Tag Electronic Parts Catalog

Tag Electronic Parts Catalog

Digitize to Win: 3 Strategies for Manufacturers

June 9, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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Technology is changing the world, and it’s also changing manufacturing

Incorporating digital best practices, such as working from relational databases, providing real-time information to employees and customers and improving the customer experience through online sales is what will separate the manufacturing winners from the losers over the next decade.

What’s Changed in Manufacturing

The internet has changed how customers interact with companies. We now live in a digital economy, where the ability to purchase almost anything is at the tip of your fingers with one click of a button.

Online shopping used to be thought of as only something that companies selling direcctly to consumers needed to factor in. However, the digital economy has so deeply permeated our behaviors that this isn’t limited just to B2C customers anymore. Things are starting to change for B2B commerce too, and companies that are smart enough to get on board will be the ones to reap the most successes.

Here are a couple of statistics to back up this change in purchasing preferences. A recent study showed that:man looks up parts information on computer

  • 93% of B2B customers prefer to buy online when they’ve decided what to buy.
  • 74% feel buying from a website is more convenient than buying from a sales representative.
  • 56% expect to make half or more of their work purchases online this year.

This shows just how critical incorporating digitization into B2B and manufacturing is. B2B buyers want to be able to purchase products and get the information they need anytime, anywhere. They want their experience to be effortless and easy. And companies that don’t do this are going to facing a much shorter life expectancy.

Optimizing Operations

How much time do your employees spend searching for information, making changes or fixing errors from inaccurate information?

Outside of some of the biggest companies, manufacturing today remains largely a “pencil and paper industry”. This type of mentality has a huge impact on how productive your business can be. It leads to departments working in silos, not sharing changes and updates and tribal knowledge that could be useful for everyone staying isolated.

This is obviously very inefficient. You have departments all over, working on different documents and outdated information, which can lead to the loss of time, and, as people leave, the loss of tribal knowledge.

Take care of this disconnect and optimize your internal operations. Start tablet looking at a shipping facilityby getting everyone using the same database to store their documents, manuals and notes. Using this type of relational database in the cloud (meaning it can be accessed from anywhere) allows everyone to be connected and working from the same information.

This not only will have an impact for your engineers, but will also allow your field techs and customer service reps to access up-to-date parts information.

Think of all of the time your people will save by having instant access to real-time information and breaking down communication silos. This alone can save hundreds of thousands of dollars for your company.

End users are more empowered than ever.

When making purchases, they want something that is high quality, low cost, delivered quickly and information they can get instantly.

Manufacturers in the past have relied on dealer networks or conducting business over the phone. While there will still be businesses where this works, more and more customers want to be able to get their information and ordering done online.

A recent study found that customers that have to speak to a sales rep to make a purchase are 4x as likely to go somewhere else the next time they need to buy something. We need get in a mindset of being customer-focused. If you can do that, you can gain loyalty, which will help sustain your business and sell more aftermarket parts.

One major source of revenue many manufacturers are missing out on is providing easy access to selling aftermarket parts.

an assortment of spare parts on a gray backgroundStudies have shown that about $1 trillion dollars a year are spent on parts for machinery people already own. What may surprise you is that OEMs capture less than 50% of this market currently. It’s will-fitters and other dealers that are taking advantage of this high profit margin segment, which is too bad.

There is no one in a better position to sell your parts than you.  You have a distinct advantage when it comes to enhancing the buyer experience. You have access to exclusive customer data, comprehensive product knowledge and more precise parts information.

Parts sales is a market that is sitting there for the taking and can provide a long-term steady stream of revenue after an initial sale of equipment. While there will always be some people who only want a bargain, shoppers have proven that they will pay for convenience and quality, which OEMs can provide.

In Summary
The companies that are going to thrive and overtake their competition are the ones that recognize the opportunities available and incorporate technology into their operations and sales. By creating a strategy early, you will be able get a jump on the market and leave everyone else in the dust.

Read about these strategies in action in our customer success stories. 

Is Your Business Winning or Losing? Employee Feedback Might Be the Key to the Answer

May 17, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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Are You Winning or Losing?

Instead of looking at data or metrics for the answer, ask your team

If someone came up to you and asked, “Is your business winning or losing today?” how would you answer? More importantly, how would you come to that conclusion? Would it be looking at sales numbers? Safety ratings? Number of products made?

These numbers and metrics are obviously very important. But I challenge you to look at winning and losing a different way. Instead of crunching numbers, ask your employees who are taking care of the daily activities on the floor.

What insights they have might surprise you, and if you can identify trends and issues, it could lead to beneficial changes to your operations.

The value of hearing from people on the floor

team meeting on factory floorWe all have unique skill sets that allow us to excel at our jobs. For senior leadership teams, this is usually focusing on the bigger picture and long-term strategies for the company. But, this can lead to a disconnect from the day-to-day operations. To gain back that perspective, talk with your employees in different positions and departments. Ask them the question “Are we winning or losing today? Why?”

How ever they answer, ask a few follow up questions to find out the cause. If they’re feeling like they’re losing, why is that? Was a machine broken that day that slowed down production? Does your customer service team feel inundated with phone calls and it takes too long to respond?

The feedback can be useful to see if there are reoccurring problems or themes. If employees bring up issues, ask them if they have ideas for solutions. They’re the experts at their role, and their suggestions might be something that is easily implemented. Or, they might have proposals for operational changes to make everyone more successful.

Here’s a few examples of what questions to ask to elicit valuable feedback.

At the end of the conversation, Don’t forget to thank them. Most importantly, follow up. This will keep an open chain of communication and reminds people they are appreciated and valued.

Find the tools to solve your problem instead of seeking out a problem for your tools to solve

How many times have you been pitched a cool new tool that will “revolutionize your business”? And how many times have you bought it, told your team to use it and been frustrated when the results aren’t as promised?

This is due to finding a solution and then looking for a problem to solve. If you’re looking for ways to use a product, or you don’t have a reason to use it right away, it’s not valuable.

Instead, once you’ve identified areas that need improvement via your internal conversations,  start looking for a product to solve the problem. Keep your employees engaged by having them participate in choosing a solution. Not only will they have a better idea of what they need it to do, but it creates buy-in early on, and employees will be more likely to use it when it’s in place. Take the time to train employees on the new tool, so that they can be successful.

This method works.

We had a customer that followed a model like this. Viking Range produces high-end residential ranges and appliances and is one of the leading American brands in that vertical.

Senior leadership identified a need to increase their efficiencies in their publishing department. They system relied on an outside vendor to update their content via static PDFs and spreadsheets. Because everything had to be updated individually, if a part was changed and used in dozens of different pieces of equipment, it took even more staff time to make all of the updates. In total, it was taking TWO WEEKS to create a single parts book because of the processes that were set up. The technical publishers knew they needed a better way to execute revisions. Senior leadership listened, took into account the suggestions from employees, and researched and evaluated products that could fix this cumbersome process.

They chose Documoto, because the cloud-based relational database allowed technical publishers to update a part once and have it populate across any materials that part was found, solving one of the biggest frustrations.

Viking’s technical writers and illustrators started using the software right away, and the results were immediate. It only takes the publishing team 30 minutes to make changes and distribute. It has also given control over the whole process to the publishing team, instead of having to rely on outside vendors. This accurate and immediate information distribution has had a ripple effect and had a positive impact throughout the business. (You can read the full story here).

Viking’s story is just one example of how this approach can revolutionize your business using employee feedback and finding solutions to problems (instead of looking for problems for your solution). Once you’ve taken these steps, ask yourself the question again: “Is my business winning or losing?”

This time, the answer should be, “Winning. I’ve worked with employees to help solve our operational issues, leaving them happier and more productive,  and our numbers and data reflect that.”

man choosing win button

Digitize to Win: How Technology Can Give Manufacturers a Competitive Edge

April 18, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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The manufacturing industry is going through a revolution, and companies that don’t modernize their business practices are going to be left behind.

It’s been several decades since manufacturing companies began adopting software and tools to make internal processes more efficient: CAD for engineers, desktop publishing and graphics programs for writers and designers, and accounting software for bookkeepers, for example.

But the digital impact on our world and economy has changed how customers expect to do business. Now companies are feeling pressure to extend the benefits of technology and information sharing to their customer base, in the form of greater support and improved service.

With websites open and operating 24-hours-a-day, customers have come to assume a higher standard when it comes to accessing product information, from technical specifications to operating instructions to video tutorials.

That same expectation is also driving companies to invest in more robust eCommerce technology. No one wants to spend two hours on the phone trying to look up and order the right parts. Mechanics can’t wait a week to repair a machine that costs its owner thousands a day in downtime.

Technology allows employees to work smarter, not harder. And modernizing distribution channels to effectively sell parts and other products online can be a game changer for OEMs.

