Tag integrated technology

Tag integrated technology

Want to Improve Dealer Loyalty? Provide Accurate Parts Information

October 18, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , ,
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Q&A With Brian Becker, Digital Service Parts Analyst

In addition to manufacturing best-in-class outdoor power equipment, Excel Industries strives to give customers a quality owner experience. Their dealer network of more than 1,600 U.S. dealers and over 30 distributors worldwide works tirelessly to answer questions and provide expert service to every customer.

Brian Becker, Excel Industries

We talked with Brian Becker, Digital Service Parts Analyst at Excel Industries, to see how they use Documoto to provide accurate parts lookup and ordering for dealers.

Digabit: What were the main publishing problems your company was looking to address?

Brian Becker: Our biggest problem was our inability to make changes to our parts books and manuals. We were dependent on our previous provider to make changes for us and that would be a 5-6 month process from turning over material to going live. Our dealer network was working off old information, and that was a big problem when it came to parts ordering. If a dealer can’t be sure that they’re going to get the right part and accessory, it hurts our reputation with them. If a repair takes longer than an equipment owner was promised because the wrong part was ordered, that hurts the dealer’s reputation. So, parts information accuracy is huge for us to protect our reputation and build a world-class brand. 

Digabit: Why did you choose Documoto?

Brian Becker: We looked at it from, “What would make things easier for our dealers?” We didn’t have control over updating our parts manuals and it was hurting our dealers to not have current information. We looked at a couple of other vendors, but Digabit was the only one we moved forward with to do a demo. Documoto allows us to update our own data when we want, and those changes are available immediately to dealers. The cost was reasonable, and we knew that Digabit would provide an account team to help with training our team and transitioning our information.

Digabit: How is your company using Documoto?

Brian Becker: Mainly we use it as our parts lookup system for our dealers and internal users, which includes our service techs, parts customer service reps and territory managers. Our dealers can go in, look up a part, and find all the information they need in in a fraction of the time. Most importantly, what they see is right. We have service information, bulletins, and service procedures stored in the cloud library. And, our service techs are spread out across the country and are rarely in the same room, so we use Documoto for knowledge-sharing that helps service techs communicate issues that they are seeing out in the filed.

Digabit: What is one way your dealers use Documoto that was surprising to you?

Brian Becker: Our website lists information on our current products but once that product is no longer in production, it’s off the website and inaccessible. Many times, a customer will come in with a 5-year-old mower and want to buy something like a mulch kit, or lights, or other accessories. The only way to find out what those parts are and whether they’re still available was to look at our whole-good price list archives. Our dealers used to have to find creative ways to have that information handy. Now, they can do that with a few clicks of a mouse instead of having to take a lot of time to track it down.

Digabit: Can you give us an example of how Documoto improved dealer performance?

Brian Becker: I can’t say enough about how huge it is to have better accuracy of the parts manuals and the documents. And our dealers really appreciated the amplified search capabilities. When you run a search, you can see everything that is related to that part number. They don’t have to go hunting for stuff and they don’t have to wonder if they’re looking for the right thing. As long as they type in the right number, and we’ve done our jobs correctly with the information on the backend, they can get exactly what they need.

Digabit: What did you do to convince dealers that the new system  was better?

Brian Becker: When we first switched, people weren’t thrilled because it was a new system. Our response was, “The information you saw before wasn’t accurate. How often did you order a part that was wrong? Then you had to ship it back, your customer was angry with you and you’d be mad at us. That won’t be a problem anymore.” Having the accuracy and ability to change the stuff, that has won over so many of our dealers. They were used to things not being accurate and not knowing if they had ordered correctly. Now they know they’re ordering the right part.

Digabit: Having accurate parts information is clearly important to your reputation and your dealer’s reputations. Has Documoto helped changed perceptions for you?

Brian Becker: Before, customers returning parts was happening regularly. One incident I really remember is from a few years ago. There was a transmission that was very popular that was labeled wrong in our parts manuals. This was an expensive part, and it was also heavy, so it cost a lot to ship. We shipped several of them out before we realized it was the wrong one. But, because it was so popular and we didn’t have a way to change how it was labeled ourselves, people kept ordering the wrong one. We paid a lot of money to our former authoring software just to get them rush-fix the error because we needed it changed ASAP. Even then, it took another 30 days to get it updated. Every time we shipped it our wrong, we were paying for it to be returned and to have the correct one shipped, and it was costing us a lot of money. Since we started using Documoto, I just don’t hear stories like that anymore.

Digabit: How has accurate parts information improved your relationship with your dealers?

Brian Becker: We made a point that if the dealers found an error early on, that they should let us know as soon as possible. We would fix it right away, and then we would call them back the same day to let them know they should look at it again. They could see for themselves that we had fixed it as fast as we could. It helped them learn to trust the information in the system because they knew we were keeping it updated in real-time.

