Tag New Technology

Tag New Technology

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 When the parts look up ordering system is slow and the information is outdated, mechanics lose valuable time that could be spent on repair tasks.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. 

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.

 

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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.

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.

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.

Sell Online Parts - Parts Catalog Software

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.

[Webinar] A Roadmap to the Future: Documoto by Digabit

August 3, 2015 Tags: , ,
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What’s the hardest part of a product’s lifecycle for a manufacturer to control? That’s right: After-sales service, with a potentially global network of dealers, consumers and support staff. All with different requirements for the vital information they need to get the job done.

The world of manufacturing and technical publishing is changing. It’s not just about parts catalogs. It’s about adapting the latest technology to make machines run longer, let people sell better, and keep your customers satisfied. If you don’t, your competitors surely will.

On August 18, join us as John Skinner, Digabit’s CTO, offers a forecast of the latest technology driving innovations in both manufacturing and the Documoto Authoring Suite.

You’ll learn:

  • Current trends in manufacturing and technical publishing technologies
  • How you can increase after-sales support revenues with Documoto
  • How improving dealer or customer workflow can massively affect your bottom line

Duration: 30 minutes
Presenter: Digabit CTO John Skinner
Date: Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Time: 8:30am MDT (10:30am EDT)

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

What Manufacturers Need to Know About Cloud Technologies

March 30, 2015 Tags: , ,
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Equipment manufacturers working to navigate the rapidly changing business landscape in today’s economy may be hard pressed to find the time and resources to launch new applications, roll out new products or implement new technologies while simultaneously keeping up with competitors and internal deadlines. However, with the use of cloud computing, these and other realities are made all the more possible and convenient for manufacturers that adopt this new technology.

But cloud computing capabilities are sometimes viewed as a technology of the future – advancements that will someday be useful, but just not yet. This logic, however, has the ability to set manufacturers back years if they do not quickly adopt the cloud and its many uses. While some firms sit on the sidelines and continue to work within their current technological frameworks, others are actively engaging and seeing the benefits of cloud technologies in real time, from the production floor to the warehouse to the customer.

To avoid being left behind in the global transition toward cloud technology, here are six things manufacturers need to know:

1. Updating older technologies is easier than one may think

Switching over to a new system can be quite the daunting experience, taking months or even years to fully complete. But in the future, equipment manufacturers will no longer need to further update their hardware and on-site software, because the cloud system is updated automatically without the need for intervention on the part of manufacturers. Suppliers of the cloud framework remove weaknesses, improve efficiency and introduce new applications on the back end so manufacturers don’t have to set time and money aside to come up with their own technological solutions that would traditionally come from an internal IT department. These include fixes to any bugs and protection against any potential cyber security threats as well.

“Having a collaborative infrastructure in place can make transactions and data sharing more efficient.”

2. Digital information isn’t stored on site

Just as the name implies, the cloud operates in an invisible network of sensors and signals, communicating and transferring data immediately upon entry across entire airwaves regardless of location. The days of housing large data centers with millions of dollars worth of hardware on site are over – not to mention, the need to purchase new software or update systems in accordance with the latest technology is removed as well.

3. Analytics can remove inefficiencies

Some may falsely believe the removal of in-house networks could endanger the posterity of vital company documents and data. However, manufacturing data is actually stored in the cloud itself and can be accessed at the touch of a button. One step further, this data can be categorized and collated to serve a more useful purpose, granting manufacturers the ability to pull information from the cloud without having to wade through vast webs of in-house files.

Additionally, the data being transferred is useful in removing inefficiencies previous methods may have created. Instead of using physical parts catalogs, these indexes can be moved to the cloud, making it easier and more transparent for manufacturers and dealers to follow up on customer orders.

4. International business is more manageable

Instead of having to regulate and monitor the security and efficiency of external hard drives, company-issued computers and other devices, manufacturers use the cloud to consolidate daily workflows and facilitate greater engagement across borders, the Harvard Business Review reported. Whether an employee is working from home, a new overseas partner is securing an international deal or operators are improving global supply chain efficiency, the ability to log into a single browser at any point in time or location streamlines communication. And when conducting international business, having a collaborative infrastructure in place can make transactions and data sharing more efficient.