According to an article in Chief Executive, 80% of manufacturing executives know that digitizing their enterprises is a critical driver to stay competitive. However, only 37% have a strategy in place, and only 13% of organizations have digital manufacturing capabilities today.

As these numbers show, there is a huge opportunity for companies who embrace technology and get a comprehensive strategy in place as soon as possible. Those that do will be the industry leaders in the coming decade.

How much time do your employees spend looking for information in a day? Once they find it, how accurate is it?

Register for our webinar, Digitize to Win: 3 Strategies for Manufacturers to Gain a Competitive Edge. Digabit Founder and CEO, Alan Sage, will discuss how manufacturers can capture more revenues from existing customers, improve internal efficiencies and provide better customer service using cloud-based technologies.

Key insights in this free webinar include:

  • Leveraging digitization to optimize operations
  • Expanding revenue streams from new channels
  • Boosting customer engagement and satisfaction
  • Real-world examples of Documoto in action

Click here to save your seat.

Publishing Tools and Documoto: A Match Made in Parts Book Heaven

January 31, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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If you use SOLIDWORKS Composer or similar publishing tools to transform CAD data into technical documentation, you already understand the importance of providing clear and detailed illustrations in materials for customers.

Which is why it’s surprising that so many manufacturers invest in tools like Composer, but then take the valuable images they produce and export them as standalone PDFs. If you’re creating technical illustrations and parts info from a data-rich environment and then importing it into a desktop tool like FrameMaker or InDesign, your company is throwing away a large part of their investment and making employee’s jobs harder down the line.

By creating standalone PDFs, the amount of labor required to create the parts catalogs and more importantly, to maintain them, is unsustainable– leaving publications staff with the constant feeling they are drowning in their work.  In addition, you lose valuable data, interactivity, and the efficiency of publishing in a cloud environment.

But, by adding Documoto to your publishing workflow, you can harness the power of a relational database specifically designed to create and manage parts book content for complex equipment.

Why add Documoto to your publishing workflow?

  • Easily translate images and bills of materials (BOMs) from Composer into XML, the first step in creating a structured data environment.
  • Re-use parts and assembly information in an unlimited number of documents.
  • Keep up with engineering changes by simply updating parts and assemblies in one location – Documoto automatically updates other books that refer to those components.
  • Automate content creation and updates with ERP integrations, APIs and web services.

Join us at SOLIDWORKS World 2017

Solidworks World 2017 logoIf you’d like to see Documoto in action and learn how it can be a benefit to you, come visit us in the Partner Pavilion
at SOLIDWORKS World 2017, taking place Feb. 5-8 at the Los Angeles Convention Center!

And, you can get in to the Partner Pavilion for FREE using code SWW17EOEX. Register here: https://events.itnint.com/sww17/online/RegLogin.aspx.

More information about the conference is available here.

Join Digabit at SolidWorks World 2017 on February 5-8

January 31, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Come see us at SOLIDWORKS World 2017 from Feb. 5-8 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. We’ll be onsite in the Partner Pavilion providing live demonstrations of Documoto, and our team will be available to answer your questions.

SOLIDWORKS World is a 3-day conference where attendees can learn about the latest technologies and select from more than 200 breakout sessions on topics ranging from design automation and electrical design to simulation and product data management.

Stop by Digabit’s booth (#200) in the Partner Pavilion and learn how to:

  • Streamline publishing with SOLIDWORKS – Composer – PDM – Documoto
  • Convert BOMs and illustrations into structured data for search and re-use
  • Enable online sales using Documoto Cloud Storefront

See the exhibit floorplan

If you are attending and would like to meet to see how Documoto can optimize your business operations, please email Jeremy Park at Jeremy.park@digabit.com.

Expo Invitation Code:

Use code: SWW17EOEX to get a FREE pass to the SOLIDWORKS World Partner Pavilion. Register Here.

Partner Pavilion Hours:

Sunday, Feb. 5
4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m

Monday, Feb. 6
11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 7
11:30 a.m.– 4:30 p.m. 

Wednesday, Feb. 8
10 a.m.– 2:30 p.m.

More information:

http://www.solidworks.com/sww

Venue:

Los Angeles Convention Center
1201 S. Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Innovate to Improve OEM-Dealer Relations, Not Disrupt Them!

January 18, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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The OEM-Dealer Distribution Model

Over 20 years ago, the Harvard Business Review published a commentary by the CEO of Caterpillar, website Donald Fites. The article is titled, “Make Your Dealers Your Partners,” and it discusses foreign competition, the importance of after-sale service, and the huge role that Caterpillar’s dealers play in maintaining Cat’s market leader position. It’s illuminating to read this decades-old perspective and realize that, with all our technology and the incredible growth of global trade, not that much has changed in the fundamental distribution strategy for heavy equipment OEMs. While some may view these arrangements as antiquated or archaic, there are many good reasons why OEMs choose to maintain traditional dealer networks as their primary distribution channels.

Over the past several years, all the business pundits, management consulting firms, and enterprise software sellers have jumped on the same bandwagon when it comes to the future of B2B sales…

  • Younger buyers are digital natives, and they want to buy online
  • Multichannel (or omni-channel) sales are necessary to retain or gain market share
  • Global competition is commoditizing products of all types at a faster rate

Digabit understands this mentality. Many manufacturers are interested in direct-to-consumer sales, similar to a B2C retail eCommerce environment. It means customers can order any time and anywhere, using any payment method, with a choice of shipping alternatives and other buyer-friendly options.

OEM global dealer networkThis idealized business model appears to cut out the traditional roles of distributor and dealer. In the hypothetical model, customers know exactly what they want, and they want to satisfy their needs at the lowest cost, with the least effort.

But for manufacturers of complex, expensive equipment, this “ideal” is a mirage.

Whether a company makes trucks, industrial robotics, or a 200,000-lb. wheel loader, the real world of capital equipment sales and after-sale service and support is a lot messier than the ideal scenario presented in a consulting firm’s strategy recommendation. Some manufacturing verticals still receive huge value from the physical presence of a dealer network.

Benefits for OEMs that build strong dealer relationships

Dealership employees are the OEM’s human face, for everything from warranty management to promotional collaboration. It’s true that everyone gets frustrated with phone support, help desks and impersonal customer service. But we’re clearly not at the point where apps and artificial intelligence can replace those functions…and some people still prefer face-to-face communication.

In spite of the hype about drone delivery and other futuristic fulfillment methods, having a tangible product in inventory within a reasonable driving distance is important to some large equipment owners.

Nobody aside from the OEM knows as much about products and how they’re used as dealers who work with actual owners and operators every day. From providing service and maintenance, to cross- and upselling other OEM products, a great dealer’s product knowledge is still more relevant and accurate than online sources.OEM dealership maintenance service

Customer loyalty and retention are highly influenced by dealer performance. Rather than being archaic artifacts, dealers provide assurance for buyers who spend millions on equipment. Does anyone want to buy a $1,000 part for a $500,000 machine from an anonymous website? I don’t. That type of sale still requires a level of trust and accountability that you won’t get from slick websites or one-click processes.

In short, the OEM-dealer relationship is neither dead nor dying. The model needs some refinements that are readily achievable by modern technologies. For example, OEMs need better visibility into dealer activity and inventories. And dealers need better communication tools and higher quality product information from OEMs. Technology is poised to tighten and strengthen OEM ties to their distribution channels, rather than alienating—or outright eliminating—their most effective support system.

The Top 3 Business Trends for Manufacturers in 2017

December 16, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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The new year is fast approaching, which means it’s the perfect time to look ahead and start gearing up for 2017. We’re predicting that next year will continue to bring fundamental shifts to manufacturing business operations, thanks to technology.

Here are the top three business trends manufacturers should address to improve profits, drive customer retention and stay ahead of the competition in 2017.

1. The relative value of the aftermarket

Manufacturers of industrial-grade equipment have a continual revenue stream problem—it can be years or even decades before customers need to replace a full piece of machinery, and profit margins are tight on these capital equipment sales. On the other hand, selling aftermarket parts is a high-margin, long-term revenue stream.

drill machine parts

Economic studies show that spare parts and aftermarket sales comprise almost 8% of the GDP, meaning about $1 trillion is spent a year on assets that are already owned. Big money is made through ongoing sales of replacement parts and service products. Who is best positioned to sell these products, if not the OEM?

What may surprise you is that OEMs traditionally capture less than 50% of aftermarket part sales. Instead, most of this market share is captured by third party resellers, will-fitters and other suppliers.

This is a huge missed opportunity. By taking steps to increase these aftermarket sales using technology and other resources, companies can see their profits grow exponentially this upcoming year.

2. It’s time to move more sales online

The internet’s broad use by consumers and businesses has dramatically changed how people gather information and make purchases. And the expectation of equipment owners to be able to research and buy parts online is only going to continue to grow in the future.
an with credit card online shopping

Manufacturers have a unique opportunity over the next few years to streamline aftermarket sales with online parts catalogs and flexible purchasing options.

