March 21, 2011

CAD Assisted Sale Reinforced by Engineering On-Demand

It bothers us to look for a part we need only to find the manufacturer's web site with little information about the product. Dead-end sites like that waste time of a development engineer, yet reluctantly will he/she pick up the phone and call the vendor asking for a sales rep. Hours, days will go by before some answers whether the part meets the specification and cost budget. And hopefully there are CAD models of the product, so the engineer does not have to recreate a part. More progressive sites present a PDF file for download making it a bit easier to answer questions in preparation for a design review. Which is why we love using McMaster-Carr where most information is instantly available.

Engineers are the tenacious people, they like to poke, take apart, consider "what if", and above all - they like to find answers. This is exactly what progressive OEM catalogs do - enable their users, the engineers, find the products, research the product, its alternatives and related products, get tangible data such as CAD files, get an instant quote and of course, buy the damn thing as needed.

According to a study by ThomasNet, an early integration of a vendors part's CAD model into the final Bill of Material (BOM) results in a sale of that product with an 80 percent statistical certainty. This is a very high success rate, just based on putting the CAD models out there, into the hands of end users - the buying public, decision-making development engineers. Imagine what happens if an OEM online catalog is reinforced by the manufacturer's sales engineer standing by to work with the buying engineer. This is a very powerful approach to modern industrial sales.

Development engineers are under pressure to meet their deadlines, their projects are increasingly more complex and these folks have little time to reverse engineer somebody else's product only to create a CAD model to fit into their own designs.

Interactive online catalogs where an engineer can quickly find the part, learn about it, get its CAD files are very likely to be the trend in the near future. Back that up with engineering support and you have a wining combo for OEM product sales. Yet, how come we have so many dead-end web sites created by manufacturers of their products, where the buyer, at best, can find a data sheet in a PDF format with some contact information? What is the point of all the flash, animation when the buyer cannot find the product or get the product data?

A simple reality is engineers do not look for web sites or manufactures; they look for products. Unfortunately majority of manufacturers' web sites are dead-end. Perhaps manufacturers have a fear of providing CAD files and a fear of listing the price. This is common for a request for quotation (RFQ) process taking a week, which is ridiculous for a part that costs $167 dollars. The RFQ is more expensive than the product itself. No wonder we have a problem with long lead times and inefficient product pricing. I submit that taking advantage of the McMaster distribution model will speed up product development cycles and secure a sale of OEM products for a progressive manufacturer.