Hopefully, that makes them compare us to other brands and want to sell ours more because they know we’re listening to them, we’re making changes, we’re committed to having the right information, and we make it easier to look up parts.

Digabit: What advice would you give to manufacturers who are making large technology upgrades?

Brian Becker: This was a big transition for us and we had thousands of documents. For a project like this to be successful, it needs to be a collaborative effort. The Digabit team knows how to use Documoto, but it’s our team that knows our products in and out, and we needed to be working closely together to get that information right. I can’t say enough about how great our Digabit account manager was during the transition. It meant a lot to me to be able to pick up the phone and talk to someone or send an email and get a response very quickly.

Digabit: What advice would you give about rolling out a new system to a network of dealers?

Brian Becker: We gave our dealers fair warning that we were getting rid of our old system. We didn’t suddenly flip a switch and have the new system. We also had training materials ready, including short videos on how to search, where to find comments and who to call if there was an error.

Before we rolled it out, I wanted everyone internally to be familiar with the product. If you call in and have a question, the person you reach can answer it, because they’ve been using Documoto themselves.

I wanted to make sure when we introduced it that we could answer questions, because I knew we would have pushback because people were used to something. We couldn’t give the dealers any excuse on not being able to use it because there was support for them in multiple places. I have to count it as a success, with 75% of our dealers using it within a few short months of the rollout. Since then, we’ve had nothing but good feedback, and now 9 out of 10 of our dealers use the system.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Digital Transformation

August 17, 2017 Tags: , , , , ,
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What’s behind the currently popular technology buzzwords, “digital transformation” and “digitization”? You’ll find these terms displayed on many technology-oriented B2B websites, from consulting firms to software vendors.

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what these companies are offering, or what tangible benefits you’re going to receive after your “transformation”! At Digabit, we want to do a better job of communicating the details of our product offering and its value proposition.

In that spirit, let’s discuss why this thing we’re calling “digitization” is important. Why should manufacturers embrace digital transformation? And how does the idea of digitization get translated into strategy and successful business outcomes?

First, the motive for investing in digital change is simple: the longer you wait, the farther you fall behind your competition.

Do you think the companies that resisted the move from electric typewriters to word processing software for the longest gained some advantage in the marketplace? Or those who waited to switch from locally installed desktop software to a client-server model? In hindsight, it’s easy to see that these transitions were inevitable.

The Move Toward Digital Content

For customers and end users of content, digital means receiving the information you need exactly when you need it, on whatever device is at hand: smart phone, tablet, desktop, or a wearable device like a smartwatch or glasses.

Now the question is, how do you “transform” text and other valuable content from its current form into something that can be delivered to users whenever and wherever they ask for it?

Most people are aware that digital information is different from information stored within a material object like a book. But when technology vendors talk about digital, they’re not simply talking about information stored as bits on a hard drive or a DVD, either.

While people often use “digital” and “electronic” interchangeably, there are clear differences when it comes to information and content management. And the common perception of the term digital has evolved.

Digitization is about more than data formatting

CDs and DVDs store digitally formatted data, but that doesn’t make them “digital” for our purposes.

Technically speaking, digital means information stored as a series of binary digits (normally 0 and 1). However, from the perspective of a company trying to build a digital enterprise, information stored on a DVD is no more digital than the information stored on a magnetic cassette tape.

Electronic Is Not Digital

Electronic documents are fundamentally mirror images of paper documents, simply displayed on a screen. There may be basic search capability in electronic formats, as you’ve probably experienced in text documents created by word processors and text editors. However, these files are still generally stored and managed as separate, disconnected files.

Electronic information in the form of a DVD doesn’t do much more than the cassette tape that’s been around since the 1960s. It stores static information, and you can’t change that information in any meaningful way aside from erasing and replacing it with some other information.

In other words, the data stored on a DVD is certainly digital, in strictly technical terms, but it’s not digitized in the sense of being agile, portable and easily reusable.

PDFs Are Not Digital

More advanced electronic documents, like the latest PDF formats, can offer interaction in the form of user-fillable fields and other features, but they are still not digital. We can mimic some of the capabilities of digital information by searching and indexing the content of a format like PDF, but that requires another type of software to create one additional element: a database.

Digital = Database

The foundation of digital technology is the ability to store and manipulate pieces of data, and further to define (or allow an end user to define) relationships between those data objects.

When you listen to an audio CD or watch a movie on DVD, the sound and images have been converted to a digital format. Aside from that, the information they contain may as well be on a vinyl record album.

Relational vs. Flat Database Architecture

In order to take advantage of the ability to modernize business processes through better data management, modern applications employ a relational database as a core component.