Brand loyalty may be dying in the consumer retail arena, but OEMs have a distinct advantage when it comes to enhancing the buyer experience. With access to exclusive customer data, comprehensive product knowledge, and more precise parts information, manufacturers have a head start on making a “sticky” online sales platform.

While bargain hunters will always exist, modern shoppers have proven that they will pay for convenience and quality, elements that OEMs are uniquely poised to provide.

Providing online parts sales and information is one of the quickest paths to increase revenue and customer satisfaction. The digital shift means that buyers expect real time information with immediate access. Soon (and by “soon” we mean now), a bulky paper catalog accompanied by a parts desk phone number isn’t going to cut it.

3. Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT drawing

Where do people, data and intelligent machines intersect and how is it going to change the world? According to IDC, IoT spending is expected to skyrocket in the next few years, from $656 billion in 2014, to $1.7 trillion in 2020.

And there’s a good reason for it. IoT can make services more responsive, convenient and efficient for consumers. This is true for industrial IoT (IIoT) as well. Most new heavy equipment includes telematics capabilities, with sensors installed on key systems, whether operators choose to use them or not.

Some companies are using these systems to shift asset maintenance from a preventative to predictive model. Downtime is one of the costliest variables in equipment lifecycle costs, and IoT can play a key role in diminishing it.

Instead of guessing the condition of equipment and replacing parts on a predetermined schedule, maintenance can instead be triggered by real-time conditions monitored by sensors installed in the machine. This may seem like a small change, but significant dollars can be saved by not replacing parts that don’t need it, and by optimizing downtime and reducing unplanned work stoppages.

For manufacturers, think of the benefits gained from this type of data, and how customers can be encouraged to buy aftermarket parts from an OEM. With IoT and accurate data, you can predict a customer’s needs and have parts and supplies ready and in stock. And by integrating this data into your online parts catalog, you could send the customer a reminder email with a suggested shopping cart that includes the needed parts.

This is an exciting time to be in the manufacturing business and use technology to increase customer satisfaction and revenue. By integrating streamlined aftermarket parts sales, data and online capabilities into your overall strategy, your business can jump to the next level in 2017.

Should You Update Parts Catalog Content? Do the Math!

November 8, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , ,
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With over 20,000 registered users, Digabit’s Documoto platform has generated enough data for us to estimate the return on investment (ROI) for various scenarios at manufacturing companies.

Here is one common dilemma: While it’s a given to create electronic parts catalogs for new and current models, some of our customers have decades’ worth of older models that are still in operation and require ongoing service and maintenance. Older units tend to generate more parts orders, so it may prove worthwhile to convert older parts catalog content into an interactive online format to help capture more of those revenues.

In a traditional desktop publishing environment, where the end product is often a paper copy and/or PDF, the process of converting and migrating older files and data into an acceptable format is so time-intensive that most companies cannot justify the labor and expense to update past technical documentation.

However, Documoto’s publishing platform automates or eliminates many manual tasks, like copy-and-paste and other layout chores, once a company has loaded its product data into the database.

So, how do you determine whether it’s worth the time and trouble to move older product info into Documoto?

Let’s assume a manufacturer has eight extremely popular models of earth-moving machines for which they want to update support documentation. Using desktop tools, Digabit customers have reported taking three weeks or longer per model for the publications department to convert older data and publish high-quality PDFs. That equates to a 24-week backlog of work to update eight parts catalogs.

We’ll conservatively estimate that the average publications employee compensation equals $50,000 a year. That means the cost of creating updated parts catalogs is roughly $23,000 for labor alone. And six months’ worth of labor during which those employees aren’t accomplishing anything else of value.

Imagine that you had a publishing system in which you could create electronic, print and PDF catalogs in three days versus three weeks?

Now you’re looking at around $4,600 in labor to update your legacy catalogs. Similar savings can be achieved every time a revenue-generating parts catalog needs updating. And it doesn’t take many returned parts, hours of phone support, or lost part sales to add up to the cost of transforming legacy to digital.

What would a modern publishing system like that cost, you ask? Digabit’s Documoto Authoring Essentials starts at $1650 a month, or less than $20K per year. Just about the cost difference between the old and new ways of doing things.

What are we not factoring in? The huge opportunities afforded by freeing up five months of publishing labor. And the potential boost in aftermarket sales provided by having up-to-date parts information in Documoto’s Cloud Storefront (with additional subscription costs). Customers have proven their willingness to pay for the convenience of buying online, especially when they know they’re getting the right, high-quality OEM parts!

The 3 Deadly Sins of Online OEM Part Sales

October 20, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , ,
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How do manufacturers of heavy equipment and machinery typically sell parts for repairs and ongoing maintenance? Most would not be very successful running print ads like the one from the Pullford Co. at the top of this post. However, some companies still employ similar tactics to sell to online prospects.

Print ad circa 1910 from C. L. Best, precursor to today’s Caterpillar. Note the instruction to “Write for catalogues, terms, etc.” How times have changed…or not, in some cases.

Print ad circa 1910 from C. L. Best, precursor to today’s Caterpillar. Note the instruction to “Write for catalogues, terms, etc.” How times have changed…or not, in some cases.

In this era of transition from legacy processes to increasing digitization of everything, how are manufacturers doing at creating easy-to-use online experiences for buying OEM parts?

The results are mixed. At the upper end of the spectrum, many advanced manufacturers have dedicated dealer/customer portals with secured log ins and some eCommerce functionality.

However, there are still plenty of profitable, successful companies who offer poor customer experiences when it comes to parts lookup and ordering. Let’s look at examples of just three of the deadliest sins committed by manufacturers in the online sales arena.

Sin #1: Generic Web Form

mfr-web-form-parts-sales-aftermarket

The screenshot at left is from the site of a $6-billion manufacturer of heavy construction equipment. Users can select a type of machine and model number, then enter text into an input field simply labeled: “description of parts needed.” The instructions at the top of the form state, “Your request will be directed to your local dealer who is equipped to give you the accurate answers to your needs.”

Okay. I get that this company is beholden to their dealer channel. If I absolutely must order through a dealer, why even bother offering this form? After submitting the form, then what? Wait for the local dealer to email or call back. When will that be? Who knows?

Sin #2: Static PDF Catalog

The number of manufacturers who generate over $1 billion in annual revenues and still offer PDF downloads of parts catalogs is simply astounding. This is likely the most common sin regarding online user experience. We won’t highlight any particular example here, in the interest of not embarrassing the worst offenders. If you’re curious, take a look at the Fortune 1000 and visit some of the manufacturing companies’ websites. It won’t take long to discover your own examples.

The quality of online PDF parts catalogs varies greatly. Some show long lists of part numbers and names with no illustrations. Others display crude drawings with part names but no numbers. Is it really helpful to display a photo of an assembly and list the part numbers underneath with no exploded views? Not so much. Grab a cup of coffee and prepare for a long phone call….

Sin #3: Generic Web Page with No Clear Direction

Most larger companies are more sophisticated than this, but the screen shot shows a corporate web page of a manufacturer that generates between $20-50 million in sales. There is a street address and several contact numbers listed on the page, so I guess the user is supposed to pick up the phone or write a letter to inquire about buying parts or getting equipment serviced. The company’s not giving you any more clues than that.

What do I do? Call someone, I guess.

What do I do? Call someone, I guess. Just like 1918 (see top image).

How to Avoid 3 Tempting Pitfalls of Structured Data

October 12, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , ,
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NOTE: This article was originally published in the Center for Information-Development Management’s (CIDM) Best Practices newsletter in October 2016. The article was contributed by Richard Ackerman, Digabit’s Senior Director of Technical Sales.

The technical publishing world has increasingly gravitated toward structured data concepts and tools over the past decade. From XML to DITA to component content management systems (CCMSs), the evolution continues thanks to savings in labor, improved accuracy, and optimized workflows afforded by structured data methodologies.

While using structured data to publish technical documentation offers significant efficiencies, it is quite common to find publishers who impose unnecessary challenges upon themselves. This article addresses the top three traps publishers should recognize and avoid.

Stop Putting Intelligence in File Names!

What is the purpose of a file name?

From a software perspective, often the only limiting parameter for a file name is a unique string of accepted characters. However, it is extremely common in practice for individuals saving files to include information associated with the file, or “intelligence.”

While it is important to capture metadata, the file name is typically the worst place to include attributes of the content.
As a hypothetical exercise, let’s pretend the file name for a particular manufactured assembly includes the model number of the product where the assembly is used. If engineering decides to use the same assembly on a related model (with a different model number), will the publications department update the file name accordingly? Probably not.

While this is a simplistic example, using intelligence in a file name, whether to facilitate search or for some other well-meaning objective, inevitably results in conflict, confusion, or unnecessary work to maintain.

It is much easier to set up a system where the file name simply uses the next available number or some other arbitrary convention. This system allows all respective attributes to be applied as metadata.

