H-P Products is a manufacturer of residential floor care and industrial tubing products based in Ohio, USA. H-P brand names include METFLO and VACUFLO. LANSA Business partner United Computer Group helped H-P build H-P's first dealer Web site with LANSA Commerce Edition in just two weeks. While each H-P business division has its own independent dealer network, each now has separate dealer Web sites run on the same iSeries that integrate in real-time with H-P's MAPICS core system.
Bob Arnold, MIS director at H-P Products, says, "We aim to significantly increase our business with the same number of people. Within three months we got one out of eight orders online. That is not a bad start. Now, just a month later, thanks to a promotion for the Vac.office site, over a quarter of this month's vacuum dealers volume is online."
"We were looking to grow the business while maintaining the same head count," continues Arnold. "Our central vacuum dealers send us fax and phone orders that need to be keyed in and we receive a lot of phone calls regarding the status of orders and shipments. We realized that we had to provide a method to bring orders automatically into the system as well as allow self-service for our dealers."
"Our floor care and tubing divisions handle three separate business units, each with different distribution channels, different requirements and using different methodologies for ordering parts. Since the three divisions operate in different markets, they were each about to choose their own Web vendor."
"We only have a small IT team, and even if we could free-up some time, we didn't think we had the skills in-house to build a Web site ourselves. So, our marketing people started to look for outside services. They wanted to have something up and running within two months"
"The sheer volume of data that we would be pumping out in three different data sets was going to be very difficult to manage. It would be difficult enough to refresh the data for just one Web site on a daily basis. We started looking for an integrated solution to meet the needs of all divisions."
United Computer Group (UCG), a LANSA business partner with a long relationship with H-P, advised H-P to consider LANSA Commerce Edition. James A. Kandrac, Managing Director of UCG says, "Why outsource to NT and Unix vendors if you run all your business from the AS/400? LANSA had a lot more functionality to offer and could integrate directly with H-P's MAPICS solution on their AS/400. After learning that LANSA Commerce Edition had all the building blocks already assembled to reduce the application delivery time, the case for LANSA was even stronger."
"We decided to develop the Web sites ourselves with LANSA Commerce Edition," says Arnold. "By now there was less than two months till go-live date."
With the help of UCG, H-P developed its first dealer Web site in two weeks. "It almost looked too good to be true," says Arnold. We had our first functioning dealer Web site in about two weeks. Then it took another two weeks to get it exactly how we wanted it. Now, just a few months later, we have three sites live."
"With LANSA we can bring an idea quickly to the Web, and we can do so with our own development staff. The fact that we were able to stay well within the limits of an already tight timetable was very convincing to our marketing people."
"We followed a LANSA training course and now we are doing our own development. LANSA is pretty straightforward and easy to use."
H-P's Vacuflo floorcare dealer site offers order entry and inquiry, shipped orders with carrier tracking, a product catalogue, a personal catalogue with a subset of regularly purchased items, inventory inquiry, serial number inquiry, warranty registration and inquiry, online technical reference information and email. The other sites offer similar functionality, but the business rules are specific to each site.
"Our distribution channel is over forty years old, so we have a very deep relationship with most of our dealers. As we bring on the new distribution channels, we can vary the access we give, especially to technical information. And a dealer can assign different access levels to their own staff."
We developed our first dealer Web site in two weeks
"Over a quarter of this month's vacuum dealers volume is online. The percentage of online sales is steadily increasing, and the number of online inquiries quickly picking up as well," continues Arnold.
"Over 40% of the Web orders are placed outside normal business hours. This is great, because one of our goals is to extend dealer loyalty by allowing them to do business with us any way they want and at the time they want to do business."
"There is no human interaction between the dealer placing an online order and our shipping department. Orders are automatically entered into our system to be picked almost immediately. The process is very smooth and efficient."
"We now have time to focus on expanding distribution channels."
"The Web site helps us to better communicate with new and existing dealers. We want them to be focused on our product. This means we need to make doing business with us as easy as possible and to give access to the latest available information."
"The site gives us the ability to personalize our service, because we can assign exclusive access rights and business rules to the various dealer groups. For example, we may have exclusive arrangements regarding delivery times and freight costs."
"Our Web sites integrate in real-time with our core MAPICS system. The sites physically share data files with MAPICS. There is no need to refresh data. The Web just provides a different window to the same information."
"LANSA really brought us light years ahead of where we were going. We would probably have needed an additional person to oversee the Web administration, just to handle the data transfers. That person would have to be versed in several different platforms. And we are avoiding the costs of external hosting services. I don't have a quantifiable number for that, but I do know that we have greatly reduced costs by moving development and hosting in-house."
Over 40% of the Web orders are placed outside normal business hours
Asked about H-P IT plans for the future, Arnold explains, "We are looking to implement an extranet to our suppliers. That will allow them to assist us in managing our inventory. We are trying to make transactions with our suppliers as easy as possible. In doing so, we estimate to free up the time of at least five people in our procurement office for more productive tasks."
"We have a B2C site that is hosted by a third party that is very difficult to manage and costly to maintain. Probably we are going to pull that site in-house. We want to consolidate any Web sites we have and put them under the LANSA umbrella."
"We are also looking at using LANSA for employee self service, sales force support, product configuration in our engineering section."
"Last but not least we can use LANSA for rapid green-screen development and replacement. For example, we could upgrade MAPICS modules to become GUI across the board, but it is very cost prohibitive to do that. We have over 130 internal MAPICS users and we don't have the resources to put Power Architecture on everybody's desk. We think we can provide a thin Web client solution with LANSA for a fraction of the cost," concludes Arnold.
Company and System Information
- H-P Products, family owned since 1945, fabricates tubing for air systems applications specializing in the Pneumatic Conveying, Industrial Vacuum and Carrier Pneumatic industries. H-P brand names include METFLO and VACUFLO.
- H-P employs 350 people and has two manufacturing plants and a corporate office in Louisville, Ohio.
- H-P's 130 internal MAPICS users and three external Web sites all run from a single AS/400 model 720 2062.
- For more information visit www.hpproducts.net