SMC Corp. of America needed a better way to present its complex product information — a method that would supplement its print catalogs and help customers, primarily engineers, do their jobs better.
The world’s largest original equipment manufacturer of pneumatic components, SMC has been making and distributing actuators, valves, compressors, pumps and electrical components since 1959 and selling them to industrial customers worldwide. In the past, SMC annually produced a half million hard-copy catalogs for promoting its more than 8,900 basic products with millions of possible configurations.
But not only were the print books expensive to create, maintain and distribute, they quickly became outdated as new products became available. More importantly, a print catalog, even at its best, couldn’t effectively show all of the details for the full range of product options SMC had available. Each product in an SMC catalog might have hundreds of different iterations based on all the manufacturing specs the purchasing engineers could want — parameters and values such as bore size or stroke.
SMC used to spend $30 a piece to build about 400 custom computer-aided design (CAD) models a month for its customers — amounting to a whopping $12,000 each month in extra expenses. Making matters worse, customers ended up with catalogs comprised of hundreds of pages filled with part numbers and product photos. But to make their design decisions, customers often required more specific data in the form of 2-D and 3-D CAD drawings — thus their need for individualized CAD designs.
“There was no way to show all of these versions in a print catalog,” recalls Steve Hoffer, marketing manager for SMC Corp. of America. “So customers would call their sales reps for help, and oftentimes, custom CAD models would have to be worked out by hand.”
An Online Solution