Kettle Beast, customer support and learning all that is new – first months at Canter

In December we got some new blood in our team, when Outi joined us as a Support and Delivery Specialist. Her interest towards Canter spiked once Tuomas tipped her off about the open position, and after having worked at Canter for four months she has learned all sorts of new things to supplement her interest towards solving customers’ issues.

Before joining Canter this Kajaani-born engineer has worked at Ericsson, F-Secure and Synchronoss Technologies Finland in multiple positions. At Canter her job description is multifaceted, and being familiar with the technologies and people is of huge help.

Even in short time she has learned a lot:

I have learned lot about product information management, as well as where and how the information is used. My job has been diverse and I have been able to do lots of things.

Canter’s band, Kettle BEast,  has also been able to strengthen themselves after Outi joined us.

Right off the bat I was accepted to the company band, Kettle Beast. It has helped me tremendously in adjusting to the workplace as we’ve been able to spend time together in a non-work fashion as well.

During her free time Outi hangs around horse stables and takes part in events as volunteer, and she says she’s enjoyed her time at Canter a lot.

Colleagues are happy and helpful, and the work has been pretty much what I expected them to be. At Canter people want to work as a team, and I feel that both colleagues and clients are really seen as people here. Sometimes it’s good to make sure that others are happy, even if that’s not expected of you.

Five good reasons to get PIM

1. Does your product information management process look something like this?

If the answer is yes, contact us and we will help you.

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2. Do you want to provide the best possible customer experience?

In that case, the PIM system is a relevant part of the solution. Through centralized product information management, you will be able to provide high-quality, correct and up-to-date product information through one source to all of your channels and stakeholders – both customers and your own staff.

3. Do you want to boost your product marketing?

By using PIM and its automated publishing solutions you can publish campaign leaflets, product catalogues or cards, create catalogues or leaflets, posters, price lists or shelf labels for shops just by a few presses of a button. You can publish in formats such as PDF, Excel, PowerPoint, and InDesign. See examples of publication solutions here  and here.

4. Do you want to be ready for fast, strategic changes?

If the foundation of your product information management is solid, expanding to new publishing channels, applications or new country or language versions is easy. Via PIM interfaces you can offer product information to e.g. your new retailer’s online store or website, to your customer’s purchasing system or any other channel that you wish to employ. There is no need reinvent the wheel every time.

5. Do you want to get rid of unnecessary manual work phases?

PIM allows you to automatize many routine tasks which would take a long time to do manually (and which often are the most tedious tasks as well). From PIM the product information is brought to the right stakeholders automatically. In addition, you can get rid of excessive copy pasting when you can rapidly produce e.g different Office or InDesign format product publications instead of requiring weeks’ worth of manual work.

About API’s and their publicness

A modern application lives or dies based on the availability of its public API. Before having a deeper look into what API’s mean to us, and how they can be used in the most effective way, we should understand the basics.

API (Application Programming Interface) is an interface that allows the application data and functionality to be reached, as well as allowing for further programming of the program or a part of it, for example in regards to standard libraries. These interfaces can function on a very low level and deal with the inner functions of the application itself, for example calling open source libraries within the system. However this article only covers public API’s that are expandable or can be integrated and allow for the application data to be used in a variety of different ways.

API-centric architecture

Traditionally API’s have been considered to be an internal part of the application, or at the very least to be used as a means to integrate something to the application. Modern applications act as services, and this is why it’s important to make sure that expanding the system is just as easy as is the use of the data included in it. Modern applications use and offer a multitude of interfaces, for example social media applications like Facebook and LinkedIn are mainly run on interfaces with separate user interfaces built on top of them (e.g., browser, mobile, etc.).

In an API-centric architecture the applications connect to each other over these interfaces. How a single application has been built doesn’t matter as long as it follows the general practices in its interfaces. API-centric architecture also makes it easier to create device independent applications, so that for example the application can be run on multiple mobile operating systems using the same interface on them all.

