Mastering Materials Master Data Management

Material, also called item/part/product in other domains and solutions, is THE most important master data object as it is central to many mission-critical business processes in sales, commerce, design, manufacturing, logistics, customer service and maintenance. The creation of material is an extremely cross-functional exercise that spans the whole supply chain. What starts off as a vision and a sketch on a napkin turns into a finished product. Like the Cybertruck below.

Coming back to the topic of Materials Master Data Management. We have seen a very unfortunate pattern of data entry oriented master data management tools (MDM) trying to tackle Materials Master Data Management and failing miserably. Right off the bat we would like to establish the following

Materials master data is not something you type into a form or an Excel sheet, run some validations, and send it via an approval workflow, and call it a day. Materials master data is the outcome of analysis and decision-making by Design, Manufacturing, Purchasing, Logistics, Marketing and Sales/Customer Service stakeholders.

Regardless of what some vendors advocate and would like you to believe, MDM most definitely is not the following


How Materials Master Data Management looks like in the Real World

New Material Creation

If you ask a design engineer, product engineer or material management stakeholder they will actually say that creating new materials might look something like below (for illustration only)

Changing Materials

And changing materials might look something like below. And typically an Engineering Change Request and/or Change Order is used to change materials.


Handling Bill of Materials (BOM)

Bill of Material (BOM) is a key aspect of material master data. New BOMs and changes to existing BOMs are actually related to new material creation or changes to existing materials. Any MDM solution that cannot handle BOMs will not be an effective MDM solution for Materials.


A BOM change is a change to Material

Document Management related to Materials

Files that are related to Materials (drawings, graphics, visualization files, specifications, etc.) are also a key aspect of Material Master Data. As a result master data solutions that need to handle materials should provide great support for managing files that are related to Materials.


Collecting Right Information from the Right Person

Since many people are involved in creating material master data it is best to get the right information from the right person. For example, a design engineer is in the best position to provide information related to “Weight” for example. On the other hand purchasing and manufacturing stakeholders are better able to obtain lead time and lot sizing information.



Validation at the Right Time, and By the Right Person

It is still a good idea to add validations (required fields, ranges, etc.) for materials master data. But there is a right time for validation. Too much validation right in the beginning can frustrate users and users that have no idea will select incorrect information or may just give up. Validation at later stages of the master data process can make sure that accurate master data makes it into downstream systems.




Materials Master Data Management is one of the most cross-functional process in the organization and the extended supply chain and is connected to many upstream and downstream processes in design/engineering, sales, marketing, purchasing, manufacturing and logistics. Treating it as a cross-functional business process leads to many advantages and benefits to individuals, teams and organizations.

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