Online Spare Parts Catalogs for the Caravanning Industry – In 2011 the German caravan and motorhome manufacturer Dethleffs commissioned Dogrel – a longtime partner of TID Informatik GmbH – to create online spare parts catalogs. “Not without my family!” was Arist Dethleffs’ mantra when he designed the first “Living Car” in Germany in 1931. With the invention of the caravan a new era was born. Today Dethleffs is one of the leading caravan and motorhome manufacturers and has become an integral part of the camping lifestyle.
Spare parts management has always enjoyed high priority at Dethleffs. In cases of damage, customers contact their specific dealers, who in turn dispatch the spare parts orders directly to Dethleffs. Already in the 1990s an online system employing CD-ROM was established to avoid faulty ordering complications. After switching to the portal operating on the Internet, the dealers continued using this system until 2012. The technical progress and the increasingly sluggish processing speed ultimately led to the decision to envisage a change of system. In the targeted standard system, the documentation system manufacturer and the documentation provider should be clearly separated. Dethleffs identified CATALOGcreator® as the ideal solution for their electronic spare parts catalogs. The longstanding cooperation with CATALOGcreator® eventually led to the commissioning of Dogrel to create and load content into the new spare parts catalog.
Transferring the Existing Data
As a first step, the existing data should be transferred to the new system. At the time of the system change, approximately 3,500 catalogs were concerned. After several tests and trials Dogrel provided a largely automated data import. The new system has been fully accessible for dealers since autumn 2012.
Creating New Spare Parts Catalogs
Following the successful data transfer, Dethleffs started to create the new catalogs in spring 2013. All editors connect to a workstation at Dethleffs via VPN data connection. Assemblies and related drawings open directly in a CAD viewer and can be exported for further processing if necessary. Floor plan images are downloaded over the same connection and optimized for use via the Internet.
Dethleffs exports the bills of materials (BOM) and transmits them to Dogrel. An Excel macro then prepares them optimally for the editing step. Using a special add-on software, the data is compared with various data sources. For example, the translations of the assemblies are imported from an external file and added to the BOM.
A 2D library helps to identify components as quickly as possible. This was necessary because not all purchasable parts can be found in Dethleffs’ CAD system. Now the library includes about 3,000 2D pictures of individual parts, and filling the library is an ongoing process. The enlarged views associated with the BOM are exported from the CAD system as vector graphics and presented in a user-friendly way. Item numbers are assigned and drawings of new parts are created if needed. The finished drawing is saved in the SVG format and processed using a generator. The generator identifies the item numbers and inserts a link. After this step, the item numbers can be clicked in the browser and they are interactively linked to the catalog. The drawings are vector-based. This allows the user of the catalog to zoom in without loss of quality. The complete BOM and the accompanying drawings are uploaded to a web server via FTP. The server processes the BOM within minutes and the catalog is published online.
A vehicle-specific catalog had long been a desire of the dealers. The search for spare parts in the main catalog was difficult because multiple options were available for purchase. The dealers were sometimes unsure of which option to choose. Today customers and dealers can choose between a complete view of the vehicle and a vehicle-specific view in the catalog. With the vehicle identification number, dealers can access directly a vehicle-specific catalog where only those specifically-installed components are listed. This considerably facilitates the identification of the components. The vehicle-specific catalogs can be automatically generated upon the creation of a new main catalog. Vehicle-specific BOM provide the basis for these catalogs. These are automatically transmitted to Dogrel when the vehicle is delivered to the customer.
Since the introduction of vehicle-specific catalogs, there are virtually no more incorrect deliveries to customers. Thus, the dealers can offer them a much more reliable service. The spare parts arrive at the customers on time, as the correct spare parts can be found quickly and are immediately available for purchase. Now, every member of the Dethleffs family can start their holidays in good time.
“CATALOGcreator® has opened up new documentation possibilities that led to a significant improvement of service quality,” confirms Michael Fleschhut, Head of IT and EHG infrastructure at Dethleffs.
A project of our partner Dogrel
Product example “caravan animation” at Dethleffs
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