In the fast-paced world of retail, reliable data is the key to responding to consumer demand.

In the fast-paced world of consumer packaged goods (CPG), manufacturers need consistent and reliable data in order to correctly analyze how end consumers are reacting to their products and adjust their business tactics accordingly. With data coming from a multitude of different sources in non-standardized formats, it is important for manufactures to continually cleanse and harmonize their data.

Harmonization is the process of collecting data from multiple disparate sources and bringing it together in a consistent format. This can be a challenge as the volume of data increases and multiple algorithms are needed in order to ensure that data is in a unified format. Once data is in a unified format data needs to be cleansed to make sure it is consistent and reliable. These processes should be ongoing as more data is collected and entered into your database in order to have high-quality data in your system.

Why Data Cleansing and Harmonization Matter

With the increasing number of product choices, buying channels and information available to consumers, their buying behaviors are becoming more volatile and less predictable as they react to a new set of options and stimuli. As a result the supply chain needs to be able to recognize changes in consumer trends and respond in real-time. This puts additional pressure on data management systems to produce cleansed, harmonized and actionable data at the speed of the consumer. The ability to gain insights based on reliable, real-time data has a direct impact on the bottom line.

When launching a new product, it is critical to see how it is perceived by consumers. Are sales exceeding, meeting or behind expectations? The answer will lead manufactures determine the next course of action. It is great if sales are exceeding original projections, as long as manufactures can replenish products fast enough meet demand. Likewise, if sales are performing below expectations, manufactures may need to reconsider their price, distribution and inventory strategies. The need to gain insight into consumer trends also extends to measuring the return on investment of a retail promotion. Having the end-consumer insights quickly, especially if the promotion is being rolled out across the country in similar markets, will help a manufacture learn if sales increased enough to justify the money spent promotion. If sales do not justify the promotion, there may be time to shift tactics or scrap the promotion in other cities before additional profit is lost.

These initiatives cost time and money, so the ability to quickly gathering high quality data for analysis and making changes quickly, if needed, can be the difference between an initiative’s success or failure. In order to determine which action will have a positive impact on the bottom line, you need data. If data is not harmonized or cleansed, you may react to incorrect data, derailing the success of a project and losing revenue.

Technology and the Human Factor

Accomplishing smooth and efficient data harmonization and cleansing requires a sophisticated, cloud-based supply chain management (SCM) system that applies a set of routines and rules to data as it comes into the system from each data source. Is it the expected format, size, number of records? Within those records are the columns that supposed to be numbers or alpha characters? Is every column filled in for every record?

Beyond the technology, the human factor is still important. Now, instead of manually entering and cleaning large quantities of data, manufacturers can manage data on an exception. If a rule is violated, depending on the rule, the system may or may not trigger a report or flag for someone to take action. Managing data on an exception basis saves time and money in the long run, while still making sure data is clean.

Having clean, accurate and standardized data is critical in order to reach business insights. Since a SCM system harmonizes and cleanses data as it is collected, algorithms can be run in order to gain insights into the supply chain right away. To expedite this process further, look for a technology partner who has made investments, in both time and money, into their SCM system. When working with a technology partner, it is also important that they have the ability to onboard new connections quickly in order to reduce downtime and lost productivity.

As the volume of data increases and sources multiply, the complexities of data management will only intensify. This increase in data complexity comes as supply chains are challenged to go faster and faster. In order to maintain a supply chain that is responsive to the end consumer, it is essential to start with harmonized and cleansed data. And, as the complexities of data management grow, CPG manufacturers will need to rely more on technology partners in order to efficiently set up and maintain systems with consistent and reliable data.

Paris Gogos is vice president of product of NeoGrid North America. In his current position, Gogos leverages his experience working with some of the world’s most successful consumer packaged goods companies and retailers to help NeoGrid customers align supply with demand and improve on-shelf availability. Gogos previously worked with leaders in demand visibility and retail execution practices including Nielsen, RSi and Efficient Market services. A published thought leader, Gogos holds a degree in marketing and finance from Rosebank College in South Africa.