The first generation of databases simply stored related pieces of information in one “flat file” or table.

Flat file databases are still used in many applications where the number of records is relatively small. If you ever use Microsoft Excel to record and sort data in a table, you are essentially creating a flat database.

But within sophisticated software systems, the world has moved on to a more powerful solution, the relational database. Relational databases store information in multiple tables, not just one. That’s what makes it possible to rapidly search millions of records, to enable complex data analysis, and to discover relationships between data entities.

A properly designed business application database can contain hundreds or even thousands of data tables.

Relational database tables vs. flat database

Relational databases let users manipulate and analyze thousands of object properties.

Luckily, you don’t have to understand or remember any of this in order to take advantage of Documoto’s relational database and its ability to search for parts, create associations between machines and all their parts, and suggest purchases in buyers’ shopping carts.

Documoto takes the hard work out of building a hierarchy of digital data that is explicitly designed to organize parts and assemblies. Neither the authors who create parts catalogs or end users see databases or the raw data they contain. The program’s interface prompts catalog creators to upload files and parts data, add tags, and enter additional information, and the application builds the parts information database in the background.

Now you know the magic behind digital data processing within a relational database, but we still haven’t defined digital transformation and how it can impact business processes throughout an organization.

Benefits of a Digital Business Model

We’ve briefly discussed using a database as the foundation to create modern parts catalog in the context of the Documoto platform. However, this is just one potential application that could be part of a larger digital business strategy.

Digitize information to optimize processes and reduce data entry

Data entry…ugh.

When you have parts data stored in a non-proprietary format in a database, you have the flexibility to use that data in any number of ways. You can synchronize and exchange data with other application databases, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

One major goal of digitization is to automate manual processes like data entry. Entering information about a parts order should generally require very little decision making, so there’s no reason to use valuable human labor for that chore.

With software applications like Documoto and ERP systems, there’s no need. You can store pricing information, product inventory and other data in the ERP’s database, while managing part numbers, descriptions, and assembly drawings in Documoto.

When it’s time to display a parts catalog to an end user, data is pulled from whichever database has the relevant information.

Digital Workflows Optimize Business Processes

Setting up relationships between two (or more) applications requires some technical savvy, but integrations like this are the backbone of many digital transformation strategies. This allows you to store and manage one set of data, but let that data flow and be re-used wherever it’s needed to optimize business processes.

So, your aftermarket sales reps see the same parts data in a shopping cart as your service team sees in the parts books. Dealers, distributors and equipment owners can be shown different prices, pulled from the ERP where price lists are stored. There’s no need to create three sets of price documents, because the application knows to show the right information to the right user.

The information is dynamic, meaning application interfaces get information from the appropriate databases in real time and display live data. Not last week’s or last year’s data, like you might find in a simple PDF or a printed catalog.

This article only scratches the surface of the opportunities open to companies that want to maximize operational efficiency by improving the use of data and building digital workflows.

If you’re wondering whether your aftermarket operations can benefit from implementing a relational database system to manage parts information, publish accurate digital part catalogs, and empower online part sales, contact the Digabit sales team today!

4 Manufacturers Getting The Most ROI Out Of Electronic Parts Catalogs

August 10, 2017 Tags: , , , , , ,
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Every manufacturing company should have a digitization strategy, click but some sectors are more suited than others for electronic parts catalogs.

We keep hammering home this point, but it’s true—the future of manufacturing is digital. Gone are the days where your technical publishing wants to update a single part in dozens of parts books. We’ve passed a time where customers want to make a call or send a fax to place an order.

But, is it worth it to put in the time and resources to make the switch to electronic parts catalog (EPCs)s? Based on the results of our customers, we’d say yes. The ROI has been enormous—from the decrease in time to publish changes, to the increase in revenue from online parts sales.

Let’s take a look at four types of companies that can gain the most ROI benefit from electronic parts catalogs and parts information in a relational database in the cloud.

1. LA Metro (Transit Agencies)

It may come as a surprise, but transit agencies that have a lot of parts they need to move for repairs and maintenance are the perfect candidates for electronic parts catalogs.

LA Metro BusWhen you have thousands of buses and hundreds of rail cars that are used to transport millions of people annually, keeping those vehicles in service is not only a priority for moving customers, but also a part of keeping in line with federal regulations for state of good repair. In addition, they are also looking for solutions that will increase productivity and keep costs low.

Time spent in the shop for maintenance might mean missed routes and angry customers. For repairs, maintenance teams need to be able to find parts and order them from their supplier or internal warehouse. When the parts look up ordering system is slow and the information is outdated, mechanics lose valuable time that could be spent on repair tasks.