There will never be confusion in the case of a one-to-many relationship if you are diligent in keeping intelligence separate from file names. And you will avoid the unnecessary work of maintaining file naming conventions that are based on some descriptive aspect of the content.

Best practices for structured data suggest that you should leverage software to manage the attributes of a file or data element. Consider the file name to be the equivalent to a “key” in a database. A file name in structured publishing should simply be a unique identifier. Don’t be lured by the appeal of making it mean something more.

Choose Your Storage Wisely!

Most companies have a huge assortment of software tools, databases, server locations, and so on, which offers multiple feasible locations to store important information. Depending on the type of information, there are clear advantages in storing the data in a specific location.

Let’s consider a scenario in which text-based data is stored within an engineering drawing. Maintaining this information in CAD is significantly more expensive than managing the same data in text-based databases. Revising data in CAD requires skilled, highly compensated resources (usually in short supply), and also involves more demanding workflows to implement changes.

Obviously, high-quality models and drawings require CAD; however, text-based information is better suited for storage in other applications.

One example occurs when OEMs place vendor information on a drawing. This practice is not suggested, even if a part or assembly is sole sourced. Instead, vendor data can be captured in an ERP system, and then programmatically applied to a related purchase order. If a new vendor is eventually contracted to supply the part in question, the time difference in maintenance is profound.

With regard to electronic parts catalogs, including text-based information in an illustration is similarly detrimental. Use software that has appropriate places to capture text-based data. It is always easier to update a text field than an illustration. This ideal is readily apparent if the text field has many instances of re-use.

Furthermore, combining data elements such as the illustration and text attributes limits the functionality of relational database behavior if changes need to be made on one element rather than both elements simultaneously. Combining elements like this negates one of the major benefits of implementing a database publishing system.

Don’t Combine Data Elements!

Manufacturers employ a number of common strategies to increase publishing efficiency. Some of these strategies endure, even though they were born in an unstructured world.

For instance, consider a parts list matrix within a parts book that shows what the corresponding part is for each model. In other words, one page is detailing all of the parts within the machine assembly for all models. While this was extremely effective when creating standalone PDF-type documents, it is incredibly constraining in a structured publishing environment.

With structured database publishing software, tying multiple data elements into a rigid form severely limits the ability for the relational database to manage the data. Each data element needs to be distinct.

This rule of thumb also applies to our earlier example of placing text-based information within an illustration. Another common error of this type is placing metadata (or information that can be captured in metadata) within a description field.

It is incredible how many unique strategies creative publishers have invented in order to save time. While these approaches may have been advantageous in the past, and may still offer short-term benefits, these “benefits” eventually add up to an opportunity cost that manufacturers cannot afford. Continuing legacy practices that are incompatible with new technologies is guaranteed to create havoc when a modern system is inevitably adopted.

It may be time to pause and sharpen your axe before swinging at the trees. Are the “keys” to your relational database unintelligent? Are you using the most efficient location to store corresponding data? Are all of your data elements discrete? If you answer, “No,” to any of these questions, you have great opportunities to maximize efficiency in your current—and future—publishing tools.

The Future of Service Depends on Digital

October 3, 2016 Tags: , , , , ,
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Digabit’s CEO recently shared with the company a market research report from Cisco, The Digital Manufacturer: Resolving the Service Dilemma. The central theme of the report is that manufacturers have traditionally been focused on products as their core business, but that to maintain or achieve growth these firms must transition to place more emphasis on service-based revenues.

Why is that? As product design and engineering have become more sophisticated, reverse engineering to replicate products has evolved as well. That means manufactured products are becoming less differentiated, and more commoditized. Why purchase a Caterpillar loader if you can buy another machine with similar specs, and many of the same sub-components, for 20% lower cost? In the past, brand reputation may have provided an answer to that question, but today’s B2B consumer is increasingly brand-agnostic.

Today, the answer to what machine to buy may depend more on the strength of a manufacturer’s after-sale service and support. Caterpillar offers a wide spectrum of service plans and products to keep customers’ assets in top operating condition. So, they can potentially pitch a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) over the 10-20 years of service life of a typical heavy machine. We have seen at least one heavy equipment manufacturer shift their emphasis from selling machines to “selling” uptime.

It’s all well and good to point to improved services as the path to greater profits, but in reality the expansion of service offerings generally leads to increased complexity and costs. According to Cisco, the solution to this dilemma is to digitally transform the organization, from R&D to supply chain to CRM.

Interestingly, when manufacturers were asked which digital technologies would have the most impact on production over the next three years, the top three picks were cloud technologies, IoT/M2M, and data analytics. The interesting part is that robotics and 3D printing did not make the cut, and that companies are most focused on optimizing data analysis and connectivity.

How does Digabit’s Documoto platform fit into the digitization of manufacturing and service delivery? Machines are constructed from parts and assemblies. These components start their lives as digital data in a CAD design application, but once they go into production much of the associated product metadata is stripped away. Documoto retains the relevant digital part information and stores it in a structured database format.

So, if a forward-looking manufacturer wanted to connect a specific set of parts to a new predictive maintenance application involving machine-to-machine communication, they could develop an integration with the data in Documoto to identify the part, check inventories, and even order the needed items after analysis. One of Digabit’s existing customers has already built a diagnostic tool with similar functionality.

Go check out Cisco’s report, and then think about how digitizing parts data might fit into your long-term digital strategy.

What’s a Component Content Management System?

September 8, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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According to Wikipedia, “A component content management system (CCMS) is a content management system that manages content at a granular level (component) rather than at the document level. Each component represents a single topic, concept or asset (for example an image, table, product description, or procedure).

“The CCMS must be able to track ‘…relationships among topics, graphics, maps, publications, and deliverables.’ More often than not, the CCMS also contains the publishing engine to create the final outputs for print, web and e-readers.”

The most significant word here is “component,” which distinguishes a CCMS from the more commonly known CMS, or content management system. The most popular CMS is the web content management platform WordPress, which is not considered a CCMS because it manages content at the post or page level.

If we substitute “part” for “topic” in the definition above, the definition of a CCMS essentially describes the functionality of Digabit’s Documoto platform. Documoto manages the information that goes into a parts catalog using parts, assemblies and pages as components that can be arranged and organized to create a highly specific document.

So, for a complex, customized machine that is completely unique, a publisher can quickly generate a parts book that is 100% accurate and identified by the serial number of that individual machine. Or a publisher could produce parts catalogs for 10 different models that share 50% of their parts, without cutting and pasting. That level of detail and accuracy is virtually impossible using traditional methods of content management and desktop publishing to author parts catalogs.

The major benefits of using a CCMS to manage parts information are:

  • Greatly reduces time and effort spent maintaining content due to data re-usability
  • Change management – revise a part or assembly once and all relevant docs are updated
  • Highly modular in nature, enabling connectivity with other data systems
  • Potential to automate data entry through integrations and bulk loading processes

When you examine the features and benefits of a CCMS, Documoto checks all the boxes. If you’re a manufacturer thinking about how to upgrade your parts information management and publishing processes, you should give Documoto a try!

Podcast: The eCommerce Opportunity

July 22, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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In March of 2016 Alan Sage was the featured guest on top marketing consultant Bruce McDuffee’s weekly podcast show, Manufacturing Marketing Matters.

As always, Bruce asks insightful questions and provides his own expert perspective. And Alan shares his predictions on the future of online and aftermarket sales for manufacturers who traditionally relied on dealer/distributor networks to generate orders and revenues from part sales and service.

Alan and Bruce discuss the increasing difficulty for manufacturers to maintain or increase revenues in light of global economic volatility, the proliferation of 3rd party suppliers, and greater competition from non-domestic manufacturers. The competition for aftermarket part sales has become even more challenging, with resellers on eBay, Ali Baba and other online channels vying for the same market share.

The solution is to create an effortless buying experience for online users, akin to the Amazon.com experience that private consumers have come to expect. That is, the ability to buy anywhere, any time, and have confidence that you’ll receive the right parts in a cash-register-ecommercetimely fashion.

Listen to the entire show and learn more about Alan’s actionable takeaways:

  • Manufacturers’ proprietary information (this includes parts catalogs) gives them a competitive advantage over non-OEM aftermarket providers, so figure out how to leverage this information.
  • Customers will pay more for convenience and reliability, so don’t make the mistake of trying to compete only on price when you can truly add value to a transaction.

Bruce McDuffee has proven to be an innovative voice in the world of marketing for manufacturers, applying concepts from B2C and other arenas to the unique challenges and needs of manufacturers. From content marketing to eCommerce to search engine optimization, Bruce stays on top of the latest.

If you’re a manufacturer wondering about the trend toward more transparent online B2B sales, or a marketer looking for advice on best practices for manufacturers, you’ll get something of value from this exchange of ideas.

Check out the podcast on manufacturing eCommerce today.

