How e-Commerce Drives Manufacturing Automation

B2B e-commerce websites drive automation for many manufacturers, especially those using SAP. From personalized customer experiences to improved customer support, and increased revenues, manufacturers are keenly aware that the significance of e-commerce is essential to growth and automation efficiency.

Blount International is global manufacturer of replacement parts, equipment, and accessories for the forestry, lawn and garden industries. It also serves the farming, ranching, and agricultural industries as well as concrete cutting and finishing markets. Several years ago, Blount International, Inc. was feeling the pressure from all sides. Everyone involved wanted to “get online” with an e-commerce solution.Key distributors wanted it as well as dealers and division managers.

Barry Brunetto, Blount's Vice President of Information Systems, was tasked with solving the problem. His early research uncovered solutions that were too expensive, too hard to customize, and too slow to implement, until he discussed options with b2b2dot0.

Six months later, Blount was processing orders online — and those orders were completely integrated with SAP in real time.Brunetto said, “We started to get pressure to get on the web a couple of years ago, mainly from Europe. Our Country Manager in Sweden really wanted to push web sales to his dealers. Every chance he could get he was showing our CEO our competitors' websites. As a result, in order to stay competitive, we were given the green light to pursue a solution.” Blount first looked into SAP's CRM solution, which the company owned yet had not installed; they put together a total quote for the solution. It seemed like everyone wanted to do the project until they saw the price tag.

A year later, the firm revisited the updated SAP CRM proposal and got the same response: Too Expensive! Blounts Europe headquarters decided to do some dealer direct selling, putting even more pressure to offer a B2B portal. The company had a Minitel system in France that was integrated to the SAP system. The French government discontinued its support in favor of the growing popularity of the World Wide Web, so Blount was left without a solution.

In the United States, a key distributor (RBI) pushed for access to their information over the web. They showed Blount management the website of one another major supplier (Kohler). The company was challenged to deliver similar customer service as the Kohler's website. How manufacturers make a B2B e-commerce decisions By studying the Kohler system to make sure Blount set expectations for the website's requirements, they dusted off the SAP CRM proposal. They estimated that the SAP CRM approach would cost the firm more than $600K in capital expenses; as well as hiring two additional people. The company would not see results for more than half a year. Another alternative was to build the B2B solution in house. It would be cheaper from a capital expenditure perspective, approximately $400K, but would probably have to add two to four people to build and maintain it. The downside with this approach was that Blount would probably have to wait from 12-18 months before they would experience any tangible results.

Neither approach included rationalizing product information into a centralized corporate catalog. That requirement was going to require funding from a separate bucket of money mandating additional approvals. b2b2dot0 Software-as-a-Service solution proved to be the best option. It had the potential to deliver the best automated solution with zero capital expenses, no additional hires, and in less than half the time as the other alternatives. Blount immediately orchestrated several demonstrations for all business executives, both in Europe and the US. They loved it.

Other manufacturers have experienced a similar decision-making process in selection and implementation of an e-commerce automated solution. “We have gained tremendous efficiencies in the order management process,” noted Peter Lambert, President, EFD Division of the Nordson Corporation.

Nordson Corporation is one of the world's leading producers of precision dispensing equipment for applying adhesives, sealants, and coatings to a broad range of consumer and industrial products during manufacturing operations. Nordson also manufactures equipment used in the testing and inspection of electronic components as well as technology-based systems used for curing and surface treatment processes. Headquartered in Westlake, Ohio, Nordson has more than four thousand employees worldwide, and direct operations and sales support offices in thirty countries.

Like Blount International, Nordson was faced with e-commerce challenge. Nordson'sdilemma became critical when it learned that its e-commerce platform would become obsolete as a result of the impending upgrading and consolidation of its SAP software. After exploring a number of options, including purchasing an e-commerce solution from SAP, building its own system from the ground up, or purchasing and customizing software from a third-party, Nordson elected to implement b2b2dot0's hosted solution. According to Sam Bayer, President of b2b2dot0, “We phased in our agile e-commerce solution incrementally, beginning with global partners and distributors for Nordson's EFD division.”

In the second implementation phase, b2b2dot0 rolled out e-commerce to Nordson's entire global industrial customer segment and introduced a digital product catalog.Within the first ninety days of launching the e-commerce website,Nordson was able to reduce order processing time equivalent to the typical output of more than two full-time order entry employees. The low upfront investment and monthly service fees associated with this SaaS model resulted in an immediate return on investment. Nordson also realized process improvements due to non-value-added functions handled via e-commerce rather than customer service or distribution personnel.The successful implementation of the automated e-commerce solution earned Nordson recognition as a Managing Automation Progressive Manufacturer 100 (PM100) award winner.

Automated efficiencies are not relegated to the plant floor. Too often manufacturers are mired in real-time shopfloor data and neglect to discover efficiencies throughout the enterprise. With more manufacturers like Blount International and Nordson reliant upon SAP and e-commerce interface with customers, the significance of cost-effective, SaaS solutions, like b2b2dot0, address the most important growth advantage in automated manufacturing.

Author Profile:
Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc., ( Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 4000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Online News Association, American Society of Business Publication Editors, and Committee of Concerned Journalists, as well as author of more than 500 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Cutler can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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December'15/January 2016