What is the ETIM classification system and how does it work?

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  • Product Information Management
  • Classification standards
  • ETIM

ETIM is a product classification system for structuring product data. By using ETIM classification, product data has a defined structure that can be transferred to other systems, providing consistent product data across all distribution channels.

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ETIM is the oldest classification, whose popularization has greatly accelerated with the popularization of omnichannel strategies. Many companies have realized the need to structure data to provide the same information and shopping experience across channels. In technological terms, ETIM classification is a data model at the source location that feeds, for example, pdf catalogs and brochures in a stationary store, an online catalog, an online store, or products displayed on a marketplace. A classifier needs a tool: created specifically for it or configured for it, that also meets other business needs, e.g. a PIM or MDM system.

History of classification, sectors and translation in ETIM

The history of ETIM classification began in 1991 in the Netherlands to meet the needs of the sector electrical engineering. A few years later, the sectors were added HVAC i plumbing. In 1999, international expansion began, resulting in the establishment of ETIM International in 2008. Subsequently, the classification expanded to include the sector shipbuilding i building materials. In 2019, full integration with the Proficl@ss classification, modeled on ETIM from the beginning, was announced. The Proficl@ss association was dissolved and its employees joined ETIM Germany. Thus, in version 8.0, released in 2020, the ETIM classification expanded to include the sector of Tools, equipment and construction site supplies. ETIM currently has local representations in 20 European countries and the North American region. One of them is ETIM Poland, thanks to which this classification is one fully translated into Polish.

Design and data model

The ETIM classification is not hierarchical, that is, it does not contain 4-5 levels of grouping like ECLASS or GPC. Instead, it places great emphasis on the level of detail of classes to describe products as precisely as possible. Classes have only one level of grouping for easier finding of the needed class. In the latest version 8.0, there are 168 groups containing 5415 classes. Each class has a defined set of features, and each feature has specific values depending on the data type. ETIM contains four data types: numeric (most have a metric unit), numeric interval (almost always have a metric unit) descriptive (always have a drop-down list) and logical (yes/no). In ETIM 8.0, there are 18766 features in 5145 classes.

Example: Class EC000078 (publicly available in ETIM Viewer) in its latest version contains 22 features, including: power in Watts, voltage in Volts, 4 shapes to choose from, 9 colors to choose from, whether it has a carbon filament, whether it is suitable for refrigerators, etc.

Learn how you can reduce the cost of data exchange between you and your business partners with ETIM and BMECat in your organization.

A brief comparison to other product classifications

ECLASS (eCl@ss) - the classification has already started working with ETIM after just one year of operation. It has a four-level hierarchy, the lowest level of which is the class. For electrotechnical products, there is a mapping between ECLASS and ETIM classes, which can be viewed in the "eCl@ss" tab in the previously mentioned ETIM Viewer. It is announced that the mapping will be expanded as it becomes available. ECLASS has many data types, compared to ETIM it has in addition, among others: it has integers and decimals separately, dates, plain and translated (localized) text fields.

PROFICLASS (proficl@ss) - a classification created for the tools sector, inspired by ETIM. When the two classifications began to grow and the sectors began to overlap, proficl@ss was fully integrated into ETIM in the latest version 8.0. It is now part of ETIM.

UNSPSC (United Nations Standard Product and Service Code) - this classification contains a hierarchy of goods and services without details, while ETIM is details of products without hierarchy. UNSPSC can complement ETIM by being a list of products for it.

GPC (Global Product Classification) - GPC contains 4-7 descriptive type features (pick lists) giving flexibility and great opportunities to define custom features. ETIM usually contains a dozen features, but a couple of classes have more than a hundred features in four data types. Features have three other data types in addition to descriptive (selection list). If features were insufficient, it is recommended to find the most suitable class rather than expanding the current one.

How ETIM stores information, or tools

Despite the rather rigid structure of features in a class, the use of ETIM is very flexible. Containing only a list of classes combined into groups, it can detail any hierarchical structure like UNSPSC, PKWiU, marketing categories in a store or marketplace, technical categories in an ERP, the hierarchy and basic features of a GPC.

A tool - an information system - is needed to store information about product details in ETIM. There are tools on the market developed for ETIM classification, but due to the flexibility described above, it is recommended to configure another tool for this classification. Then, in addition to the benefits of ETIM classification, other business needs can be met, depending on whether it is ERP, PIM, MDM, CMS or another system. Since the main purpose of PIM systems is to store product information, they are the ones that most often help implement ETIM classification. In addition to custom-written PIM systems, an open-source system can be set up, ensuring regular development (new versions) and independence during implementation or maintenance. Among open-source platforms on the Polish market, two stand out in terms of popularity: PimCore and Akeneo. According to reviews on the website of the Gartner Institute customers are more satisfied with Pimcore, rating it higher in 9/17 categories, while Akeneo wins in 5/17 categories.

ETIM implementation costs

  • Cost of purchasing/implementing/renting/configuring the IT system

  • Cost of product description according to ETIM (descriptions, prices, packaging, images, ordering information, etc. - mandatory fields according to "ETIM Guidelines")

  • Cost of maintaining product data at a high level (variability of assortment, ETIM versions, "ETIM Guidelines" versions, etc.).

Case Study: an example of Pimcore environment with ETIM

Pimcore is an open-source tool, meaning that the license allows any person to download and install the software at no charge to the manufacturer. Below is an example of what a product might look like in the Pimcore system with ETIM classification, here the previously mentioned EC000078 class:

As you can see in the attached cutout ETIM is one of the many tabs of the product. For communication with other systems, the BMEcat standard is recommended, which can be used to transfer general data, pricing, packaging, ordering, multimedia files (MIME) in addition to ETIM features.

Looking for web solutions for your business? We provide comprehensive services from concept planning to maintenance.

Patryk Budziński

[email protected]

+48 723 395 567

See also

Changing approach to product data management in the HVAC industry


What is the ECLASS classification system?


What is the BMEcat standard?


What is AI and how can it revolutionize your PIM system?


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