An Equipment Owner’s Perspective on Spare Parts

June 30, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
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One of Digabit’s clients is Schramm, Inc., a 115-year-old manufacturer of drilling equipment supplying the global mining, energy and water industries. Schramm builds custom rigs tailored to buyers’ specifications, which means that maintenance and repair of these unique machines requires complex coordination of the right people, with the right parts, at the right time.

Complicating matters even more, many of Schramm’s products operate in remote locales, hundreds of miles from the nearest airport or major city. Job sites like this are expensive to manage, and when equipment is idled due to a breakdown or unscheduled maintenance it can cost the equipment owner tens of thousands a day in lost productivity and labor costs.

Consider the problems posed by this scenario for a job site’s mechanics and operations manager, as they attempted to keep equipment running up to 24 hours a day:

  • Technical support materials often consisted of a generic set of manuals that did not accurately reflect the actual machinery.
  • Support documents such as illustrated parts books were delivered in print with the machine, or in PDFs on a CD, which means they were practically impossible to update when the OEM re-designed and superseded a part.
  • Depending on geography, delivery of parts could take several days and cost hundreds to thousands of dollars for express service. The consequences of ordering the wrong part were magnified manyfold, considering the immense costs related to downtime.
  • Communications with support staff in the OEM’s aftermarket organization could be difficult, making identification of the correct replacement parts a significant problem when documentation was incorrect or missing.
  • In extreme cases, the ability to rapidly deliver spare parts becomes a life-or-death affair.

This was the environment for equipment users prior to Schramm’s adoption of a digitally enhanced workflow for parts book authoring and publication.

Then Schramm adopted Documoto, a modern, relational database solution that delivers product documentation in the cloud. Documoto has unlocked massive benefits for Schramm customers:Schramm Equipment-Owner-Perspective-Spare-Parts

  • Equipment users have the ability to look up detailed diagrams of parts and assemblies, in parts books that are custom-built alongside the machinery.
  • When parts or other product data are revised by the manufacturer, customers’ electronic parts books are automatically updated within a day.
  • Because part and assembly drawings are now identical to the physical components, order accuracy increased while order processing efforts dropped.

It’s surprising to learn that many billion-dollar companies still manage aftermarket support the old way. Forward-thinking firms like Schramm—and Digabit’s other clients—have discovered a 21st-century parts catalog solution, and the benefits of 24×7 customer access to highly accurate product documentation.

5 Ways Documoto Beats Retail for Online Sales

May 13, 2016 Tags: , , , ,
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Digabit’s customers make heavy equipment and complex machinery, and the Documoto SaaS helps them get product information online in the form of parts catalogs and other technical support documentation. After identifying the parts they need, dealers and other end users can order parts directly from the OEM using Documoto’s integrated shopping cart.

Why should manufacturing companies use a purpose-built solution like Documoto to display and sell parts, rather than more commonly known platforms like Amazon or similar retail-oriented sales platforms?

1. Responsive Design

Dealers, service technicians and customers are increasingly using mobile devices to do everything online, from looking up and ordering parts to viewing repair procedure videos. Over 50% of Internet traffic now originates on mobile, and the trend is likely to continue. An online storefront for manufacturers must not only adapt to smaller screens, it must display interactive illustrations and the complicated relationships between parts and machines. Documoto’s user interface is built on HTML5 and designed to provide a superior user experience whether on desktop or tablet.

2. Permissions

When users visit and order from retail websites, a consumer is a consumer is a consumer. There may be automated personalization of product offerings or the like, but fundamentally all users are treated the same. Manufacturers, on the other hand, have more complicated distribution networks that require access and permission controls that determine what content a visitor can see, what pricing structure to display, and so on. In this regard, eCommerce sites built for consumers are basically “one-size-fits-all.” Documoto has powerful administrative controls that let manufacturers define user groups and organizations, and limit information access according to user role.

3. Search

Imagine you have built hundreds of different models of machines over the last several decades. Each machine has several thousand parts, some unique and some shared between models. Large manufactures literally must manage millions of both obsolete and currently produced parts. It’s easy to see the importance of a powerful search tool like SOLR, the leading open source search engine that is built into Documoto. B2B buyers may need to search by model number, serial number, keyword, or part number in order to find that one specific component, and retail sites just can’t do it.

4. Detailed, Accurate Product Content

Retail sites designed around B2C needs are limited in the types of images and information they can display. In general, they cannot properly show complex illustrations and accompanying parts lists, or associate and display a wide variety of non-native document types. Documoto lets manufacturers show essential product data along with parts information. Images, 3D animations, repair videos, essentially anything that a customer or service tech might need to complete their desired tasks. Giving buyers highly detailed product data greatly reduces ordering errors and makes them want to come back again. And the ability to create direct integrations between Documoto and CAD or ERP offers the capability for real-time updates when part numbers, prices or other data is updated by the manufacturer.

5. Alternate Payment Options

The majority of manufacturers still don’t sell directly to consumers or end users, but have dealers, distributors or other affiliates who are responsible for service and parts delivery. Many of these B2B relationships still require purchase orders, requests for quotes, or other custom-tailored ordering and invoicing processes. For consumer sites, flexible payment options mean credit cards, online check drafts and perhaps PayPal. There’s no need to look for an RFQ or P.O. radio button, because it isn’t there. Documoto allows manufacturers to customize shopping cart payment options based on their existing business processes, minimizing disruption and maximizing efficiency.

If you’re a manufacturer who needs to upgrade your online presence, sell more parts, and keep customers coming back for more, check out the Documoto suite of tools today. If you want to see Digabit’s industry-leading solution in action, request a no-obligation demo for the full story.

Easily Create Online Parts Catalogs for SMBs

April 15, 2016 Tags: , ,
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Many small and medium-sized manufacturing companies can benefit from offering illustrated parts catalogs on the web. Increased sales of parts and supplies, better customer support, and higher levels of customer satisfaction are some of the results seen by Digabit customers who implement the Documoto suite of tools.

With these companies in mind, Digabit recently developed a new publishing package that achieves rapid results. We call it Quick Start Publishing, and it offers a low barrier to entry for companies that would like to upgrade their technical publishing capabilities.

Documoto’s Quick Start package gets your parts catalogs online in 30 days or less!

Quickstart Publishing gives you the proven cloud-based architecture and database-driven functionality of a modern SaaS platform. Once your content is loaded into the database, you can dynamically create a variety of catalog formats in a snap.

  • Dramatically reduce publishing time
  • Upgrade catalog usability with powerful search and real-time updates
  • Eliminate manual formatting and tedious cut-and-paste

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One of the best features of Quick Start is that you can add increased functionality as your needs change, from eCommerce to ERP integration. Click to download the Quick Start Publishing data sheet now and find out all the details.

5 Reasons to Use OEM Parts — And 3 Reasons Not To!

April 8, 2016 Tags: , , ,
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If you work in an industry that relies on commercial vehicles, heavy equipment like drilling rigs, or other complex pieces of capital equipment, one of your biggest concerns is maximizing your machines’ uptime and minimizing your total cost of ownership (TCO).

Given those two complementary objectives, what do you do when it’s time for repairs or machine maintenance? Do you order parts made by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) online or through the local dealer? Or do you scour eBay, Alibaba and the neighborhood Harbor Freight to find the cheapest option available?

There may be good reasons to go the economical route, but don’t make that decision lightly. Here are five reasons why you may want to stick with the original manufacturer’s parts, at least in certain situations:

1. Quality

We’re referring to fit and function here. Yes, you can find an M10 x 1.25 bolt at Home Depot, but is it made from the same material as the original? Does the thread pitch really match? This is a simplistic example, but it applies even more so in the case of complicated parts and assemblies. Have you ever gone to install a new replacement part and the holes didn’t match up? This is much less likely to happen with OEM parts designed by the manufacturer.

2. Warranty & Support

Occasionally the installation of a non-OEM part poses a threat to warranty coverage on a particular piece of equipment. If your hydraulic system fails because someone changed with fluid that doesn’t match manufacturer specifications, you may be on the hook to rebuild it yourself rather than filing a warranty claim. OEM parts themselves may also have a better guarantee than those from 3rd-party suppliers or will fitters.





Documobile parts catalogs for mobile field service




3. System Compatibility

With the increasing use of connected sensors and integrated data collection to monitor and record operating conditions, making sure related components are compatible is a primary concern. Manufacturers commonly use proprietary software to control machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, and other aftermarket suppliers may not have access to the code that makes everything work together.

4. Reliable Distribution

Large manufacturing companies have been around for years, meaning they’ve had a long time to refine their supply chains and distribution networks. While you may believe you’re saving a few hundred dollars by buying that expensive part from a “disruptive” vendor, the only thing likely to be disrupted is your work schedule when the part doesn’t show up on time.

