Internet streamlines application quotes, saves money

As e-companies have come and gone, manufacturing and service companies continue to find that the Internet remains a useful and bottom-line enhancing tool.

November 9, 2001 — The last several years have seen boom and then bust for a number of Internet companies. Throughout the internet roller coaster ride, as e-companies have come and gone, manufacturing and service companies continue to find that the Internet remains a useful and bottom-line enhancing tool.

When Lightnin, a unit of SPX Corporation, implemented a Quote-To-Cash (QTC) Internet initiative, it looked for an eBusiness solution that could handle its diverse mixing product range, would streamline selling processes, reduce costs and cycle times and improve transaction quality.

Complex problems need simple answers

The company manufactures a broad range of products, from standardized portable mixers to complex, engineered-to-order heavy industrial mixers. The product line includes top entering bench mixers from 1/3 hp up to large mixers like the Lightnin 700/800 that handle heavy duty sludge waste treatment.

Its high-shear, Integral Pump Mixers (IPM) handle jobs like emulsification, homogenization and dispersion in a range of processing applications with viscosities to 100,000 cP. Its Seal Master Mixers are designed for sanitary applications. The Lightnin Side Entry Mixers in belt driven and gear driven models are suitable for various applications including pulp and paper. The company also offers Line Blenders or in-line mixers as well as providing a range of services and aftermarket parts sales.

The company's mixers are complex products that require expert configuration to suit each application. It sometimes took the sales rep more than a week to create a quote. They were manually selecting, mechanically checking, configuring and creating quotations, as well as generating bills of materials (BOMs) and assembly routings, generating quote drawings and entering orders into their existing system.

These procedures were inefficient, time-consuming and were costing money from errors in orders and BOMs. The company had to find a new way to do business.

Looking for the right "app"

Lightnin considered software vendors and also attempted to develop a solution in-house. Both alternatives proved too costly, time-consuming and technically challenging. The company knew it needed a vendor that was focused on the industrial products market. It also knew it wanted to improve customer satisfaction with better responsiveness and service during the buying process.

As the company defined what it wanted to accomplish, these criteria formed its "killer app," an eCommerce solution that wrapped quote to installation steps into a seamless process. The ideal solution would integrate with the mixing application decision process and mechanical design validation system, and also could integrate with AutoCAD to dynamically generate quote and installation drawings.

Easy roll-out

Lightnin decided to implemented BigMachines eSales as a channel management application for the manufacturing representatives and application engineers.

The implementation relied on the software's easy to use Web interface and rolled out each phase of the project without depending on IT specialists. One month after selecting BigMachines, Lightnin had implemented eSales for two portable mixer product lines and aftermarket parts. Several months afterwards, the company implemented BigMachines' eSales for five additional configurable mixer product lines.

Now its company reps can access eSales from anywhere in the world to generate quotes and drawings and submit orders on behalf of their customers. Once logged in to eSales, a manufacturer representative enters selection criteria and specifies configurations for new mixers. eSales dynamically generates BOMs and CAD drawings based on this configuration. They can search for and purchase aftermarket parts and can create a quote in just minutes.

After the customer accepts the quote, the manufacturer representative submits the order and accompanying BOMs, which are automatically fed into Lightnin's Baan ERP system and then sent to the factory floor.

Internet cuts costs -- really

Today, the Lightnin Applications Support Group is ready to help its customers develop new applications, improve productivity or plan a complex scale-up process. No matter how challenging the application, chances are they have seen it, worked with it and know how to make it work.

The new system helps customers avoid costly slow start-ups and production inefficiencies. The Lightnin Applications Support Group works with a customer's in-house development team to get a process up and running faster and avoid costly trial and error. The process begins with filling out the Application Support Worksheet to request assistance on a project, or with sending an e-mail with questions or special requests.

"Since implementing BigMachines eSales as our sales process automation and channel management solution, we have significantly streamlined our quote and order processes," said Richard Gray, VP of eBusiness and Information Services at Lightnin. "We eventually expect to reduce costs up to four percent of annual sales with BigMachines."

BigMachines eSales' configuration, pricing, quote and order capabilities have reduced quotation cycle times by 50 to 80 percent and improved the company's responsiveness. The ability to generate quotes and CAD drawings through eSales have enhanced overall proposal quality and customer service.

Automated order and BOM generation processes have decreased the error rate on orders and BOMs by 90 percent. As a result, Lightnin reduces misapplications and warranty costs, while their customers receive the optimal product for their machinery requirements.

"Let's be honest. This type of project is very difficult and requires partners who understand how Internet technology can address the needs of industrial equipment manufacturers and their markets," said Gray."BigMachines brings an essential combination of vertical expertise and the latest Internet technology to their products."

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