enable businesses in the industrial manufacturing sector to collaborate across international markets more effectively and improve their data quality, ensuring their data meets these standards presents its own set of challenges.

For one, manufacturers and distributors often struggle to integrate disparate data sources and systems, leading to data silos that cause inefficiencies and inconsistencies. Another common obstacle is the sheer complexity of the data itself. Raw product data often comes in rigid formats that offer little room for customization or adaptation to evolving requirements. For enterprises handling vast inventories comprising thousands or even millions of SKUs across multiple regions, aligning product data with various standards like FAB-DIS, BMEcat, and ETIM xChange puts tremendous strain on internal resources.

Luckily, new solutions have emerged to support companies in their efforts to standardize their product data. AI and automation can remove a lot of the manual work required to source, clean, enrich, and distribute the data to the necessary channels. For instance, the Productsup P2C (Product-to-Consumer) platform offers manufacturers and distributors extensive data transformation capabilities through its Distribution PX offering. Serving as an official ETIM member, Productsup ensures all data aligns with local ETIM classification standards. Its user-friendly interface allows users to easily manage a variety of catalog formats, including CSV, XML, JSON, Excel templates, and more.

ETIM-friendly data exchange with Productsup

Global manufacturers like Prysmian Group rely on Productsup to harmonize their product data across their organization and share it with wholesalers and data pools. With over 600 attributes on each of their thousands of products, Prysmian uses Productsup as a central source of truth to collect all of their data across more than 100 manufacturing plants and 50 offices worldwide.

Productsup eases the process of converting, mapping, and enhancing product data by using automated and configurable processes. By using customer-specific data exports like FAB-DIS, BMEcat, ARGE, etc., and classifying products according to ETIM standards, manufacturers and distributors can meet the needs of diverse channels and systems.

New player in the ETIM playground? Or maybe you’re looking to transition from ETIM BMEcat to ETIM xChange? See for yourself how you can easily map xChange fields to old BMEcat fields using our platform to simplify your data maintenance process even further.

Book your demo now!

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