Electronic parts catalogs solve many of these issues. Administrators can update part information with an integrated set of tools, and make updates instantaneously. Mechanics can log in to a computer, use the search capabilities to find parts and request them through the system. With a guarantee that the information is correct, mechanics no longer worry about retrieving the wrong part and spend less time searching.

A perfect example of transit using EPCs successfully is LA Metro. Since implementing Documoto, they now have 99.9%  order accuracy and an increase in mechanic productivity. Metro is one of a half dozen major U.S. transit systems who have successfully adopted Documoto to modernize service operations.

Read the full case study here. 

2. Atlas Copco (Construction Equipment)

atlas copco machineryWhen you’re a construction equipment company with a large customer base spread around the globe, having accurate parts books is necessary to keep your users happy. For these equipment users, having a machine that is down while waiting for a part means they’re losing money every day. If they’re in a remote location that takes additional time to ship to, getting the order right the first time is crucial. Because these customers are in different time zones, another hurdle is making it easy for them to order parts in the first place.

Using a relational database to create EPCs allows technical publishers to make changes and have that information update to the electronic parts catalogs in real-time. When users look up parts, they know that the information is accurate. By integrating the digital catalogs with an ERP system, a storefront can be created for customers to purchase their parts.

Thanks to this simplified parts lookup and order process, dealers and equipment owners can buy parts online, 24/7, with no backlog to fulfill orders. Not only does this cut down on fulfillment time, but it also creates satisfied customers.

Companies like Atlas Copco are using EPCs and a digital storefront to sell parts online and are seeing a direct impact on their bottom line. In just over a year, they’ve had a 64% increase in online sales, and a 4% increase in overall parts revenue. For a company that see billions of dollars a year in profits, that is a huge monetary increase, from something as simple as offering online ordering and accurate parts data.

Read the full case study here.

3. Hiperbaric (Food Processing Equipment)

If your company’s reputation relies on providing after-sales support to make hiperbaricsure your equipment is running smoothly and safely, having assistance readily available to customers and dealers is paramount. Many companies spend a lot of resources staffing support desks so they can respond to questions, create service requests and order parts for customers. The problem is that many companies only provide this support to customers during regular business hours, and those employee’s time isn’t always used efficiently. Time is wasted looking up information or answering questions that could be used filling more requests.

Having a software solution that not only can create interactive parts catalogs, but also store support documentation and connect to an existing ERP system can be the difference between providing mediocre service and outstanding service for customers.

Through an online portal, customers and field service technicians can log in, view service information and look up parts for only the equipment that the company has designated. Instead of having to call to ask questions, the most current information is readily available at any time. This cuts down on the time the support desk spends on the phone and answering emails as well as the time technicians need to spend looking up information when they are out doing repairs.

With EPCs and online libraries for parts documents, Hiperbaric saw a 25% increase in help desk efficiency and a 25% time savings for technicians. And in just 11 working days, they were able to recover the cost of the digital parts catalog creator subscription.

Read the case study here.

4. Viking Range (Consumer Appliances)

Technical publishing and engineering teams are already stretched thin, especially for manufacturers with dozens of product lines and hundreds of pieces of equipment. Old processes for creating and updating parts catalogs require publishers to make updates to each individual parts book, creating the book in the first place would take nearly a week to complete, and the time delay between updating the books and getting the information online could be extensive.

EPC software makes those problems a distant memory. Using templates, creating the parts books takes a fraction of the time. Thanks to the relational database architecture of EPCs, when one piece of information is updated in the database, it updates every parts catalog where the data is found, saving hours of time for publishers.

Viking Range has the data to prove the benefits. Since using EPC software, they’ve had a 73% reduction in parts book creation time and a 99% reduction in system update time.

Read the full case study here. 

Why You Can’t Sell Spare Parts on Amazon

August 2, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , ,
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A Big New Player in the Online B2B Marketplace

Amazon’s B2B marketplace, Amazon Business, has received a lot of media attention lately. Sales are booming on the platform, and why not? Flexible account and payment options, fast shipping, price comparisons, what’s not to like?

But there’s one big market that neither Amazon nor Amazon Business has cracked.

While B2B and B2C customers alike have come to expect Amazon-like experiences when buying online, the truth is…Amazon isn’t designed to sell parts for highly complex machines and equipment.

Large original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), who make things from heavy construction equipment to assembly line machinery, can’t effectively sell spare parts for their machines on Amazon.

exploded view rotary vane pump

Need new rotary vanes for your pump? Good luck finding them on Amazon!

If you make equipment with lots of moving parts, you need a system that is built to manage all those parts, while also understanding that machines are a collection of a related set of parts and assemblies.

Have you ever seen an exploded assembly illustration with a parts list on Amazon? You haven’t, and there’s a reason for that. Amazon’s eCommerce interface is designed to display single products, and it serves that purpose extremely well.

