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5 questions with Frank Schmäh

19 February 2021
Ida Lorenz
Frank Schmäh, Head of the "Product Information Center" at Elektro-Material AG. Elektro-Material AG is the Swiss market leader in electrical wholesale and, as part of its omnichannel strategy, operates the highest-sales B2B shop in Switzerland with over 250,000 active articles. Frank Schmäh has already worked successfully in various functions in the field of publishing and digitalisation. As a Scrum Master, he loves and lives agile methods. In his free time, he is a passionate sailor. He lives with his family in Weil am Rhein, Germany.

Frank Schmäh

What are the current trends in companies' digitisation strategies from your point of view?

Connecting our customers' processes and systems to our systems with the purpose of seamless communication in offers, procurement, delivery and invoicing as well as payment, in order to reduce the manual effort caused by media disruptions. Our customers are to be given more time for tasks with actual value creation. For the large number of smaller companies in the electrical installation trade, this results in an actual benefit from digitalisation. The role of webshops will shift from a closed purchasing platform to an information platform.
Automating text generation and translation, as well as eliminating manual tasks such as classification and structure assignment using, for example, AI tools.
Predicting customer and buying behaviour is becoming a high priority in new initiatives in marketing.

What are the requirements for the success of a company's digital transformation?

Excellent master data in all domains! All digitalisation measures are built on the foundation of master data. Without absolutely reliable data, wrong decisions and high costs are the result. The importance and effort of well-functioning MDM is still underestimated.

What problems do you see in increasingly fast-growing data amounts?

At present, we are noticing a strong demand for more information, some of it unspecified. Unfortunately, the technical and content quality is not improving to the same extent. In the past, the focus on data quality was primarily internal. For us, this development means that the quality assurance strategy must start with the data input and the data suppliers must be given mandatory feedback on the quality of their data.

We will continue to pursue the strategy of "rather nothing than wrong".

To manage the amounts, we need to increase the automation of repetitive work.

What does it mean for you to "successfully" manage data?

Getting better every day! Constantly develop the organisation and systems to be able to implement new requirements quickly and flexibly. This approach makes it possible to avoid reactive situations.

What advice would you give to others who are now starting their PIM project?

Form a small interdisciplinary team with sufficient capacity for the project. On the side in day-to-day business, the conflicts are predictable. Get advice on choosing your system based on your requirements and your market.

Choose a channel with high customer value as your first project. Your customers must gain benefit from it, not individual stakeholders.

A PIM system has many interfaces internally and even more externally. Therefore, use the standards of your industry and accepted standards of IT. As far as possible, stick to the standard of the application in the PIM system.

Build the system together with your service provider, only if you understand in depth how your system works you will be able to design your processes optimally.

Make mistakes, recognise and fix them yourself. There is no quicker way to learn!


Elektro-Material AG, based in Zurich, is a Swiss wholesale company specialising in sales of electrical installation materials. EM operates the highest-turnover B2B shop in Switzerland with over 250,000 products and a comprehensive range of services. At EM, orders arrive at the customer's location on schedule the following day – anywhere in Switzerland. This is possible thanks to a highly developed logistics concept and its own delivery fleet.

Since 2006, Elektro-Material AG has been part of the Rexel Group, a leading global wholesaler of electrical parts and supplies with 2,100 locations in 37 countries.

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