Thinking about implementing a structured identification taxonomy prompts the question if it should support external users as well as you own internal users? Then compliant items could be read and understood by all business partners including Suppliers and outsourced work providers. My observation is that there is not an in use ready for prime-time universal identification taxonomy available. So, going in this direction for the cost-conscious clients I have worked with, is likely a trip down a rabbit hole preventing success. It is trying to solve your problem by trying to solve everyone’s similar problem and convincing them to follow your lead in their own business. The most significant challenge I see in forming quality standard material identities is noun boundary definitions, and synonym mapping, finding agreement on “calling a spade a spade and not a shovel”.

Having experienced these discussions many times, I can say they are conversations that do not have definitive correct answers. It is important to involve of a broad set of Subject Matter Expert (SME) opinions, but at the point that different views are not going to be reconciled, a choice needs to be made, the boundaries of each noun determined and the standard set. My definition of MRO material identity is the combination of all fields in the material master record that store identifying information on the record. These are the description fields, the manufacturer and manufacturer part number (MPN) fields, and (using SAP terminology) the classification data that supports identity (where material specifications can be stored). Different sorts of MRO materials will rely differently on these identity fields to be uniquely identified.

A skilled team of researchers created business rules around keywords and pattern recognition to help train the machine learning model. Accurate classification of parts provides visibility into the characteristics of a category, particularly the spend. Classification facilitates accurate spend analytics, so cost reduction and inventory optimization have direction on where to focus. Purchase classification also enables grouping and classification of suppliers, to improve strategic sourcing capabilities. Other parameters like inventory turns, reordering costs and inventory carrying costs can also be analyzed based on the category once the data is classified. The adoption of an MRO taxonomy classifying inventory items and indirect materials, enables you to analyze inventory consumption through a single lens while taking better control of your MRO material procurement and inventory.

  1. A Material Master is a comprehensive record in a database that contains detailed information about a specific material or product, including its specifications, supplier details, and other relevant data.
  2. With vast enterprise-wide records; siloed functional groups; and various field operations locations, equipment and personnel, data is generally inaccurate, disconnected, and often becomes an operational liability.
  3. Companies across the globe have adopted UNSPSC Code (United Nations Standard Products and Services Code) as a preferred classification standard, especially when the goal is to support inventory optimization and spend analytics.
  4. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over.

Since the short description of a spare part is generated based on the noun modifiers and top mandatory attributes, the sequencing of such attributes is also critical. While these are good for off-the-shelf mechanical products, certain specialty parts may not get covered or key criteria for industry-specific classifications (such as surgical-grade or food-grade items) will not be available. In such cases, a custom taxonomy can be implemented, designed specifically for a company’s business needs and aligned to industry standards and best practices. My big assertion from experience and investigation is that a unique identity is the fundamental or primary quality requirement of a material master. Processes are slowed when there is uncertainty about the identity of the materials involved.

GEP NEXXE is a unified and comprehensive supply chain platform that provides end-to-end planning, visibility, execution and collaboration capabilities for today’s complex, global supply chains. Built on a foundation of data, artificial intelligence and cognitive technologies, GEP NEXXE helps enterprises digitally transform their supply chains and turn them into a competitive advantage. MRO inventory refers to supplies, spare parts and other materials needed for routine maintenance, repair and operations (or MRO). However, unlike raw materials, this inventory does not become a part of finished goods offered to customers. Office supplies, cleaning supplies, repair tools, personal protective equipment and safety equipment are some examples of MRO inventory.

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A Custom taxonomy enables you to define a hierarchical classification of materials and implement standard naming conventions, so you can ensure the data is consistent and governed by data quality rules implemented across the organization. If MRO items are described inconsistently, inadequately or incorrectly, you can experience maintenance delays, production downtime, expedited shipments, duplicate item creations, excess stock and unauthorized purchases. Leading practices indicate that once data standardization is achieved, a structured catalog process must be implemented and adhered to in order to create sustainability and data governance within an organization. It is quite common for companies to request a mapping from UNSPSC to eCl@ss, or vice versa, since these two taxonomies are quite popular across industries. Managing and integrating product data efficiently and effectively across a broader range of companies in an upstream or downstream supply chain is possible when classifications are mapped accurately.

