When buyers of its industrial cabling products began placing more orders through its distributors’ ecommerce sites during the pandemic, Prysmian Group realized the time had come to eliminate data silos and upgrade its product information management system to support online sales.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way many manufacturers do business, and the Prysmian Group, a manufacturer of cables and systems for the energy and telecom industries, is no exception.

We are the cable experts, and we can help distributors to enhance their selling proposition on Prysmian Group products by providing them the most accurate and reliable data.
Francesca Novelli, customer centricity and international key account senior manager,
Prysmian Group
FrancescaNovelli-Prysmian

Francesca Novelli, customer centricity and international key account senior manager, Prysmian Group

As more cable buyers flocked during the pandemic to the B2B ecommerce sites of Prysmian’s distributors, the distributors needed more and better product data to effectively sell online. And Prysmian, with its product data scattered across multiple data repositories, realized the time had come to eliminate those data silos and deploy a new product information management (PIM) system to consolidate its product data in a single database. The targeted result: helping Prysmian’s distributors run more efficient and effective B2B ecommerce sites and increase sales of Prysmian Group’s product brands, namely Prysmian, Draka, and General Cable.

Distributors increase their digital presence

“Our distribution channel—mainly, electrical distributors—are increasing their digital presence with ecommerce sites,” says Francesca Novelli, customer centricity and international key account senior manager for Prysmian. “Increasing PIM coverage as well as enhancing enriched content—including sustainability data like CO2 emissions, packaging, recyclability information, etc.—can support us in enhancing the business accessibility to our distribution channel. Our expectations, therefore, are to gather better visibility at our customers’ ecommerce sites and improve sales of our brands.”

Prysmian is known as the world’s largest manufacturer of cables for the energy and telecommunications industries. The company operates more than 100 plants in more than 50 countries, and it produces energy, telecommunications, submarine, and high-voltage cables. With millions of different products and hundreds of sales and distribution channels, Prysmian needed a technology platform that allowed them to manage both technical data and commercial data, such as short descriptions, long descriptions, certifications, videos, pictures, and branding.

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In addition, with rapid growth in digital commerce, Prysmian’s business-to-business customers had new requirements. They were asking for clarity of data, completeness of information, and fresh, usable product information to run their ecommerce sites efficiently.

The Milan, Italy-based cable manufacturer, which reported 2020 sales of 10.016 billion euros (US$11.6 billion), opted to install a product information management application from inRiver Inc. that would integrate with its entire information technology stack. Prysmian will leverage on BB ecommerce technology from Salesforce.com Inc. and uses Salesforce.com’s MuleSoft data integration technology to integrate its PIM. “Leveraging on our web catalogues and on data coming from our ERP/SAP 1 Client will allow our distribution channel to place orders via the new B2B platform, which is kicking off by Q4 2021 and will roll out during 2022,” says Beatrice Boldrini, IT Business Partner on Customer Centricity initiatives.

The ability to consistently manage product data is critical in the electric cable industry, as regulatory requirements for product data typically vary by country. PIM technology is a crucial pillar to meeting B2B buyers’ needs, the company says.

Managing product information worldwide

“Cable markets are different across the globe, and regulations are specific to markets, so there are many different variants and usages of product information,” Novelli says.

While the company does have a research-and-design system that contains product data, that information is mainly used to support product design, not serve as the basis for the product descriptions that distributors need, Novelli adds.

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Because Prysmian is heavily focused on data governance, one of the priorities for its PIM implementation is to streamline product information across the entire company to ensure proper, accurate and consistent data distribution as it expands sales operations globally.

“Without proper data governance, it is impossible to manage the consistency of data across geographies,” says Novelli, who oversaw Prysmian Group’s PIM business implementation. “A distributor relies on product data to sell products, and it is best when that data comes directly from the source. We are the cable experts, and we can help distributors to enhance their selling proposition on Prysmian Group products by providing them the most accurate and reliable data. It is important to help customers onboard information they need to sell effectively.”

In addition to providing distributors with more accurate product data that meets local regulatory requirements, the Prysmian Group is also seeing an increasing demand for data syndication to third-party ecommerce sites to generate new leads from prospective customers.

Syndication “is another reason product data should come from the supplier, as requirements vary by country and customer,” says Novelli. “The syndication part, which today is the most complex challenge, is still a work in progress, but we are making huge strides as we do feed our web catalog data directly from our PIM, with full integration.”

The benefits of deploying a professional PIM team

The Prysmian Group has also created a professional Central PIM team (CPT) that the company says is part of the core business operations to support implementation, “including product mapping and fit gaps, to manage the Prysmian Data Model accordingly to be in line with business requirements and outputs,” the company says. The professional PIM team also provides training to an extended PIM team, including product and marketing managers, to reinforce processes as well as governance at scale, Prysmian adds.

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The benefits of the PIM implementation include fully integrated web catalogs to the PIM, product consistency throughout all channels, a common layout, and a branding approach for catalogs and datasheets. The implementation also provides the ability to better manage the more than 500 features for more than 40,000 products, and the ability to share key performance indicators with customers. The shared performance indicators include a product data quality assessment. In addition, it provides flexibility in sharing data with key customers or national data pools, such as BMECat, Eplan or CableBase.

“We enhanced our brand awareness on the market, and overall, we were able to increase the loyalty of our customers and improve the customer experience for customers who are dealing with Prysmian Group and its commercial brands.”

InRiver is live in 20 countries in Europe and in 2021 Prysmian is running an expansion in North America across main products lines and commercial brands, the manufacturer says. As part of the implementation, Prysmian established a local PIM Team closely supported by CPT to run the project, building up digital competencies that will allow the North America organization to reinforce Prysmian commercial effectiveness in the local market, the company says.

The rest of the world will follow in 2022 in terms of geographies and businesses.

‘Digitalization is within the DNA of Prysmian’

“Thanks to the PIM, now we have a single source of truth, a single platform that collects all our product information so now we can talk the same business language. With inRiver, we can now apply best practices to our product data to drive our business,” says Stefano Brandinali, chief digital and information officer at Prysmian Group.

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“Digitalization is within the DNA of Prysmian,” adds Rob van Veen, Prysmian’s senior vice president, energy and infrastructure. “PIM is one of the key pillars to fulfill all the demands and wishes from our customers on how our products and concepts will be found in all their ecommerce platforms and systems.”

Aside from using its PIM solution to provide richer and more accurate product data, Prysmian also is leveraging the application by including sustainability data as part of product data. Sustainability data includes a product’s carbon footprint, recyclability and environmental benefits, as well as listing any hazard materials used to make the product. The company has also embedded eco-friendly cable information in its PIM Data model and expects to embed additional sustainability data in its PIM model in the future.

“Sustainability is a key component of our core values,” Novelli says. “As a result, we want to help our customers make buying decisions by providing access to sustainability data.”

Having successfully completed its PIM solution in Europe in 2020, the Prysmian Group is rolling it out in North America and will introduce it other regions of the world in 2022. The company is also working to develop an enterprise manufacturing PIM use case.

Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist covering business and technology.

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This article is part of the DC360 special report Technology Roadmaps for Digital Growth.

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