 

Adeona_PIM_2017

RESTful API

Using general practices and de facto standards when connecting applications and using the data via different applications makes the whole process easy.

REST (Representational state transfer) is an stateless interface architecture model based on HTTP protocol. Typically REST API offers the information in JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) or in XML format. Our REST API’s use JSON, which is an open format based on readable text and attribute value pairs.

Public API

One of the main ideas of an API-centric architecture in that the interfaces are publicly available and that they contain a comprehensive documentation. Even a good interface will go unused if it’s hard to use or lacks documentation completely. In the best case scenario all the information and logic of the application can be reached via the API. This makes it flexible to connect, integrate and expand the system with needed applications.

Public API doesn’t however mean that all the information within the system would be publicly available. API calls are always authenticated so that the user will only have access to information they have credentials for.

More information:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Application_programming_interface
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Representational_state_transfer

 

Digital transformation: All hands on deck!

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The stiff breeze of digital transformation becomes a formidable storm. For a good ship with an excellent team a unique opportunity to reach the finish line in front of the competition. Similar to the wheat races of the 19th and 20th centuries, when the largest sailing ships were racing under extreme weather conditions, this applies to all companies today: Digital transformation is both an opportunity but also a risk for the company. This applies in particular to product communication. In the future, product data and processes will be the focus not “creative” advertising messages. Therefore the design and maintenance of the “golden data” set must be a high priority.

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The number of channels and touchpoints in different contexts for new markets is growing steadily. There is an obvious need to edit data only once and to use this on-demand in the most diverse contexts. In addition to the technical infrastructure of PIM systems such as Canter’s Adeona , the process change is of fundamental importance.  All available resources must be directed towards the “golden data” set and the effort to  enrich solely for the channel and the creation of the  touchpoint presentation must be minimized as far as possible. All the men on deck must work and on it. However, there remains only one  team for all other activities. This change applies in particular to the print channel. Traditionally, a great deal of effort is being made to adapt and create data for the print channel but the production of print publications is often still done manually. Using these resources efficiently for all channels and touchpoints is a key factor in the return on investment of PIM projects. This, however, inevitably means there is a need for higher automation of the print channel because resources for manual activities are now missing. The priint:suite, with its unique automation and productivity functions, not only offers the opportunity to save time and money, but also creates space for better data and thus also for more creativity.

In the print channel hitting the wind at speed leads to successful communication.

-Horst Huber

Horst Huber is a pioneer in the field of system-driven publishing. His extensive expertise – spanning cross-channel marketing, process optimisation, database publishing/Web-to-Print, benchmarketing and potential analysis – is drawn from over 20 years of project experience in retail, mail order and industrial enterprises. He is also founder and CEO of the WERK II. 

Horst Huber’s blog

Top moments of 2016

We’ve left yet another year behind us and have started a new one. After the first two weeks I can easily say that the following 350 days will fly by us swiftly, as they usually do. With all the “Let’s do everything better this year” hype going around it’s good to remember that we’ve achieved a lot during 2016, and as such we’ve summarized the year in a list.

1. New office space

We love Spektri! We have furnishing by Martela, interior design and taping done by Jenni, and a brand-colored wall and soundproofed windows. We also have an oven, and during the latter part of the year we ate more croissants than ever before in our lives – combined. But the most important thing are the people here, so feel free to visit us and take a look!

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Welcome!

2. New friends and colleagues

In 2016 we (and our band) were joined by Abel, Turo, Mary, Ivar and Outi. It’s so great to have you guys with us!

3. Adventure Park Huippu

The day we spent at the adventure park Huippu was really something for those loving and fearing the heights alike. Jumping like Tarzan really showed us our true strength. If you’re looking for something more than just another day at the office, Huippu is most definitely worth a look.

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So cool!