5. Durability

A part is a part, right? Except you have no idea what’s in the alloy or plastic that the part is made from. Auto makers have spent over 100 years formulating recipes for sheet metal and coatings that resist corrosion and contribute to increased safety standards. Is that fender produced in Malaysia made of the same stuff? Nobody knows.

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Why You Shouldn’t Use OEM

Of course, every rule has exceptions, and the decision to use OEM parts isn’t completely cut and dry. There are some instances where it makes sense to seek out an alternative, mostly from the perspective of reducing TCO. Here are three:

1. Similar (or Better) Quality, Lower (or Equal) Price

In some cases you can verify that a non-OEM aftermarket part at least equals the original in quality, but is simply priced lower due to the supplier’s reduced overhead or better efficiency. For certain types of applications, aftermarket parts may even be perceived as upgrades over OEM components.

2. Aftermarket Parts Made by Same Supplier

Sometimes a 3rd-party vendor actually sources parts from the same assembly line that makes the OEM parts. This can be hard to identify; however, as manufacturers usually make pains to ensure that their parts don’t carry visible markings that reveal the true maker.

3. Obsolescent Equipment

If machinery is near the end of its projected service life, it may not make sense to pay a premium for the advantages offered by OEM parts. Increased resale value will not likely recoup the additional investment required, and durability ceases to be a primary factor in the buying decision. Just find the most economical solution to get you through the busy season, and spend the money you save on a new unit!

 

LA Metro Increased Order Accuracy With Documoto
 

Improve eCommerce Workflow with Documoto APIs

January 20, 2016 Tags: , ,
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Digabit recently developed and released several eCommerce APIs to empower Documoto users to lead their own integration efforts.

In order to achieve the greatest efficiency gains in business processes related to aftermarket sales, data stored in Documoto’s database must be accessible to other enterprise systems like ERP, CRM, custom-built eCommerce systems, and the like. Digabit’s new APIs are designed to make it easy to interact with Documoto’s eCommerce platform from any 3rd party application, ERP/CRM system, or custom application.

Does system integration sound like a lot of work? Not always. Documoto APIs are based on RESTful web services, an industry standard for scalable, easily maintained information exchange between applications. That means fast integrations with minimal custom coding required.

Do you need to modify a dealer’s order status or parts list within your ERP? With the proper API integration, make changes in ERP and the data will be updated in Documoto automatically. No duplication of effort, and data remains synced between all your critical systems.

The currently available APIs are focused on order management data, and allow clients to create their own custom applications to use and modify data within Documoto. For those without the necessary technical resources or know-how, Digabit’s Professional Services team can get you up and running.

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How do you get started? Contact your account representative and they’ll give you the details on how to sign up. You’ll receive an access key and a link to full API documentation with technical specifications and endpoints.

Information is power, but only when it is shared in the right places. Get all your systems on the same page with Documoto’s eCommerce APIs!

Documoto Update Gives Manufacturers Insight Into eCommerce Orders

December 7, 2015 Tags: , , , ,
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The Documoto platform has proven its ability to save users time and money during the parts lookup and ordering process. Now it’s even more powerful, with the addition of new features that help Digabit clients provide better customer service and increase aftermarket sales. Documoto’s latest update expands its user-friendly functionality with improved eCommerce order management.

The new Order Management interface is highly customizable for administrators, giving them the ability to format order confirmations and emails, as well as define order status, shipping and payment options.

New HTML5 interface for manufacturing eCommerce software Documoto

Order Management Highlights for End Users:

• Users can view and search previous order history
Status notifications let buyers know where their order is in the fulfillment process
Duplicate past orders to save time on frequently ordered items

Highlights for Administrators:

Flexible administrative tools help tailor the fulfillment process to your desired workflow
• Edit and manage parts, prices and order statuses from within Order Management, or integrate with ERP to automate data exchange and enable real-time updates
• Shopping cart information can be transmitted from Documoto to ERP, or vice versa, so sales data is synchronized and stored in one location

The Order Management module’s new HTML5 interface is extremely easy to navigate for dealers and other users, so transitioning to a new sales process should be almost seamless! If you’d like an overview of the new features, check out this webinar preview presented by Digabit’s Product Manager, Eric Lanier. Click this link for the full text of Documoto 2015.4 release notes.

For more information about Order Management or to set up a demo, contact Digabit sales.

ContentNow Assessments

November 16, 2015 Tags: ,
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Digabit’s Documoto software gets most of the marketing love around here, because it’s an amazing product and we like to toot its horn! However, from time to time we need to give a shout to our Professional Services team and highlight the work they do to make sure customers are up and running from day one.

One of Professional Services most demanding and important tasks is conducting ContentNow Assessments (CNAs). A CNA is a high-touch onsite analysis that reveals how parts catalog publishing fits into the overall ecosystem, including all the people, business processes, and enterprise applications involved in producing parts books and selling parts in the aftermarket.

ContentNow-assessments

For any manufacturer that is considering a change or upgrade to its technical documentation capabilities—including eCommerce for dealers or consumers—a CNA provides a high return on your investment:

  • Mitigates the risk of deploying a system that does not meet business requirements
  • Provides a checklist of action items to help manufacturers reach self-defined goals
  • Recommended best practices can be used to achieve desired future state regardless of technology solution

Get the expert guidance you need to optimize your publishing and aftermarket sales from Digabit’s Professional Services! Contact us today to find out how.

4 Ways Documoto’s Web Architecture Helps You Sell More Parts

October 2, 2015 Tags: , , , ,
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Technology matters. For large-scale manufacturers, picking the right software system can mean the difference between a huge return on investment and a huge tax write off. Modern enterprise systems must be secure, reliable, and scalable.

Just as important, today’s systems need to communicate to share and re-use critical data, with real-time synchronization so everyone in the organization stays on the same page. And one increasingly important characteristic of many enterprise applications is the ability to operate anywhere a user has a web browser and Internet connection – one main reason cloud software is now the norm.

When it comes to parts catalog software, only one solution truly fits the description: Documoto by Digabit. Documoto’s collection of web-based technologies not only checks all the boxes for large-scale software deployment, it translates into real-world improvements in efficiency, aftermarket sales, and subsequent profits.

Here’s how it works.

1. Increases your publishing team’s efficiency

With Documoto, all of a manufacturer’s parts data is stored in the world’s most powerful and extensible database system, MySQL. And one of the best tools for Web-based applications, the Java programming language, defines the business logic to intelligently manipulate and manage that data.

Parts Catalog SoftwareThis sophisticated business logic understands how machines are constructed within a hierarchy of parts, components, and assemblies. Change a part number or other information and the new data will propagate to all related documents and machines…unless you don’t want it to. The underlying code allows for creation of custom business rules to control the revision process, changing only the documents you want.

Every Digabit customer has reported at least a 30% reduction in the total time and labor it takes to create a parts catalog. For most, the savings is over 50%, and for some processes such as updating part information we have seen 90%+ time savings.

2. Integrates with manufacturer’s other enterprise systems

Most manufacturers have made large investments in enterprise systems like PLM, ERP, EAM, and the like. Documoto leverages those past investments through its ability to re-use existing data in the publishing process with little manual intervention. Import CAD drawings and Bills of Materials during publishing, and pull real-time part numbers, pricing and availability dynamically during the order process—right when customers need it.

Providing secured access to well-defined elements of enterprise data eliminates many potential areas of redundancy in a manufacturer’s support chain.

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3. Powerful search tools in a flexible, familiar interface

HTML5, the latest HTML standard, introduced greatly improved interactivity to browser-based applications, with powerful APIs that promise a better user experience. Documoto’s presentation layer (the interface seen by end users) is built upon HTML5, increasing responsiveness and reliability within modern web browsers on desktop or mobile. HTML5 allows for easier data exchange, enhanced media presentation, and the greatest potential for integrating Documoto seamlessly into other portals and platforms.

Another component that adds value for end users is the SOLR search engine, an enterprise search platform that is highly dependable and lightning fast. Large volume, complex queries return results in seconds, so no more thumbing through parts books or waiting on hold while customer support looks up your superseded part number.

4. Encourages cross- and up-selling behavior

Documoto’s flexible Java code structure lets manufacturers group parts into kits or assemblies, so they control how parts are sold. Customers are happier when they get all the parts they need to do the job without making two trips to the dealer or distributor. Manufacturers can also offer special pricing to different classes of external customers, offer sales and promotions, and create suggestive selling opportunities for related parts, consumables and accessories.

Web services provide the magic that connects manufacturers’ enterprise data to the Documoto technology platform. Open web standards like SOAP and REST work to make sure that end users get the most relevant data available, from current pricing to inventory to accurate part numbers. Dealers and distributors sell more parts and have fewer returns (and shipping costs!) when they have the right information at their fingertips.

Publishing Overhaul Improves Arctic Cat’s Efficiency and Reputation

August 12, 2015 Tags: ,
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Arctic Cat is the third largest seller of snowmobiles in the world, with a storied history beginning in 1950s Minnesota. They recently deployed Digabit’s Documoto Authoring Suite and Cloud Storefront platform to upgrade the quality of their parts catalogs and increase aftermarket part sales.

