Erema, the Austrian manufacturer of plastic-recycling machinery and technology, is putting its money on innovative online spare parts catalogs. After only two years, Erema has already shown a return on its investment, and in the long term has secured a modern corporate identity for spare parts systems with integrated diagrams.
The Engineering Recycling Maschinen und Anlagen Ges.m.b.H, Erema for short, has been a specialist in plastic-recycling machinery and technology since 1983. Each machine is made to order and has a lifespan of up to 25 years, with the approximate number of individual parts in each case averaging over 15,000. Looked at in the round, the Erema Group, with over 480 employees, generates an annual turnover of 132 million euros in a rapidly growing sector. The company is headquartered in the Austrian town of Ansfelden and has further sites in North America, China and Russia. The exporter supplies goods to 130 countries worldwide.
This is Erema’s first opportunity to share all the data on the machinery with a large user group in a monitored environment. Previously, information, which was not held centrally, was accessible to employees only if they were able to view specialist systems such as SAP themselves. The situation was further exacerbated by Erema having to rely on approx. 500 suppliers, as it did not have its own manufacturing facility for spare parts. That leads to large numbers of data interfaces.
The entire global service for the provision of spare parts is located at company headquarters in Ansfelden. The company’s 40 customer service representatives take care of end customers directly or through approx. 40 dealers, of whom only a minority have substantial technical expertise. A traditional email-based ordering system was used. The lack of clear information led to slow response times. There were more waits owing to delays and information getting “lost in translation” during communication with the international dealer network, often resulting in further queries.
Erema aimed to do away with any customer inhibitions when ordering and guarantee quicker response times. The resulting goal was an online spare parts catalog with daily updates that was to offer the following benefits: 24/7 access, information on prices and availability, and simple and clear graphical navigation thanks to 2D or 3D images of the machines. Another reason for making the new solution available to the Customer Service team online was the high level of corporate training involved in such areas as the technical support department. Basic information such as prices and stock levels were to be made easily available to this target group from the main ERP areas. The catalog gives the Customer Service team a brief overview, and they can skillfully draw on such additional knowledge when communicating with customers.
Christoph Krump, Manager of the Spare Parts Business, explains as follows the reasons for choosing the electronic spare parts catalog software CATALOGcreator® and TID as a partner to implement it: “TID provided us with a clear cost model including easily calculable fixed and ongoing costs. Alongside the software’s modern interface for mobile end devices (PHP/CSS), that ‘flat-rate’ model was the key deciding factor. Last but not least, we also had a good feeling about working with TID. That was confirmed later in the course of the project.”
The CATALOGcreator® software enables Erema to share information with different target groups via a central access point and in a clear and structured manner. The catalog is easy to operate, has a modern user interface, and integrates circuit diagrams into the mechanical catalogs. It gathers knowledge from various sources and is available in both German and English. Users can now get answers to many simple questions themselves using the online catalog. The catalog provides a large group of company employees with direct access to a great deal of information, of which 90% is relevant to all staff, and can be browsed easily without knowledge of any specialist systems. But specialist departments such as the design team or mobile technicians have also begun to use the tool to look up information on prices or availability instead of searching directly in SAP.
Erema had a unique project requirement in that it wished to represent visually the different levels of information applicable to external and internal users. Any content that was accessible in-house only was marked with an orange background. Furthermore, the strict separation of data was important for the project. The external server contains only data intended for external display. The fitting shop benefits from a highly useful side-effect of the new solution. It’s now possible to display machinery currently available at various stages of assembly. That acts as an important time saver. Prior to the introduction of the catalog, it was often necessary to make inquiries because of the difficulty accessing information via the ERP and CAD expert systems. Additionally, further requirements have already been implemented in the online catalog, including material classifications, alternative parts search functionality, and a catalog module for general consumables.
Experiences and Outlook
Erema’s investment in the electronic spare parts catalog paid for itself after only two years. That is demonstrated by the figures. The Customer Service team use a tool to measure how the catalog is used. In that way, access data based on locations, times and use of pages can be gathered and analyzed.
EREMA traffic analysis (just one of several analyses) currently paints the following picture: 70% of online catalog use is in-house, of which half can be attributed to the Customer Service team itself. The great added value, however, is experienced in those departments, such as mobile technicians or the entire sales team that were not, or were only partially, able to access individual original systems. Erema uses those statistics to calculate the return on its investment as follows: All 40 representative branches, of which three are main offices, require ongoing support from the mechanical engineer to run their businesses successfully. “Today, representative branches can search through the online catalog themselves, thus eradicating 60% of the original support required for spare parts, as inquiries no longer need to be forwarded to our Customer Service team. Those savings allow us to offset our investment in the CATALOGcreator® easily, and with 40 customer service representatives and a turnover of 132 million euros we have made back our investment in two years,” clarifies Christoph Krump.
For the next stage of the project, Erema wishes to advance the integration of 3D models into the catalog. The company promises catalog users further beneficial functions to make it easier to find information. Further features, such as extended search functionality for machine features, as well as plans to display replacement and wear parts at catalog and site level, are contributing toward the ongoing improvement of the catalog. That will enable the platform to be used in-house as a central point of contact — known as the “cockpit” — to share information across departments.
More than 80 in-house employees and 400 external users use Erema’s online catalog, and that trend is growing. “We’re convinced that TID can implement our requirements successfully in the long term. TID’s relatively new project team means that our contact partners will be able to collaborate with the company for many years to come. We value a long-term service partner with future-oriented software and reliable support. For that reason, the investment in this project has already been worthwhile for us,” explains Christoph Krump.