4.Kettle Beast

During the last quarter of the past year it was time to let our actions speak louder than our words. During our Christmas party on 28.10. our office band Kettle Beast performed their first gig. Even the little issues with electricity didn’t slow them down, and the band was rocking, all of us were dancing and everybody was enjoying themselves. The first gig was far from being the last, and one and half months later they were playing again at our housewarming party. And they’ve already been booked again..

5.Housewarming party

During December we had our housewarming party just three days after all the taping was finished. The house was full of clients and affiliates enjoying great food and drinks! We had good time, and according to the positive feedback so did our guests. Kettle Beast were better than ever before.

6.Popcorn machine

We thought we’d be really unique and imaginative when we took a popcorn machine to the recruitment fair, but our dreams were quickly shattered by dozens of other people having the same exact idea. Oh well! The machine has been running in our kitchen ever since charming everyone, and I can tell you that many challenges have been succesfully dealt with with a popcorn bowl nearby.

7.New clients

Last year we got to start new projects with Fredman Group, Leipuriliitto, Helvar and Orient Occident. It has been an honor to get to know you and to work with you in order to further business and product information management applications. Your needs and requirements allow us to develop as well.

8.Old customers

” We only have nice customers”. This is a saying that can constantly be heard throughout the office, and it reminds us how behind every company and title there is always another person. We’ve been lucky to meet some great people to help us bring our development projects over the finish line, and to help us build a new and better ensemble. Thank you, for allowing us to work with you!

Here’s to a successful 2017!

Remember these image management tips

A well-functioning image production process is an integral part of successful product information management. An exemplary image production process and optimal master format enable efficient administration and optimal utilization of the images.

As part of product information management, we always define the image production process and an optimal master format together with our clients. Regrettably, many companies still utilize outdated information in their image production processes, or processes that are meant for another purpose entirely. When high-class utilization of images in multiple channels is needed, this matter requires particular attention.

To start, it is essential to know the big picture and all the contexts where the images will be used. This article primarily examines the management of thousands or tens of thousands of images, where the choices are guided by e.g. as straightforward a workflow as possible and a high level of automation. In other words: how to achieve a good basic quality as (cost-)efficiently as possible. One of the greatest challenges in the pipeline between digital and print is color management, which sometimes makes choices difficult.

There is no one single configuration that would apply always and for everyone, but in the following there are a few tips to help you get started, at the very least.

1. Master format (for photos)

JPG or PSD. A minimally compressed JPG works as a master image for almost all purposes. It supports color profiles and clipping paths. If you need the following features in master images, it is recommended to choose PSD (Photoshop) as master format.

  • Transparency
  • You want to preserve the Photoshop features of the original, e.g. layers.
  • It is worth your while to go through these carefully, so that the image works smoothly for all channels.
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A sample image from Martela’s photos.

Original image size 5760 x 3840 pixels. The original image has a lot of white background. File sizes when image is saved in different formats:

image-1

For JPG images, the Photoshop Quality value is in parentheses.

The graph shows that, for example, using JPG (quality 10) in comparison to the original TIF gives up to a 99% reduction in file size.

2. Color space and color profile (for photos)

An RGB workflow enables high-quality image utilization in different channels. Today practically all images are photographed digitally, resulting in an original file in RGB mode. In RGB workflow the image is kept in RGB mode as long as possible. For printing purposes, the conversion to CMYK mode is done only for the material that is sent to the printing service, directly into the ICC profile that the service uses. All redundant profile conversions result in loss of image data, i.e. hues.

It is recommended to choose AdobeRGB or sRGB as master image ICC profile. It is usually a matter of taste, but Adobe RGB’s Gamut is slightly wider than sRGB’s. Browsers used to support only the sRGB profile, but today all the most common browsers know how to utilize also other ICC profiles, and color management works also within the browser. In this case it might be best to embed the profile into the image, resulting in slightly bigger file size.