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Digabit commissioned a video case study of Arctic Cat’s experience implementing and using Documoto to publish electronic parts catalogs. Now, you can read about how Documoto rebooted the parts book publishing at Arctic Cat in a print version of the case study.

  • How Documoto saved labor costs equivalent to one full-time employee in the technical publishing department
  • How Documoto was able to convert over 3,000 legacy parts books into a searchable, online database
  • How Arctic Cat improved brand reputation and loyalty by giving customers real-time updates

From publishing automation to increasing revenues through additional sales of parts and accessories, read the case study to see if Documoto has a place in your after-sale network!

How OEMs Can Reduce Costs and Increase Sales with eCommerce Strategies

April 24, 2015 Tags: , ,
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Since the end of the recession, manufacturers have enjoyed a strong surge in growth, with many believing their companies will continue to see expansion in the near future, according to the Industry Market Barometer from ThomasNet. But with this level of growth comes the need to ensure operations can keep up with current and future customer demands.

Not all original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are making the most of their current market positions to boost sales and reduce costs. With competition from other distributors and aftermarket dealers, OEMs need to actively promote e-commerce strategies to keep operational costs from inhibiting growth potential.

Employ uniformity across all channels

Industrial Distribution Magazine noted that OEMs work with a variety of other companies throughout the supply chain, which can make it difficult to have a single message or brand. When potential buyers look for a specific service or product, they typically begin their search online – increasingly via their smartphones or tablets. However, 61 percent of people will leave a website for another if they can’t immediately find what they’re looking for.

“By packaging parts together, OEMs can get rid of low-value parts that are typically hard to sell.”

Further, buyers want to see a uniform experience when interacting with OEMs, as opposed to having to deal with a number of different representatives or dealers. By having a streamlined strategy across the supply chain, manufacturers can create a browsing experience that will lead buyers directly to the parts they seek.

Every webpage, mobile app and parts catalog viewable by customers needs to present the same information in an easy-to-follow fashion. With e-commerce conformity, there is less physical work to do on the part of sales teams because buyers will already be further along in the buying process, negating time-consuming parts searches and phone calls. This can help minimize downtime and free up financial resources.

Expedite the sales process

Some of the largest challenges facing OEMs are the complex shipping, pricing and inventory management processes, according to Practical Ecommerce. Equipment must be shipped through a number of channels before it finally reaches its destination. Orders that are highly customized or require excess assembly are even more time-consuming and difficult to produce and ship. And because OEMs must face the reality of aftermarket dealers pricing their products lower, it’s crucial to ensure OEM parts are optimized within the appropriate price range.

These factors can cause backlogs, slow parts ordering and potential overstock in warehouses, all of which lead to reduced operational efficiency. E-commerce can mitigate these pain points if employed successfully.

With electronic parts catalogs, OEMs provide buyers with an open-access portal to locate parts in real time. Warehouses, shipping companies and distribution networks can all have access to the same portal, which helps track the location, availability and eventual destination center of each individual part. This e-commerce approach expedites the sales process by moving the orders more rapidly, completing sales sooner.

At every stop and handover, OEMs can save money because orders are ensured greater accuracy through the electronic system. This reduces gaps in shipping and eliminates the need for re-orders.

Promote upsell opportunities

Buyers are not always aware of the promotions available to them, and sometimes they’re even unsure of the exact specs they need. This provides a great opportunity for OEMs to upsell products and offer parts that may have contained less value, according to Manufacturing Business Technology.

With user-friendly indexed catalogs, online discounts and greater interactivity, buyers are more likely to purchase parts that they may not have otherwise. By packaging parts together, OEMs can also get rid of low-value parts that are typically hard to sell.

To reap the rewards of this e-commerce strategy, OEMs have to make promotions accessible to buyers, which is why websites and parts books should always include easy-to-locate incentives.

Cut down abandonment rates

By capitalizing on analytics, e-commerce can serve as an entirely new stream of revenue. The problem is that only 13 percent of companies implement new changes to their business by looking at historical data, as Shopify reported. While the analytical tools are out there, OEMs can do more to take advantage of them, especially in the field of e-commerce, which lends itself well to updated tracking of buyer behaviors and online activity.

Instead of simply looking at page views, duration of visits and other common e-commerce tracking measurements, OEMs should focus more explicitly on items like cart abandonment. In some cases, buyers find the info they need but they don’t follow through with the ordering process and abandon their online cart.

Manufacturing.net indicated that abandonment can be reduced by expanding parts catalog options and incorporating video tutorials, how-to guides and other helpful features. By nudging potential buyers in the right direction instead of allowing them to simply drop off, OEMs can secure higher returns on each part and product.

This strategy helps OEMs redirect more time and resources to committed buyers while also turning skeptical customers into loyalists. Instead of investing heavily in strategies that may not pay off, OEMs can use their money more efficiently and solidify the customer base of those that are already interested in their products and services.

OEMs that actively engage buyers online are better positioned to expand in the future, as more business is routinely being conducted over the Internet. Not only can OEMs save money on daily operational and administrative tasks by relying on e-commerce, but they can also increase profits as well.

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Reclaiming the Aftermarket: How OEMs Can Provide Complete Service Solutions

April 8, 2015 Tags: , ,
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In recent years a higher focus has been placed on maximizing sources of revenue by eliminating gaps in service solutions. In addition to honing in on specific products or strategies, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are working to recapture lost profits through what’s known as “reverse logistics.”

Transportation agency Ryder noted instead of the traditional supply chain flow of products from factories to consumers, reverse logistics operates as a means to repurpose older or used parts and place them back into the market for purchase. This approach allows OEMs to profit from the original sale of the part, and then once more on the resale. The strategy, however, only works if companies have a strong presence in the aftermarket.

One of the largest challenges facing OEMs is that of dealers working exclusively in the aftermarket. By selling refurbished parts, these companies are viewed as customer service solutions, providing the parts consumers need at a discounted price. As a result, OEMs must adjust their own business models to compete against these aftermarket providers.

OEMs can reposition themselves to garner a larger share of the aftermarket by fine-tuning their operations and taking advantage of their unique strengths, such as wider margins and a penchant for innovation.

“OEMs can streamline processing and parts-finding by implementing electronic parts catalogs.”

Create a one-stop shop

The Harvard Business Review reported more than $1 trillion is spent every year on assets that are already owned. This means consumers are recycling their own money back into the marketplace to repair or replace necessary parts, whether for automotive, construction or other purposes. With this in mind, why not redesign OEMs into one-stop shops for consumers and businesses?

According to ModusLink Global Solutions, a supply chain management service, the value of any product extends beyond the date of its first purchase.

“The life of a product and part does not have to end when failure occurs,” the company stated. “In this current economy, parts and products are being stretched further and further to maximize use, and thus repair becomes essential to keep these assets productive. Organizations are finding that if managed correctly, the repair and returns operations can become a very profitable side of the business.”

OEMs are now promoting their own aftermarket services more so than in the past, creating entirely new divisions of their companies to deal with the management of after sales. However to progress further, OEMs can streamline processing and parts-finding by implementing electronic parts catalogs, enabling faster customer service to become a more efficient competitor against other parts dealers.

Free up capital

In the case of OEMs, the ultimate bottom line in quarterly budgets hinges upon the sale of newly manufactured parts. But once these parts are sold, there is little return on the initial cost to produce the part other than the profit gained from the sale. Beyond that, revenues must come from additional sales. This strategy can work during booming economic times, but if a particular OEM is not on the cutting edge of the latest innovations or is faced with weak demand, the entire business model falters.

By focusing on refurbished parts in the aftermarket, OEMs can see higher returns throughout the entire lifespan of parts, Professional Auto News reported. This additional revenue stream makes each asset less capital-intensive, freeing up cash flow and providing OEMs with more financial resources to enter new markets.

Manage pricing

The Boston Consulting Group indicated value-based pricing of refurbished parts can increase per-unit margins by up to 10 percent. Many times, parts dealers and OEMs both rely on outdated methodologies to price remanufactured parts. This causes prices to be out of touch with customer demand, for which after sales providers routinely undercut OEM prices to complete transactions. In essence, parts need to be priced accurately and competitively to generate consumer activity, which OEMs adopting electronic parts catalogs can capitalize on more so than smaller competitors.

Additionally, bundling spare parts into unique packages can increase total sales and optimize profitability by reducing overstocked inventories.

Expand technical support

Data insights provider EDA noted fast-tracked parts ordering could be the key to allowing OEMs to beat out weaker, slower competitors. To accomplish this, electronic parts catalogs should be implemented and used across the entire spectrum of services, both during point-of-sale and in the aftermarket. This technology makes every transaction more efficient and allows more time to be spent on expanding customer bases. Over time, continued superior service will help turn infrequent customers into reliable buyers.