Of course, Amazon’s commerce platform is backed by a powerful database, but the database architecture is not organized to recognize hierarchies of parts, sub-assemblies, assemblies, and machines.

The purpose of an illustrated parts catalog is to make finding parts fast and accurate, but Amazon’s parts lookup is extremely limited: you can conduct a keyword search by part number or name. If you have experience in the OEM aftermarket arena, you know how reliable a 5-year-old part number is, which is not at all.

Service workers, dealers and equipment owners often need a clear visual reference in order to identify a manufacturer’s part number or description. That’s why parts books printed on paper are still seen as valuable tools, even in this digital age.

What is the best current solution for modern OEM part sales?

A number of commercially available applications focus on managing complex parts data and producing digital catalogs. Some of these, however, are only useful for parts lookup and have no commerce capabilities.

Digabit’s Documoto is one system that combines a powerful database to manage part information, a responsive interface that makes finding the right part simple for any user, and the ability for customers to buy parts directly from the digital catalog.

Documoto is also designed to support data exchanges with other applications, like enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. This is the key to building efficient processes in a digitally focused organization. Data and information must be able to flow between applications and business units with a minimum of data duplication and human intervention.

Documoto’s cloud technology and database architecture may appear straightforward, but they are truly leading edge for manufacturers who want to manage and sell thousands of parts online. If you’d like to explore the potential of growing revenue through online sales, while optimizing order processing and fulfillment, you should check out Documoto.

5 Steps For Easy Content Migration

July 26, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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For manufacturing companies, centralizing parts data from disconnected sources into a single Electronic Parts Catalog (EPC) system continues to gain popularity. Moving to an EPC system enables efficient content reuse, greater control and the easy creation of both online catalogs and exportable/printable parts books.

There are some clear benefits for companies who make the switch to EPCs. However, implementing a new solution is a major investment in both time and resources for a company.  And migrating technical documentation and parts information has a reputation for being painful and frustrating.

Content migration doesn’t have to be like that. After helping our customers transfer hundreds of thousands of pages of parts information, we’ve distinguished some best practices along the way.

Here are five steps you can take to make your content and data migration process successful.

1. Set The Stage

Make sure you have the right team in place.

A project can’t get off the ground, unless you have identified the people who are going to be doing the work. Most importantly, have a project owner who is managing the process from a business perspective and can give clear guidance to the other members of the team.

Get access to all of the data/content you want to migrate.

Take the time to understand the “where” and the “how” of the data you need to have migrated. Do you need special permissions to access certain data? Do the people with access to the data work on different time zones? Will it take weeks for approval to migrate content? Think about this before you start so that you can create a reasonable timeline of expectations and avoid delays down the line.

Get your target system ready to receive data.

We recommend choosing a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform, because it makes the SaaS provider responsible for being ready and accessible for you on time. Work with your content migration team to make sure they understand what is expected. Set up trainings and provide learning materials so that the team knows how to use the system.

2. Start With An End Goal In Mind

Major content migration projects aren’t something you can jump right into and hope for success. They need to be planned out so that the project doesn’t go off track or end up being unmanageable.

What do you want to accomplish?

Hold planning sessions with your team to define the goal you want to achieve and to decide on the scope of the data/content to migrate.

Determine how the new system will be used.

A content migration project for items that will only be used as reference will look very difference from a content migration project for data that will be used for placing orders. Decide what the goal will be for the content/data once it’s in place. When determining goals, use your available resources. In particular, talk with your current channel users. Ask them what they want, how they’d use it, and then consider if their preferences line up with your business goals.

Consider what is unique about the content.

What defines each piece of data/content you want to migrate? These answers will impact on how you migrate the information. The goal should be to have a clean and manageable data set at the end.

3. Get Organized

Once you’ve got the right team in place and you’ve figured out what you want to accomplish, it’s time to get organized and make sure you’re migrating the right data and content.

Pick the essentials that you want to display to end users of the new target system and pinpoint a “golden version” of all Bill of Materials, drawings and catalogs. Avoid having redundant versions and migrating unnecessary content/data.

For example, is migrating a rarely-used, 30-year old operations manual necessary? Or can you just migrate the newest version? Consider these things when organizing your content.

4. Take Things One Step At A Time

Migrating content doesn’t have to be done all at once. Think it through as you plan the order and choose a timeline that makes the most sense.

  • Migrate the bestsellers first.
  • Migrate a product line for a specific range of model years.
  • Migrate current PDFs and other static content first, then move on to more robust data/content.
  • Migrate most-used data for a beta group of users. Watch and see how they use it before migrating the rest.

