Looking for an example of the much-vaunted "German Mittelstand" – Germany's mid-sized companies known as the national economy's driving force – Wuppertal-based company STAHLWILLE is a perfect example. With 600 employees at five locations in Germany, the tool manufacturer produces hand and special tools for industrial, automotive, and aerospace customers. The company delivers its high-quality products that are partly specially made for individual customers to over 90 countries. STAHLWILLE thus operates with an export share of over 60% of its turnover.
Demanding objectives for the project
To maintain and further expand their export share, it was necessary to provide a solid technical basis for the company's print catalog production that already had an international set-up. In early 2005, STAHLWILLE began to explore the technical solutions offered for concurrently managing product data in any language. They were looking for a solution which – in addition to the automatic creation of printed catalogs – was particularly well suited to use electronic output channels. In technical jargon this desired effect is referred to as "Single Source Marketing" – in other words: one data source serves many output media.
Fig.: Stahlwille's product catalog on the Web
"We wanted to replace our catalog software that was tailored mainly to printing with a new product that would also allow the easy creation of data exchange formats such as BMEcat or Nexmart-XML format, which widely used in our industry. In addition, our customers worldwide should be able to find products in our extensive product range via the Internet and in the CD ROM catalog," explained Frank Suhr, Head of Advertising & Communication at STAHLWILLE Group.
PIM software for a clean database
After extensive market analysis, STAHLWILLE decided to purchase the Web-based Product Information Management System SEPIA PIM in late 2005.
"We wanted to avoid getting lost in a lengthy software project – instead, we wanted to purchase a reliable software package that can be implemented quickly and ensures our competitiveness in the area of marketing communications also into the future. The system should additionally be modularly expandable to also meet future requirements quickly and reliably. In addition, as far as software services were concerned, sought to be served by an innovative company with a dynamic team and international experience," emphasized Suhr.
Besides the intuitive operation by own staff and the external agency responsible for the creation of international catalogs, com: com, the PIM software offers the company another advantage: product data can be entered once, centralized and in German, and then translated into the languages of the target markets via the Internet. The result is a 100% up-to-date data base in currently 14 languages.
If the technical data for a product change or new products are added, the translation can be immediately initiated by all country affiliates via the existing translation workflow. This makes sure that the data base for all country affiliates is always "in sync".
Marketing supports international sales at the push of a button
Assuming that the marketing department's activities should be chiefly creative and only then have an administrative character, STAHLWILLE have perfected this approach: Marketing delivers any product information to the international sales organization in almost all popular formats at the push of a button.
Tje Stahlwille product catalog in 15 languages.
If the sales department, for example, requires a certain selection of products as a CD ROM catalogue, it can be delivered within a short time. The marketing of STAHLWILLE is thus able to fulfill the requirements of their sales colleagues without stress – and creates free space for creative thinking through the high degree of automation.
Web shops as franchise
"After the first objectives were achieved remarkably quickly, a Web-based proposal management and an online shop solution should be implemented in the second phase of the project. The special feature of the shop is that any number of different systems can be automatically set up. Additionally, the shop is used on a franchise basis – i.e., we enable the systems and the sales organizations in the different countries virtually use the data and software as a service," explained Suhr.
This means that STAHLWILLE provides the software infrastructure and the product data base for its international sales organizations and sales partners online to use it for their own customized Internet shop systems. If a country affiliate wants to set up an online ordering facility for their customers, a so-called "Web service" is enabled for this affiliate in a central location. This Web service includes a complete B2B Web shop including the STAHLWILLE product portfolio in the respective national language.
The country affiliate can now include its customer base including pricing conditions into the system via synchronizations with the country-specific CRM systems. As soon as a regional customer is activated in the system, its product selection and customer-specific conditions are displayed and billed when the B2B Web shop is accessed.
Four months to reach the target
"The results speak for themselves: with Sepia PIM, we have implemented all objectives in only four months. We now have tools at hand that enable us to provide innovative marketing services. And we view this as a real competitive advantage – already through the time and cost savings alone and the high-quality information that we can provide for all of our target groups and regions and for print and online at the same time," Frank Suhr concluded.
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