Solidify infrastructure

Infrastructure plays a critical role in the overall ability of OEMs to alter current business strategies without damaging existing revenue streams. According to the Warehousing Education and Research Council, OEMs have stronger ties to customers, more efficient distribution channels and greater technical and engineering resources. As such, they also have enhanced quality assurance of each product.

These factors represent the foundation of OEM service as well as being an avenue for more specialized solutions. OEMs simply need to optimize the effectiveness of each of these respective aspects. By digitizing manual processes and working more closely with end users, productivity can increase, providing OEMs with the competitive edge they need to expand their presence in the aftermarket.

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5 Productivity Tricks to Shortcut the Parts-Publishing Process

February 20, 2015 Tags: , , , ,
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While improving productivity on the manufacturing floor is often an OEM’s primary goal, many manufacturers are bringing that same scrutiny to their “upstairs factory” according to Industry Week.

As product lead times shrink, there’s more and more pressure for tech pub departments to rapidly churn out comprehensive technical documentation that’s both accurate and up-to-date.

So how can you maximize your productivity to meet these publishing targets? We’ve compiled a list of some tricks and shortcuts to help you work more efficiently and save time creating new parts books and manuals.

1. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

Whether you use Documoto, InDesign, Word, Publisher, or FrameMaker, chances are the program you’re using to author parts catalogs has numerous keyboard shortcuts. These can shave minutes off of routine tasks by keeping your fingers on your keyboard and away from your mouse. In fact, using keyboard shortcuts can save you 8 workdays per year, according to this infographic by American Express Open Forum, so commit them to memory now.

2. Create Templates

Earlier this month, we covered a few ways to make your parts catalogs more user friendly and mentioned the importance of consistent formatting across catalogs. Not only will this establish a recognizable brand standard, but it will also save you time. Make a template with standard header and footer conventions, fonts, colors and table styles, and then utilize this on all future publications of that type. This will give all your parts catalogs the same look and cut down on hours of formatting and design work.

3. Eliminate Manual Processes

Did you know information workers waste an average of six hours on a weekly basis formatting documents and recreating content? The logical way to gain back that chunk of time is to get rid of some manual processes in favor of a more programmatic approach. Because the creation of parts catalogs involves a series of repetitive processes and much of the content is duplicated across catalogs, automation through software like Documoto can help publishers quickly and easily reuse previously authored parts pages without additional manual effort.

4. Work in a Relational Database

Connecting parts books to the original CAD files and engineering data can help bypass intermediary steps like reformatting illustrations in Illustrator and make it easier to update tech documents for parts changes. When all the parts data is stored in a relational database like Documoto, technical writers can automatically replace all previous instances of a part with the superseded part information, which becomes a significant time saver during routine documentation updates.

5. Think About the Big Picture

The parts book you’re working on today will help your dealers find the right part quickly, repair their machines easily, and give them a better overall view of your company. It’s easy to get bogged down in the technical aspects of publishing parts books and equipment manuals, but remembering why you’re doing what you’re doing will keep you motivated. Your work plays a vital role in ensuring accurate parts orders, strengthening manufacturing-dealer relationships, and reducing equipment downtime.

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5 Tips to Make Your Parts Catalogs More User Friendly

February 4, 2015 Tags: , ,
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Here are five simple tips to improve your parts catalogs’ usability, so that dealers can get the most value from your publishing efforts:

1. Tweak Part Descriptions

The part descriptions provided by engineering aren’t always readily understandable or helpful to dealers. Editing these during the publishing process can save time and money in the long run. Not only will better parts descriptions enable dealers to quickly identify the right part without confusion, but it will also help prevent erroneous parts orders. If you haven’t already, consider creating a standard format convention for descriptions (e.g., “part type/size/material/finish”).

2. Use Consistent Formatting Across Catalogs

Using the same fonts, table styles, and header/footer format in all of your parts books can go a long way toward making them more user friendly, especially for dealers that sell multiple model types or product configurations. Consistent formatting allows dealers to become familiar with the basic layout of your catalogs, so that they can rapidly navigate the content, and find parts information with ease.

If you’re an InDesign user, make use of master pages, character styles, and paragraph styles to get the ball rolling. For DocuStudio users, achieving consistent formatting is even more straightforward, because parts books are created via automated processes that are based on the preferences that you’ve established.

3. Optimize Catalogs for Multiple Formats

Providing anytime, anywhere access to parts information can help reduce equipment downtime. While sending a hard copy catalog to your dealers and making an identical PDF available online is a great start, optimizing the catalogs for their intended medium will make them more efficient and convenient for parts lookup.

Interactive electronic parts books go far beyond PDFs, by offering better search functionality and letting users drill down through assemblies to find needed parts, thus expediting repairs. In this digital age, it’s best to cover all of your bases by creating versions for smartphones, tablets, and PCs, in addition to printed catalogs.

4. Create Part Kits for Common Repairs

Imagine this scenario: a dealer orders an individual part for a specific repair, and, once it arrives, they discover that they also need one or more other parts to finish the job. Has this ever happened to you?

One thing that we’ve noticed our customers doing more and more is packaging related parts into kits, so that their dealers have everything they need for specific maintenance and repair tasks. This has a dual benefit: boosting parts sales, and getting equipment up and running faster (which makes dealers happy).

5. Integrate with EAP, ERM, and eCommerce Systems

Integration with other systems makes your electronic parts catalogs exponentially more useful to dealers. Linking to your EAP/ERM data gives dealers access to parts availability and pricing information, without their having to call customer service.

Documoto customers can take integration a step further, by offering dealers an easy way to request a quote, or to add items directly to shopping carts. As found by Takeuchi U.S., which now processes 98% of its orders online using Documoto, the right integration solution can greatly increase parts sales.

Do you want more ideas for better parts books? Subscribe to our newsletter by filling out the form in the top right.

 Watch the video to learn a faster way to create parts catalogs

Benefits Received from Digabit’s Electronic Parts Catalog, Documoto

November 3, 2014 Tags: , ,
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One of the most rewarding parts of my job is hearing directly from customers about how they benefit from our online parts catalog and publishing software, Documoto and Docustudio. I recently had the privilege to speak with several current customers about their integration of Documoto, as well as our database electronic parts book publishing tool, Docustudio.

New efficiency gains with Documoto

Several interesting points from my conversations included:

  • Takeuchi US now processes 98% of parts orders online using Documoto.
  • Arctic Cat is now able to produce two electronic parts books in a day using Docustudio—compared to the full week it took to finish an electronic parts book using their previous methods.
  • With the 80/20 rule in effect, around 80% of Excel Industries dealers use Documoto re-branded as Interactive Parts Solution (IPS).
  • Atlas Copco anticipates a 50% reduction in efforts to publish and maintain parts books using Docustudio moving forward.

While it is great to hear about customer success stories, we continue to keep our eyes focused forward towards future developments and improvements. Expect further refined versions of Documoto and Docustudio that will provide even more benefits to our current and future customers.

Learn more about Documoto and Docustudio here.

We are always interested in hearing from you. What would help you the most in sales after service or aftermarket support? What features would make it even easier to publish and maintain electronic parts books? Please share your comments.

 Watch the video to learn a faster way to create parts catalogs

Trouble Keeping Illustrated Parts Lists Up-to-Date?

October 13, 2014 Tags: , ,
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I’ve traveled the country talking to several equipment manufacturers. They usually tell me the same thing—managing and updating parts information in Illustrated Parts Lists and Electronic Parts Catalogs is a constant challenge. Manufacturers commonly provide Illustrated Parts Catalogs for end users and service personnel to be able to identify components on large complex equipment. In order for this to provide real value, the parts information needs to be accurate.

Manufacturers tell me that it is typical for a technical illustrator to format a parts catalog in either Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign, and distribute that document as a PDF. Problem is that weeks, days, minutes or even seconds after sending it, this information may become out of date. Keeping information updated is a time consuming task. The illustrator must locate every page that contains the updated part, update each page and repeat the process for multiple books. While engineering uses top of the line technology that manages these changes automatically when changes occur at the part level, technical illustrators are usually limited to the time consuming task of making these changes one by one. On top of all of it, if the manufacturer wants an Electronic Parts Catalog, it is an additional effort to publish the catalog to that format.

The simple, timesaving way to keep illustrated parts lists current

It’s been a rewarding experience to work for a company that helps manufacturers resolve this issue by removing the tedious, inefficient, money-draining task of manually keeping parts catalogs up-to-date. We developed the Docustudio Authoring Suite—a database publishing tool specific for parts catalogs. This tool allows technical illustrators to publish both the PDF Illustrated Parts Catalog and the Electronic Parts Catalog at the same time. When part information changes, the technical illustrator makes a single change and all parts books are updated. When Documoto is integrated with ERP Systems, efficiency increase even more.

Take a look at our data sheet to learn more:

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