5. Focus on Quality Over Quantity

Some people think that success for migration means moving all of the parts catalogs and other content in your current database over to the new one. However, if some of the content/data is of bad quality, it will not prove very useful in your EPC.

Take ownership and care, and validate content early and often throughout the migration. One of the biggest pain points and failures we see is when a project team makes a plan, gets going, and then waits until the end to validate if the data is correct and high quality. At that point, the ship has sailed and it’s another massive project to get it fixed. We advocate for validating information little by little as you go.

By following these steps, you can create a thoughtful, structured rollout that will lead to a successful completed project.

 

content migration checklist

What Comes After ECM?

July 19, 2017 Tags: , , , , , ,
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In January of 2017, research firm Gartner announced that the term “enterprise content management” (ECM) is headed for an early retirement. The new market category to describe how large businesses capture, store and distribute information will now be called, at least by Gartner, “content services.”

Sorry, that doesn’t mean Sharepoint is being decommissioned as of 2017! However, it does signal a shift in high-level business thinking that reflects the realities and experiences of information workers over the past 20 years.

What Gartner is saying in its report isn’t that enterprise content is going away, or that we’re not going to manage it any longer. But that enterprise-class, complicated platforms intended to capture all a large company’s various types of content are evolving and being replaced with a new class of solutions.

Part of the problem is the complexity required of systems that are intended to manage all types of content for all types of workers. This complexity, along with a lack of user training, leads to reduced adoption and ineffectiveness.

Complex enterprise content management system

One of the goals of the traditional ECM is to eliminate the negative consequences of information silos. Silos occur when two or more business units within one company both create, use and/or maintain different versions of the same information.

However, providing access to a platform where all users could view the same documents did not magically solve the silo problem. That’s because the real problems of managing content originate from cultural and business process challenges.

So, if ECM is dead, what exactly is different about “content services”?

According to a report from the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), The Next Wave: Moving from ECM to Intelligent Information Management, in the future we’ll be managing information with distributed applications whose functionality is more closely aligned to a particular business use case.

With modern cloud and SaaS applications, integrations can make it much easier to share data using APIs, web services and application endpoints. So, even if every department uses its own hand-picked application to manage critical data, that data can be shared and re-used within software systems used by other departments. Application silos are okay, but no information silos allowed when optimizing business processes!

So, instead of trying to accommodate every user need or force organizations to commit significant resources on customization, business users are moving toward applications that excel in one major functional area. This modular approach fits with the agile mentality in place at many modern technology firms, as it enables faster implementation, easier adoption and less customization on the path to providing value.

Best Practices: Executing an After Sale Web Library and eCommerce Platform

June 19, 2015 Tags: , , ,
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The market for Equipment Manufacturer’s (EMs) and OEM products is constantly evolving due to newer industry regulations and technologies. Many companies have difficulty adapting to these changes, while others look forward to meeting any challenges head on. EMs and OEMs can maximize their productivity, drive the top line and stay competitive by embracing technologies such as Documoto.

Documoto is a powerful publishing platform with a Cloud Library and available Cloud Storefront for managing your company’s product offerings, parts catalogs, and vital documentation. With a streamlined and automated approach, your dealers and customers with be able to stay up-to-date with the latest content on maintaining your equipment.

Using the expertise of Digabit’s Professional Services team, we simplify your content migration process by bringing together all of your PDFs, parts catalogs, images, and more into a unified publishing solution. Documoto enables EMs and OEMs to radically shift the content creation and updating paradigm by inverting the perception of a cost center to monetizing both legacy and new content, allowing your customers to easily browse and order parts instantly.

To get the most out of your Documoto implementation, here are four best practices you should embrace that will save time and reduce excessive costs:

1. Integrate with EAM/ERP

By integrating Documoto into an existing eCommerce solution, your customers and dealers will be able to locate and order products with greater speed and accuracy. This modernizes the parts ordering process and translates to getting products quickly, decreasing equipment downtime.

Though integrating Documoto into your existing system adds far more efficiency, the approach is not intended to overhaul the platform you’ve grown accustomed to. With our inline approach, the order is exported directly into your existing EAM/ERP system continuing to leverage the purchase forms you’ve already set up.

Documoto users have realized substantial efficiency with the entire ordering process. ERP integration is not mandatory, but can be included as an add-on feature that yields great value. The benefit of integrating with your ERP solution is to continuously keep price and availability up-to-date with both systems bi-directionally.

2. Assign User Privileges and Access Control

Documoto allows you to retain total control over every bit of content in your system. By assigning user privileges, you will be able to give your managerial staff access while overseeing every level of your parts-ordering process and system.

Assigning user privileges and access controls to specific documents based on the user’s role allows you to achieve optimal efficiency while maintaining a high degree of control and security. With the use of single sign-on, a user will only be prompted to log in once to access all parts on the platform offering an unparalleled seamless user experience.

