ASH Group manufactures vehicles and devices for municipalities, airports, railways, and agriculture. Thanks to CATALOGcreator®, the innovative software for electronic spare parts catalogs, ASH Group offers its worldwide dealer network and key accounts interactive spare parts catalogs on the web. Users may access approximately 20,000 interactive product catalogs from the last 40 years.
The merger of Swiss Aebi and German Schmidt in 2007 united two well-established groups with a long history under the ASH roof. The company employs 1,580 people around the world and has production plants in Switzerland (Burgdorf), Germany (St. Blasien), the Netherlands (Holten), Poland (Kielce), Norway (Sundebru), and in the USA (Cleveland OH and Lindenwood IL). ASH manufactures state-of-the-art vehicles and devices for these sectors: Municipal technology for winter and summer maintenance, special devices for airports to clean flight-operation areas, and special agricultural devices. The portfolio includes serial products with several hundred units or devices manufactured on customers’ demand and according to their requirements.
Before the start of the project, the company had used printed and PDF catalogs distributed by e-mail or CD to dealers and key accounts for spare part procurement. Orders were mostly placed by e-mail or through the phone. This procedure was laborious and no longer topical. Though part of the group had made initial experience with a simple online solution that featured PDF catalogs, users still had to look up article numbers manually and paste them online to place the order.
“We wanted to provide our dealers and key accounts with a state-of-the-art online solution for spare part orders covering all company sectors: interactive 2D catalogs with an intuitive user interface and an integrated shopping cart,” explains Sven Kloppmann, Head of Spare Parts Sales at ASH, with regards to the most important project objectives. Having scrutinized the market for providers of electronic spare parts catalogs, ASH chose CATALOGcreator® along with TID Informatik GmbH as project partner. One important criterion had been that legacy data integrate easily with the new solution.
CATALOGcreator® includes Hotspot Editor, a useful utility that integrates legacy data. It is capable of processing legacy data for electronic catalogs with relative ease. Hotspot Editor automatically sets hotspots in documents, e.g. PDFs or JPG files and offers post-editing and data-preparation options. In addtion ASH requested that dealers should be able to enter their warranty claims online. TID came up with a solution: It offered its services as general contractor to manage this special requirement in collaboration with a technology partner.
Since 3D CAD construction data for older vehicles and devices was not available, ASH opted for a 2D online spare parts catalog. They started with 2D data for all vehicles and devices produced in the last five years prior to the go live of the new solution. For older products lacking 2D construction data, all existing legacy documents can be accessed from the online catalog. Thanks to the hotspots applied to the legacy data in CATALOGcreator®, identification of spare parts from older products is easy. Users may even find documentation in the online catalog dating back to 1977. Today, ASH group uses a 3D CAD system for construction, thus enabling future use of 3D catalogs for newer vehicles and devices.
TID implemented the warranty claims required by ASH in collaboration with its technology partner Evocom Informationssysteme GmbH. Dealers may now fill out the respective forms online. Apart from the straightforward ordering process of spare parts, this feature offers dealers yet another practical benefit. Following the go live of the new Web solution, another feature was added: the so-called quick input for spare parts. Since dealers and key accounts used to have an article no. before they accessed the catalog, they wished to enter these numbers online and trigger the order on the spot. A downstream process verifies that the entered article numbers exist in SAP and passes them as XML from the quick input utility to SAP using a web service.
Experiences and Outlook
Apart from easy ordering of spare parts in the 2D online catalog for dealers and key accounts, the new electronic spare parts catalog also has an internal benefit: It helped ASH harmonize its processes within the course of the project. Right now, the company is in the process of upgrading to the new version of CATALOGcreator® 2018, including a far more extensive web shop with SAP. Over the medium term, the envisaged web-shop solution will also apply to end-customer business. “Orders of spare parts over the internet will increase, once the next project goals have been achieved, namely: Simplify catalog navigation, implement responsive design and increase the performance by splitting data, and integrate PNG and SVG image files”, assures the Head of Spare Part Sales at ASH. Even technical writers benefit from the solution: they are notified by e-mail, when a catalog is ready.
“The team of TID Informatik GmbH proved to be a highly competent partner providing outstanding consultancy throughout the implementation of the electronic spare parts catalog. TID showed flexibility and a solution-oriented approach regarding new requirements arising in the course of the project,” Sven Kloppmann praises the collaboration. In 2017, ASH offers more than 20,000 online catalogs in eleven languages. Europe is the main sales region, only recently to be joined by the USA.
Across the ASH group, about half of all potential orders on average are placed online. This percentage is highest in Switzerland, where it reaches an amazing 80%. Statistics speak for themselves: More than 100,000 page views to date and over 1,500 B2B customers place their orders in the interactive online spare parts catalog.