3. Vector images and graphics

It is recommended to save vector images in AI (Adobe Illustrator) format or EPS format. The RGB instructions don’t necessarily apply to vector images. Logos, for example, use often spot colors, when the original color profile is to be left untouched.

Defining black in RGB -> CMYK conversions brings an extra challenge. For this reason graphics going to print are often produced and stored in CMYK mode.

4. Dimensions

The physical size of the master image, i.e. it’s dimensions, can be defined according to the largest known image size requirement. It is also possible to use the full-size original, but if, for instance, there are hundreds of thousands of products and product images, it may be wise to limit the size of the master image and thus optimize disk and data bandwidth usage. A correctly picked image format also helps in file size optimization.

5. As uniform a mass as possible

So that the processes for large numbers of images can be made as streamlined as possible, special attention needs to be paid that images from different sources are according to your instructions and in as uniform a format as possible. We do almost always help our clients communicate to their suppliers and partners about the used image formats. Photoshop automation can also help in harmonization of a large mass.

6. Utilization in different channels

Take into consideration all channels that are being used and how the images can be converted, as automatically as possible, in to the form required by the different channels. When e.g. PIM system automation is used to create versions of images for use in different channels, attention needs to be paid to, for instance, optimizing thumbnail image size (format, profile cleaning etc.). If web is the only channel, the process as a whole is a little easier to carry out. Then again, if one day there is a wish to use the images in print, the process built for web requirements may cause huge changes.

About the production processes

It pays to configure image production processes carefully. Also in this case a picture is worth more than a thousand words. Below an example of one image production process:

image-2

We are also glad to help with anything image related. Go ahead and ask more, and we can tune also your image production process up to its peak.

More image production tips: https://www.shopify.com/blog/75481285-6-steps-to-streamline-your-product-photography-workflow

Building something new in a relaxed environment

Our leading software architect Tuomas started at Canter in 2011. Tuomas is an electrical installer and IT engineer who takes care of the development of our new product version (and many other things) together with our CTO Janne Costiander.

Canter is a small company with a relaxed atmosphere. Every once in a while I used to explore work options elsewhere, but kept returning here. The best thing about being here is being able to impact upon your own job and the way that things get done.

Before coming to Canter, Tuomas worked as a self-employed web developer. Work and hobbies slotted together nicely for the dad of twins under the age of one.

My hobbies are self-employment, programming and disc golf. Before having children, I had more exercise-based hobbies but I have had to cut them down during the last year.

Learning new things, pro-activity and the desire to develop are some of the most important things for Canter. Tuomas also has his own action plan.

I want to keep developing as a manager and team leader. I also want to develop my language skills, and thankfully I can practice my communication skills daily. I am interested in new programming techniques, too.

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Among the employees, general job satisfaction in the workplace is highly valued. Tuomas describes his co-workers:

We have a great time together at work, and everyone is really friendly and willing to help wherever necessary. The atmosphere is relaxed and filled with humour.

Requirements tightening for packaging labels – a solution from Canter to bakeries and confectionaries

The Finnish Bakery Federation and Canter have signed a contract that allows for Canter and their partner Taito United to provide a recipe service RESPA for bakeries and confectionaries to use. This cloud-based service automatically produces the required information for food packaging labels, such as ingredients lists, allergens and nutritional values. This project was created due to the tightening requirements for packaging labels from 13.12.2016 onwards (European Union’s food information regulation).

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Project RESPA is not only useful for bakeries, but also for commodity producers as the service allows them to deliver up-to-date information into the hands of client businesses at once. The information can be integrated into the service automatically. The service will include both the commodities and all the products mentioned in Fineli information bank, along with their relevant information.

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Canter oy

More information:
Project Manager
Mervi Halme
mervi.halme@canter.fi
+358 400 409 700

Flexibility, versatility, and learning experiences

Our own Front End Developer, Lotta, has worked with Canter for three years. The media technology engineer came to work with us through a classic recruiting process, after having worked earlier as a web developer and freelancer.

