Manufacturers are increasingly concerned about how their master data is being represented on various websites, web stores, and in the systems of distributors and product end-users. Organizations collect master data from other organizations and reference and manage that data in their own systems in order to perform transactions; so, who owns that master data?

The global data quality standard, ISO 8000 is helping to resolve these issues.  The creation of a computer readable and portable product specification has been covered by ISO 8000-110 for a number of years now, but this month sees the publication of ISO 8000-115 covering identifiers.

Manufacturers will welcome the introduction of ISO 8000-115

The introduction of ISO 8000-115 asserts the manufacturer’s intellectual property rights to the product specifications they produce.

Most commonly an identifier is a reference to a data set managed by the owner of the identifier and, as such, it is an alias for a master data record.  Identifiers are widely exchanged by governments and commercial companies to refer to data used to describe individuals, organizations, locations, goods, services, assets, processes, procedures, laws, rules and regulations.

Identifiers play a crucial role in supply chain management and product lifecycle support as they identify physical objects using serial numbers and asset tracking numbers, and items of production using model and part numbers.

Verifying and validating the quality of master data depends on an ability to identify the owner of data and any use restrictions on that data.  This verification and validation also requires an ability to resolve identifiers to the data sets that they identify.

Part numbers are often designed to include some form of classification and often contain coded characteristics of the item. While part numbers are not necessarily unique, it is not unusual for companies to use part or model numbers as brands.

Several initiatives have been developed designed to create universal part numbers.  Most of these consist in adding a prefix that uniquely identifies the manufacturer or supplier who issued the number. The most common are bar codes such as the Universal Product Code (UPC) or its replacement, the Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN), issued by GS1, formerly a joint effort between the US Uniform Code Council (UCC) and European Article Number (EAN) International. The basic principal of the UCC/EAN UPC and GTIN numbers is central control of globally unique manufacturer or supplier prefixes associated with an understanding that the manufacturer or supplier controlled suffix should be unique to that manufacturer or supplier.

There are a number of drawbacks to GTINs for industrial users.  The copyright owner of the GTIN is GS1, not the owner of the product; the product owner is identified only by a numerical prefix element in the code, so is not obvious to any user; barcodes relate to the package, so one item may have more than one barcode depending on how it is packaged, a useful feature for retail, but not for industrial product end-users; barcode numbers can be reissued, so again in industrial settings where products have a much longer life-cycle, this may cause issues.

The Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN) may also face similar issues as Amazon expand their operations into Amazon Business.

ISO 8000-115 is significant because it specifies the requirements for the quality identifiers that form part of an exchange of master data. These requirements supplement those of ISO 8000-110.

ISO 8000-115 is significant

… because it specifies the requirements for the quality identifiers that form part of an exchange of master data. These requirements supplement those of ISO 8000-110.

Verification and validation of master data requires an ability to resolve identifiers to the data sets that they identify.  ISO 8000-115 compliant identifiers have a clear structure for prefix and identifier elements that are both human readable and electronically resolvable, and most importantly, the prefix element clearly identifies the owner of the master data.

ISO 8000 asserts that master data identifies and describes individuals, organizations, locations, goods, services, processes, rules and regulations.  That covers most of the master data that organizations manage.

Characteristics that define master data quality include syntax, semantic encoding, conformance to requirements, provenance, accuracy, completeness, and data governance. The 100 series of ISO 8000 specify the characteristics of master data messages that are generally needed to ensure reliable communication of information between a sender and a receiver.

Data that is factual has no copyright protection under U.S. law; it is not possible to copyright facts. In many cases, an individual data element in a data management system as well as the metadata describing that data will be factual, and hence not protected by copyright.

Information, however, is intellectual property.  Relating different data elements into a specification is a creative decision that may receive copyright protection.  A data element, such as a property value pair, in a specification, for instance the bore size for a bearing is factual.  A series of facts assembled into the specification can be considered a creative decision, and the assembly of the data elements therefore, information.

Collecting information using researchers (or data cleaners) does not give you intellectual property rights to that information.

Next steps for manufacturers, distributors and product end-users

Manufacturers will welcome the introduction of ISO 8000-115 as it asserts their intellectual property rights to the specifications they produce.

  • If you are a manufacturer, you should be checking your PIM or cataloguing system to see if is compliant with ISO 8000-110 and ISO 8000-115.
  • If you are a distributor you should be asking the manufacturers you distribute for to supply ISO 8000-100 compliant specifications for all the products you distribute.
  • If you are a product end-user you should be asking your suppliers, be they EPCs, OEMs, distributors, or parts manufacturers to supply you with ISO 8000-110 compliant specifications for the products you buy, then, in combination with the ISO 8000-115 identifier you can now verify and validate the product data and its provenance.


Author: Peter Eales, MRO Instye Limited

Peter is a member of the ISO working group for ISO 8000 and is registered as an industrial data expert with ISO.