September 19, 2016, 4:36 PM
BY PAUL DEMERY Managing Editor, B2B E-Commerce
At the IMTS manufacturing technology conference in Chicago last week, e-commerce was gaining in prominence as a competitive strategy.
IMTS, or the International Manufacturing Technology Show, blanketed Chicago’s cavernous McCormick Place Convention last week with some 2,000 companies exhibiting the machines and tools that manufacturers use to build aircraft, automobiles and a million other things.
Among the many pitches related to how their products and services are designed to help manufacturers was a noticeable focus by a number of companies on the options they provide to research and order products through e-commerce. Among about 10 companies interviewed by B2BecNews, seven said they were either already heavily involved in online sales to their customers—in most cases meaning their distributors—or planning to build an e-commerce site.
“Our dealer portal is a very important business tool,” said In-Yob Youn, a sales coordinator at Hyundai Machine America Corp., Itasca, Ill., a manufacturer of large metal-cutting machines used in building automobiles and other products. Hyundai Machine sells between 4,000 and 5,000 products through the portal to about 400 dealers.
In Korea, where parent Hyundai is based, close to “100% of our dealers now order on our dealer portal,” Youn said. In the rest of the world, including the United States and China, 60% to 90% of dealers order through the portal, he added.
Although a number of customers were slow to begin ordering online—partly because it took longer for them to enter order information online rather than give to a sales rep—Hyundai Machine reps helped them learn the online interface and showed them the value of using data provided through the portal, Youn said. For example, distributors can view online extensive information about the volume of sales for individual products and view information on any service issues other customers have reported. Before orders were placed online, it was difficult to record such information and share it with customers, he added.
At Kennemetal Inc., a manufacturer of metal-cutting tools and other equipment used in manufacturing, construction, mining and other industries, a dealer portal offers about 60,000 SKUs. “All of our products are available through the portal, except for highly customized ones,” a spokesman said.
“Ten to 12 years ago, most orders were faxed or placed in-person with reps, but with faxed orders we had typos, missing information, inaccurate orders,” he said. “Now we get orders right the first time.”
As on other manufacturers’ sites, customers on Kennemetal.com can view online videos, extensive information on new products, and digital versions of print product catalogs as well as the full online catalog. Kennemetal has also developed features like an online tool advisor and a tool selector to make only buying easier for customers.
Sandvik Coromant, a Fair Lawn, N.J.-based unit of Sweden-based Sandvik Group, a manufacturer of machines and tools used in the manufacture of heavy industrial products in several industries, operates an e-commerce site with 60,000 SKUs. “Our e-commerce site is an important channel to us,” a spokesman said.
Sandvik, like other IMTS exhibitors that sell through their own e-commerce portals, also sells some products through the Amazon Business section of Amazon.com. But, also like other manufacturers, it stocks its own site with far more content, including lengthy specification sheets, product diagrams and a large number of videos that show its products in use in manufacturing settings.
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