How Dell Uses DAM

Jul 01, 2001 9:30 PM  By

With annual sales of $31.89 billion, Dell Computer Corp. is the country’s top-selling cataloger, according to the Catalog Age 100. So you’d think that the Austin, TX-based company would have a state-of-the-art digital asset management (DAM) system in place. Instead, Dell chooses to outsource its asset management.

Actually, Dell outsources all of its catalog creative and production. The manufacturer/marketer believes that specialized agencies can create catalogs quicker and more efficiently than an inhouse team — and in the volatile computer market, the ability to rush to market with the most up-to-date product information and pricing is critical. So Dell uses Austin-based direct marketing company T3 (which stands for “The Think Tank”) to create and produce the catalogs for its small-business division — the second-largest unit within the company.

Last September, T3 hired New York-based Database Publishing Consultants Inc. (DPCI) to create a DAM system for Dell that incorporates QuarkDMS with Oracle. Prior to the integration of the DAM software, says Neil Moore, marketing manager for Dell’s small-business division, images were stored by the people who had worked on the specific catalog in which they were used. In other words, only those involved with a particular edition of the catalog would have access to the images or even know how to locate them. Now both Dell and T3 have access to the repository containing all the print and Web catalog assets such as photographs, fonts, copy blocks, and pricing information.

While T3 manages the assets inhouse, Dell’s marketing product managers for each product line can now input information into the DAM repository and export images as well. This dual access to the system allows Dell to repurpose images to its small-business units worldwide, Moore says. In fact, he adds, the cost and time savings on photography alone is significant enough to justify the investment in the DAM system. (Neither Dell nor T3 would disclose how much the system cost to create or implement.)

Dell and T3 are saving more than photography costs, though. T3 estimates that with the DAM software in place, it can produce a Dell catalog and post content on the cataloger’s Website using 5% fewer people. And according to T3 president Gay Gaddis, DAM has sliced the length of the catalog production cycle by 20%. Whereas it used to take nearly eight weeks for T3 to produce a typical Dell book, now it takes just six weeks. “What you ultimately gain is a tighter, more efficient production cycle with minimal repetition and waste,” Gaddis says.

For instance, it used to take a week and a half of prepress time just to input the new prices for each catalog, Gaddis says, a task that now takes mere minutes. At the same time, the system helps reduce the chance of error inherent in manually inputting data. The DAM software can recognize a price change across all channels and catalog editions and make the change consistent without manual entry.

The need to change prices up to the last minute, in fact, spurred T3 to seek a DAM system. “Dell faced a huge issue of delay in final commitment to pricing,” Gaddis says, “and that made us take a long look at pricing for the future and really zero in on an effective DAM provider.”

DAM also helps Dell meet its goal of creating more versions without raising costs, Gaddis says. And T3 now does most of the prepress versioning itself, saving more manhours at the printer.

T3 estimates that the DPCI software (and the adaptation of Oracle in order to be compatible with a DAM system that uses QuarkDMS) will pay for itself within 18 months. “From that point, Dell will begin to see the true savings from reduced T3 staff dedicated to Dell and from reduced prepress time,” Gaddis says.

For more on digital asset management, read “Your New Technology” from the July 2000 issue of Catalog Age.

Don’t have a copy of that issue at hand? You can check it out (along with other past issues) at the Catalog Age Website at www.CatalogAgemag.com