 

My typical workday consists of client projects. My duties are versatile: a work week may include e.g. design and implementation of the client’s product information intranet interface, InDesign layout automation, image processing, and client training. I am additionally somewhat involved with font product development.

lotta_canter

At Canter product development and the new product version under development permit learning new things.

 The best things in my job are versatility of tasks and the possibility to do a wide range of different things. On the other hand it’s challenging, but also rewarding on the other, when you are regularly allowed to step outside of your comfort zone. I have learned new techniques and working methods, and I have a good flow completing projects even on a tight schedule. Through product development you are able to learn new techniques constantly.

Work life and flexibility are important things to the mother of an almost two year old daughter.

 In my case it is important that Canter enables flexible working hours and opportunities. Combining family life and work is a breeze.

Lotta encourages job seekers to apply at Canter.

Working here, attitude is of utmost importance. Many things were unfamiliar also to myself at the beginning, but here you also have an opportunity to learn things with the help of experienced colleagues.

We are looking for colleagues to Lotta and us others. Find our other open positions here.

 

Google

Search engines – and especially the most glorious of them all, Google – are gatekeepers to all online content. Your website is virtually nonexistent if search engines cannot find it. Also, the competition for a spot on the first page of search results is fierce – very few have the patience to browse through all the pages, and a ranking on the second page reaps few rewards.

It is thus advisable to take some time to consider Google when setting up a website, online store or a product catalogue. The inner workings of the search algorithm are a well-guarded secret, but certain fundamentals are pretty easy to take care of on product information pages.

Product descriptions

  • Google penalizes you right away if product description is missing. Compose descriptive content that describes the product to the customer – and the search engine – as comprehensively as possible. However, avoid excess wordiness.
  • Always strive for unique content. Google lowers your ranking instantly if the same text is being recycled on several websites. It is worth your while to fine-tune e.g. the manufacturer’s descriptions a little, even though it might be easier to publish it as is. Here too setting yourself apart from the others is commendable.

Extensive, diverse content

  • Diverse content is rewarded: in addition to comprehensive written content, use images, videos, links, attachments…
  • If the page has no images ranking goes down. Pay extra attention to image alt texts, so that your page will appear in the image search results as well.
  • Offer plain language web addresses (URL addresses). In addition to Google, users too like links that convey directly what the page is about – it’s best to forget automatically created nonsense string addresses.

Offer many routes to your content

  • The ranking goes up if the website is referenced from several other websites, because this makes Google perceive your site as more trustworthy.
  • Importers, for instance, may boost the online store of the local wholesaler or retailer by linking to these sites directly from their own site. Take into account, though, that the websites need to be trustworthy (see Section ‘Don’t cheat’).

Invest in usability

  • Google – like the rest of us – loves pages that load quickly. Fast websites get a considerably higher ranking in the search results.
  • There will be a penalty if the mobile users have been neglected and the page does not scale to smaller screens.
  • Search engines also try to rate the quality of your site by monitoring how often users return straight back to the search result page after visiting your website. If Google notices that your website responds poorly to the needs of customers, your ranking will decline.

Don’t cheat

If you get caught cheating, the consequences might be severe: in the worst case you will end up on Google’s black list and your website will not be dropped from the search results entirely. You can earn Google’s disregard by, for instance, doing some of the following:

  • Buying external links referring to your website that typically come from notorious spam sites or social media accounts. If you get busted doing this, your site may be completely removed from the search results. Not a recommendable maneuver.
  • Flooding your website keywords with countless keywords and excessive repetition. Your ranking will likely end up at the bottom end of the results, even though everything else were AOK.
  • Dispersing broken web links that tell Google that your site is not up to date. This most likely will not drop you completely off the search results, but weakens your ranking in comparison to a web page that has working links.

You’ll receive more information about Product Information Management and its possibilities by leaving your contact information and we will get in touch.