5. Sales and products can be tracked in real time

As electronic parts catalogs are moved online, so too are spreadsheets and reporting systems that keep tabs on all incoming and outgoing equipment. With access to the same network within the cloud, manufacturers can see when a part has made it through the production process, where it is stored in the warehouse, to whom it is sold and for how much in real time. The only requirement is that users enter data related to that specific part before passing it on. This allows owners to track sales and individual products and identify which items are performing best, providing key insight into customer demand.

6. Its adoption will be permanent

The permanence and success of cloud technology can be seen daily, whether it’s a consumer using a smartphone or an automobile connected to advanced global positioning systems.  Research institute LNS Research indicated more than 90 percent of software providers are actively investing more heavily in cloud capabilities, highlighting just how much the technological landscape has shifted. In addition, traditional manufacturing software providers are creating more electronic parts catalogs, essentially directing manufacturers toward the way of the future. For example, Documoto allows equipment manufacturers to effectively update and maintain parts catalogs conveniently at any time or location.

To learn more about how you can modernize your parts catalog with Documoto, watch our free on-demand webinar.

 White Paper - Increase parts sales with Service Lifecycle Management

How the Adoption of Disruptive Technologies Are Driving Growth for Manufacturers

March 27, 2015 Tags: , , , ,
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There’s a wealth of articles, research, and analysis heralding every scientific breakthrough and technological advance as the next big thing that will change the face of manufacturing.

McKinsey Global Institute estimates that disruptive technologies like the rise of mobile, knowledge work automation, the Internet of Things, cloud technology, and 3D printing, could account for an economic impact of up to $33 trillion by 2025.

Leading executives understand that their strategic competitive advantages might erode or be enhanced by emerging technical solutions. Disruptive technologies could potentially raise productivity, attract more customers, inspire new market strategies, and drive substantial growth.

Adopting these technologies is no longer optional or convenient. It’s a necessity to remain competitive. But how do you know which advances are actually worth your while? Unfortunately, as MGI reported, “Business leaders can’t wait until evolving technologies are having their effects to determine which developments are truly big things.”

While most manufacturers have a tendency to focus new technology investments on driving efficiencies and reducing costs, roughly a quarter of CEOs are planning to use emerging technology for new growth opportunities. Matt Reilly, the senior managing director of Accenture Strategy North America suggests more manufacturers do the same, sharing this equation: “Efficiency plus technology equals new capacities that create opportunities for new business models.”

So let’s take a look at some manufacturing enterprises that are actively adopting new technologies like IoT to drive opportunities for growth.

Union Pacific

One of our asset-intensive customers, Union Pacific, has reduced the number of train derailments caused by failed bearings by 75% with the help of near-real-time analysis of data collected by sensors. With that success under its built, the company is now focusing its R&D efforts on additional sensor technologies, like accelerometers that can feel for bumps that would suggest a faulty track.

As CIO Lynden Tennison explained to Information Week, the whole area of “sensor-based, network-based diagnostic and predictive analytics” will be the biggest technology opportunity in his industry for the next 10 or 15 years.

John Deere

John Deere has implemented several moves toward customer-facing IoT. By incorporating sensors in its equipment, the company can now do remote, wireless diagnostics of some tractors and combines.

Eventually, John Deere wants its harvesting equipment to inform a database that then informs tillage equipment, which, in turn, informs irrigation equipment, according to James Heppelmann of PTC.

Whirlpool

Whirlpool Corporation has found tremendous value in its first forays into creating connected appliances. Introducing convenience features like starting the washing machine from an iPhone have garnered consumer interest, and the company’s stock has continued to climb since introducing these optimized appliances over the past year.

Rather than connecting with customers every ten years when they need a new appliance, Whirlpool is now engaging with their customer base on a much more consistent basis. The result gives the company a deeper understanding of how its customers interact with Whirlpool products.

Which disruptive technology is your company planning to adopt? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

 Watch the Documoto overview video