With no standards for how materials are identified, the system easily becomes unwieldy and inefficient. There are several taxonomies available for data classification, and the most common ones are – UNSPSC, eCl@ss, ETIM, NAICS, SIC, and HSC. UNSPSC is the most widely used taxonomy globally for MRO commodities, while eCl@ss is popular in Europe. This solution reduces the contract-management timeline from months to minutes—allowing category managers to dedicate time to other value-adding strategic activities. It also typically results in 5 percent savings simply by identifying and enforcing contract terms already in place.


Given there are multiple classification taxonomies in use, many organizations now seek code cross-referencing or mapping from one taxonomy to the other. Mapping the equivalent code of one type of classification to another is called cross-referencing of data classification, and mapping of UNSPSC to eCl@ss or vice versa would be a good example. We also help clients implement multiple classification systems, or map their items across different classifications such as eCl@ss to UNSPSC or vice versa. First, my definition of an MRO item identity is the combination of the item’s descriptions, the key specifications, and when applicable the Manufacturer’s Part Number (MPN). It’s the sum of the elements in the record that positively identify what real world item the record represents (a digital twin to use a popular term). Enventure also has very thorough understanding of industry standard MRO taxonomy, such as UNSPSC, eCl@ss and ECCMA ISO 8000 standard.

Benefits of MRO Data Taxonomy

Maintaining safety stock is beneficial but excessive inventory incurs costs and demands significant time for management. When assets lack criticality and priority assignments, there is a risk of accumulating unnecessary parts that might become obsolete on the shelves. This, in turn, initiates a continuous cycle of spending on inventory reduction efforts. Emerging solutions that are promoted as machine learning or artificial intelligence driven have a fundamental weakness in that they are looking into existing random data to find the patterns to form your new standard. They may have looked at millions of records, but if there is no cohesive underlaying structure (as is true for all descriptions solely based on UNSPSC), they will not build a cohesive taxonomy. By cleansing its MRO master data, redefining industry taxonomies and applying an autonomous governance process, the company is seeing a reduction in user frustration and an acceleration of maintenance schedules now that needed parts are easy to locate.

In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities. Based on your overarching strategy, we’ll help redefine your end-to-end supply chain and operations to support your enterprise objectives. Not all organizations may be ready to jump to digital solutions, but traditional sourcing improvements can still deliver value. Most MRO datasets are extremely messy, plagued by duplicate orders due to slight variations in taxonomy or naming conventions, and resulting in the same item being purchased from multiple vendors at vastly different prices. To bring order to the chaos, advanced text analytics provide a powerful way to clean up datasets and eliminate duplicate orders. We help you design a perfect taxonomy that matches your supply chain and specific to your industry.

The challenge grows exponentially as more people and organizations need to come to agreement on definitions. My conclusion is that the greatest positive impact with the least cost and ongoing maintenance is to confirm your identification taxonomy for use at your own enterprise. Material identity consistency at the enterprise level gives the most bang for the buck invested to implement a material identity system. Are your materials related business system processes not working as well as expected? Are your Supply Chain, Maintenance or Reliability processes challenging for users to work in?

The last file was supplied with manual work done to normalize the nouns and move them to the beginning of the description. The long tail of nouns used just one time reflects the lack of structure in identifying the items. Structured material data will make the implementation much easier by automatically mapping fields as per the ERP or EAM/CMMS system requirements and ensuring consistency of the data within the new system. Data that follows a good taxonomy improves the searchability of materials, as well as enhances functionality available in the system, such as spend analytics and reporting.

Our team focus on accurate data collection to assist clients in developing streamlined hierarchy and establishing the corresponded classification, codes, barcoding, categories, criticalities, and so on. Data classification is done based on a preselected taxonomy such as UNSPSC or eCl@ss, but it can also be done based on a custom taxonomy that is designed for a specific purpose. The mro material taxonomy Team at OptimizeMRO perform MRO data classifications utilizing Partlinq™, which is Enventure’s cloud-based platform with built-in libraries of classification codes, material descriptions and noun / noun-modifiers. The OptimizeMRO’s approach combines automated steps within the platform, as well as a domain expert review which ensures the classification is accurate and reliable.

My interpretation is that properly normalizing the nouns (selecting the appropriate key noun from a standardized taxonomy), would require around 500 nouns to cover an appropriate universe of possible industrial MRO key nouns. Indeed, building templates for the 40 most frequently used nouns would allow half the MRO catalogue to have standardized descriptions. The UNSPSC is addressing a much larger universe of materials and services than the common MRO materials universe. That is also part of the point, beside not being designed to build unique material identities, its scope is orders of magnitude larger than MRO materials providing additional challenge to use it productively.