This series of posts covers a number of perspectives on the product record. Today’s post describes how a manufacturer’s information is organized into records, one of which is the product record. This and other similar constructs will be the framework for future discussions on different types of software solutions and their providers.

It seems everywhere you look nowadays, manufacturers are becoming increasingly digital. Manufacturing plants are outfitted with sensors for real-time visibility into production. Transportation and warehouses use RFID to accurately track inventory. When it comes to engineering, the most important aspect of this trend is how manufacturers organize and manage digital information. There are many different ways to view and think about this trend, however, one such approach represents how manufacturers have been organizing their paper-based information for decades. Hardcopy files, paper folders and physical cabinets have historically been organized around something. Now, that something could be a product, the company’s financials, a customer, a supplier, a manufacturing asset and so on. For example, you could walk into a procurement office years ago and scribbles at the top of the folder would be the name of a supplier or product. That scribble is the something that the record describes. Now, this type of view, a record-centric means of organization, was and continues to be a highly effective because it is structured around the thing you needed information about. Relevant information can be found quickly and easily by stakeholders within the company.

What does a record-centric view of a manufacturer’s digital information look like? Well, it can vary dramatically depending on the type of company, it’s business model and industry as well as a wide variety of other characteristics. But the figure below shows an example with a few different types of records.

It’s easy to see that there are different types of records. But what types of information resides inside these records? In general, there are two different types.

  • The record includes a digital definition of the something it describes. Examples of digital definitions for different types of records are listed in the middle column of the table below. This could include files, database entries or any other thing that describes that something.
  • The record also includes the details of the process used to create the record’s digital definition and make decisions related to the something the record describes. Examples of the processes for different types of records are listed in the right column of the table below.

Together, these two different types of information in the record not only completely describe the something, but also the process by which it was defined.


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