GLOBAL INDUSTRIAL of Port Washington, NY (a division of Systemax Inc.), is a leading provider of industrial equipment. In business for half a century, the firm supplies private-label product in significant volume directly from third-party manufacturers. About two years ago, Global began a great leap forward. Its 2003 revenue spiked by more than 30%, partly because of a 200% surge in Internet sales.
Jeff Gregory, vice president of Global Industrial, attributes this extraordinary record of growth to the development of a revolutionary software package designed to lubricate the wheels of business-to-business e-commerce. Built by Systemax from the ground up and christened “ProfitCenter Software” (PCS), the solution takes much of the pain out of online purchasing and fulfillment.
“PCS has created a powerful sales force automation, product management, order processing, and Web commerce application,” Gregory explains. “We at Global can now say without exaggerating that we provide the best and easiest online shopping experience currently available in the industrial equipment marketplace.”
While its Web business still adds only 10% to Global’s total annual sales revenue, the recent increase in Internet trade has helped swell the company’s profit margins by more than 4%. Currently, Global’s e-commerce side is in a growth spurt described by Gregory as “logarithmic.” O+F recently spoke with him about this cutting-edge online enterprise and how its partnership with PCS is changing the face of its Web-based commerce.
GEN Y COMES OF AGE PCS is not solely responsible for Global’s booming Net business, Gregory concedes. E-commerce is exploding not just in the United States, but worldwide, thanks to widespread Internet usage by the teenagers dubbed “Generation Y.” A Net-savvy demographic with millions of hours already logged online, Generation Y has been computer literate since childhood, and now is helping to bring the golden age of e-commerce to fruition.
The quality of e-commerce software and the skill level of those who use it have advanced together, Gregory says. By 2002, Systemax had decided it was time to leave the old standards in the dust. The company developed a new, proprietary application with the hope of maximizing the effectiveness and ease of use of its online ordering and fulfillment operation.
“PCS is built around a single database,” Gregory explains. “Older, legacy-based e-commerce solutions employ multiple software systems for different functions. This is a major handicap. You have to keep a lot of employees busy updating such a system, and the error potential is very high, because you’re dealing with cross-system operations. With the single-database PCS, you don’t encounter such problems, and function-wise everything becomes easier and a good deal more efficient.”
This arrangement has made life more comfortable for both sellers and buyers. On the seller side, Global’s inside sales reps get a complete view of the entire operation via their computer monitors, and because PCS is interactive, they get up to speed on the system much faster than they would on a legacy-based solution. The PCS program links directly to the Web, providing much greater access to product information. The system automatically upsells, cross-sells, and sends alerts when customers fail to order necessary add-ons. According to Gregory, these features reduce order placement time by as much as 30%, and limit the number of post-sale service issues resulting from misplaced orders or operator error.
THE BETTER TO SERVE YOU Efficiencies are realized from the moment a sales rep answers the phone, Gregory says. The software is integrated with Global’s telephone system and programmed to monitor call quality on a minute level. This is a quantum leap beyond the abilities of most legacy-based solutions, whose tracking talents are pretty much limited to talk time and abandonment and closing rate.
“PCS has a built-in quoting tool that can fire off product information, including images, at the moment of a customer’s request,” Gregory notes. “The quoting function also serves as an important marketing tool, because with it we can see what items people are requesting quotes on, how many quotes we’re closing, and how many are pending. When an item gets a lot of quotes, it tells you it’s becoming popular in the marketplace. You can raise your price on some items, and earn greater revenues.”
ADD VALUE The PCS system can provide information relating to one or all of Global’s 60,000 SKUs in mere seconds. It can also expeditiously sort inventory data by dollar volume sold, gross profit, margins of profit, or any other criteria desired.
The Global-PCS partnership has hugely enhanced the efficiency of every facet of the operation, Gregory says, including the hardware and software solutions in operation in the warehouse. Because every element of the operation is linked by means of a single database, the company experiences very few problems relating to efficiency. There are no bottlenecks to speak of, no wrenches in the works. The PCS system keeps everything on track and moving at top speed.
According to Gregory, PCS is itself a value-added service. Thanks to the system, customers can manage their own accounts using Global’s extranet. With a click of a mouse they can learn all they need to know about orders in progress, payables pending, and any other matter relating to their account for which they require an update. Purchasing decisions are eased as well by virtue of buyer-friendly online catalog features such as multi-image and zoom.
Gregory emphasises that PCS has streamlined Global’s entire operation. “The system has added efficiency to every segment of our business,” he says. “On the rare occasions that something does get messed up, it has made extremely rapid repairs possible. Customers remember you kindly for that, and making friends of your customers is what being in business should be all about.”
D. Douglas Graham is a freelance writer based in St. Louis, MO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emphasis on Automation
Global Industrial’s four shipping centers are equipped with a mighty arsenal of material handling hardware, software, and accessories. Included are a Hytrol model 190SPEZ zero-pressure accumulating conveyor, an Ermanco metering and sortation conveyor, and an Imtradex AG mobile pallet rack system. Global’s fleet of mobile material handling equipment is just as impressive — turret forklifts from Raymond Corp. and Crown Equipment, swing-reach fork trucks by Drexel Industries, and reach forklifts by Crown Equipment. Global also uses a Symbol Technologies Spectrum24 ® 2Mbps, a wireless communications system based on RF technology. “Probably the most impressive piece of technology we have is our ProfitCenter Software system,” says Global Industrial vice president Jeff Gregory. “The system controls everything both in and outside our four warehouses at a level of efficiency we didn’t even dare dream about before deployment.”
Headquarters: Port Washington, NY
Web site: www.globalindustrial.com
Revenue: (Combined with Systemax Inc.) $1.7 billion in 2003
Distribution centers: Port Washington, NY; Suwannee, GA; Naperville, IL; Compton, CA
Combined size: More than one million sq. ft. (all four DCs)
Total employees: 397
Volume: 3,500 per day
Affiliates: More than 25, including Amazon.com, Yahoo Shopping, PriceGrabber.com, MSN Shopping, and BizRate