3. Manage Parts Evolution

With Documoto, you will be able to instantly update information on after sale parts, eliminating outdated data immediately and allowing you to preserve accurate records of every part in your catalog(s). Along with updating part information, you can add tags to the part(s), making them easily searchable based on defined criteria.

Documoto also offers supersessions with Engineering Change Orders (ECOs), notices and requests while easily updating the data in all instances of the parts manuals. By taking advantage of these features, you can maintain a parts catalog that is both continuously up-to-date and quickly searchable, thereby driving customer satisfaction and topline growth.

4. Track User Data

Your data is by far one of your company’s most powerful assets. However, with a traditional parts catalog, it is impossible to realize the full value of customer interaction and utilize data to its full capacity and potential.

With Documoto, you will be able to track various user interactions such as: when users last logged in, their identities, browsing patterns, materials read and much more. This valuable data will allow you to fine-tune your approach and make powerful information-driven decisions moving forward in the virtual world.

There is also the added benefit of user adoptability analytics, which will allow you to make more informed decisions about how customers and dealers leverage Documoto and what to changes should be instituted.

Adopting new technologies always involves a degree of adjustment. These four best practices allow you to see substantial benefits in record time. Contact the Digabit staff with any questions about this innovative process.

 Watch the Documoto overview video

3 Questions for Choosing A New SaaS for Your Manufacturing Enterprise

May 27, 2015 Tags: , ,
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As manufacturers start moving to cloud-based software solutions, Software-as-a-Service providers are making big claims to gain a foothold in the market, promising newer, better, more robust software products at a fraction of the cost of traditional desktop applications. This makes it all the more difficult to determine which one is right for your business.

Weighing the different options can be a long, confusing process fraught with non-stop sales pitches, misleading demos, and inflexible contracts. Most of the advice for OEMs on how to choose a SaaS boils down to security questions, service-level agreements and contingency planning. (For a great article on that subject, read this piece by Iron Mountain, our escrow services partner.) But – while important ­– these factors won’t necessarily lead you to the top solution for your manufacturing needs.

So how can you sniff out the vendors who over-promise and under-deliver? To avoid a software subscription nightmare, take the time to ask these three questions during your next demo or sales call. It could help you get a more realistic look at the software before you invest.

1. Can You Tell Me About Your Slowest Deployment?

When you’re trying to manage deployment risk, it’s useful to know about and plan for potential setbacks. Most tech companies can quickly rattle off a few of their fastest and most successful deployments, but knowing about their slowest one will give you a clearer view of the company and its software.

As Fayez Mohamood reported in Entrepreneur, “Slow deployments aren’t necessarily bad – everyone has hiccups – but a team that’s willing to talk about it is likely one you can trust on other aspects of the sale.”

While this question may throw the salesperson for a loop, honest reps will be upfront with you about where they’ve faced issues in the past. After all, the best software-as-a-service is usually supported by a team that strives to continually improve the product and mitigate previous problems.

2. Can I Talk to One of Your Engineers?

Most SaaS providers give product demos in which a sales rep guides you through all the features of the software and talks about the countless advantages of their solution. These demos are great for giving a basic understanding of the product and showing how it works in action, but as you would expect, they often paint a highly glorified view of the software.

To get a better understanding of whether or not the solution will work for you long-term, ask to speak with an engineer on the next call. Software engineers know the product inside and out, they know what changes and enhancements will be coming down the line, and they know exactly what the software can – and can’t – do for your specific manufacturing needs.

Talking to an engineer is a surefire way to get a true and accurate representation of how the product performs in a typical environment. And any company that’s not willing to connect you with an engineer… well, you may want to continue your search elsewhere.

3. Can You Refer Me to a Few of Your Current Subscribers?

It’s best to get at least three references who are each at a different stage of implementation. Ask the SaaS provider for one contact who just recently adopted the software, one who has used it for at least six months, and a third who has been a long-time user. Ideally, one of these references will also be in your same industry, so if you manufacture powersports equipment, for example, make sure you talk to another powersports OEM who uses the SaaS.

Variety is key here, since executives may significantly change their view of the software over time. Those who have been using the SaaS for years will be able to report on metrics like the frequency of updates, the quality of improvements, and the responsiveness of technical support. On the other hand, a brand new user can better discuss the pains of integration while it’s still fresh on their minds and tell you whether or not the customer service team proved helpful during the implementation process.

Once you have the references, don’t forget the most important step: actually checking them. A 15-minute phone call with a current customer can be extremely revealing. And if the software solution you’re considering spans multiple departments, be sure to talk to several users within each department for the full picture.

Bonus: Ask your sales rep if they can get a current customer to lead you through a demo. You’ll get to see exactly what they like and don’t like about the software, and you’ll get some honest advice on how to use the SaaS most effectively.

Were these tips helpful? Subscribe to our blog and get new articles on manufacturing insights and cloud technologies sent directly to your inbox once a month.

 Watch the Documoto overview video

Improving Supply Chain Operations with Integrated Technologies

April 6, 2015 Tags: ,
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Not only is technology shaping the narrative of future manufacturing performance, but it’s also enhancing productivity throughout the supply chain. From OEMs to warehouses to transportation networks, the logistics of creating, moving and selling heavy machinery and industry-specific parts is a matter of fine-tuning and narrowing the focus of the supply chain for maximum effect. The end goal is to produce a quality product that meets the demands of customers, for which technology can help drive innovation and overcome potential holdups that arise along the way. This newly coined operation is known as “smart manufacturing.”

Rather than simply choose the “cost-reduction” model of doing business, whereby manufacturers find areas in the budget to cut expenses, technology provides an avenue to proactively invest in the company as opposed to just eliminating expenditures. However, once technology proves its value and effectiveness, money is inherently saved as a result.

Helmuth Ludwig, CEO of Siemens Industry Sector North America, speaking on a Siemens study, noted technology has transformed the capacities for businesses to streamline efficiency, according to the company’s Totally Integrated Automation Vault.

“What’s different today is that we have additional opportunities to drive productivity beyond those traditionally driven through lean continuous improvement,” said Ludwig. “In short, at the company and plant level, [manufacturers] are seeing tremendous improvement potentials in productivity and efficiency thanks to software technology.”

“Initial hesitation to adjust to new technologies shouldn’t stand in the way of forward progress.”

Adopting new models

Part of this solution lies in the ability of companies to implement new technologies – whether it be back-office software or on-board diagnostics during the shipping process – and to do so seamlessly. Getting employees, managers and existing inventory systems all on board can be a difficult task to complete, especially considering the size of many of the world’s largest manufacturers and their associated supply chains.

In the case of electronic, cloud-based parts catalogs, OEMs, dealers and workers may be dealing with entirely new forms of software. Frontloading enough planning and training time before the actual implementation period begins is key. The new system needs to be worked out prior to it going live, which means everyone involved in the process should be as well-versed in the technology as possible. Though certain industries and business ideologies can potentially view technology as an unnecessary disruption to existing models for running a functional operation, initial hesitance to adjust shouldn’t stand in the way of forward progress.

Further, the Siemens study found 41 percent of manufacturers are wary of not being able to keep knowledgeable workers around long enough to transfer their skills to newer employees, which hurts the chances that a new technology will become ingrained into the corporate culture and prove to be a successful tool. To correct this, more training programs should be employed to ensure resources are being fully utilized so that software is being used effectively.

Simplifying processes

The ultimate goal of any new adjustment is to produce results, whether they be short- or long-term. The benefit of eliminating manual processes in favor of automated functions saves time for everyone involved. For OEMs, wading through an entire parts catalog is often an arduous and inefficient task that can be remedied by automating the process. Through updated search results and data entry, a catalog and inventory system becomes a living, breathing part of the overall business operation.

Companies are now switching over to cloud-based software that enables users of the system to see real-time updates and find the items they are looking for much more quickly. This additional time saved is passed on to dealers and consumers in the form of faster service.

To go further, manufacturers can connect not only their internal software, but also to those of other companies they do business with. Extrapolated over an entire supply chain, coordinated technological solutions can reduce delays and setbacks that occur during the transport of equipment to and from their destination centers.

Integrating productivity

People typically think of supply chains as long, slow-moving trucks hauling goods, but that premise is largely a thing of the past. With stronger, cheaper materials, data-driven monitoring systems and highly intelligent computerized processes, manufacturers are finding it easier to get their products to market, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“Manufacturing is undergoing a change that is every bit as significant as the introduction of interchangeable parts or the production line, maybe even more so,” said Michael Idelchik of GE’s global research lab, according to the Journal. “The future is not going to be about stretched-out global supply chains connected to a web of distant giant factories. It’s about small, nimble manufacturing operations using highly sophisticated new tools and new materials.”

More efficient fabricating measures like 3-D printing and the use of lightweighting make it more resourceful for manufacturers to operate, and when combined with the growing trend toward digitization, production floors are becoming hotbeds for innovations in design and engineering. Additionally, when integrated into a larger framework of productivity, utilizing technology to capitalize on these advancements is a matter of keeping up with the times.

Manufacturers employing these forward-thinking techniques can streamline their daily workflows and better manage operations, no matter the size of the company. Transforming your business in coordination with the latest technologies can produce enormous results in both profits and production capacity, turning traditional factories into smarter manufacturers.

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