One of the most surprising benefits to spring from Biolab Scientific’s e-commerce site has been a reduction in errors and consequent credits to clients, says e-commerce manager Rik Walkley.
Auckland-based Biolab, which provides scientific instrumentation, equipment, supplies and chemicals to research, industrial, clinical, educational and biotechnology markets, set up an e-commerce site 15 months ago. The site is an online purchasing system integrated with the company’s back-end system.
The initiative has brought a variety of benefits:
Walkley has been surprised that it has resulted in greater accuracy. “Most companies have some error rate in their system. We were crediting around 3% to 3.5% of our invoices because there was a problem where the goods weren’t appropriate or where there was a pricing error, for example. It’s been a zero credit rate on Internet ordering. ”
The site enables a 24x7 operation. Orders were coming in on January 3 this year as well as in the middle of the night.
Reducing the number of transaction steps reduces transaction time and costs. It saves staff having to take orders by phone or fax, identifying products with part numbers, loading orders and advising customers of lead-time information.
The number of telephone calls requesting lead-time information or copies of invoices has been reduced. Customers can place orders, view real-time stock availability and client-specific pricing, create template orders for repetitive orders, view invoices they’ve transacted with Biolab and orders they’ve placed over the past 12 months and view back-order reports.
The system recognises different companies and also the levels of access of individuals within those companies. Access to the site is via a password.
The site was built by Glazier Systems (now part of the Advantage Group). Walkley says Biolab formed a working group with three of its main clients to understand their needs.
Those clients and others were consulted once the site was operating.
Walkley says there have been minor hurdles along the way including having to “smarten up” what were once internal systems.
For example, when Biolab’s database of products was only viewed internally, staff could use abbreviations, but that had to change when clients gained access.
Also, lead-time information accuracy of about 60 wasn’t accurate enough for the Web and is now up to about 97%, says Walkley.
The site is hosted at Biolab in Albany and runs on a Unix server with an SQL database.
Security is important and the system uses a firewall. However, it’s not a secure site (ie it’s not encrypted). “We don’t feel it’s necessary because we’re not doing financial transactions via the site. ”
Biolab already holds information on customer accounts and credit cards so those details do not need to go over the site.
Get senior management buy-in. “Management from the top down have to recognise it as a way they want to do business.”
Be selective about choosing who prepares the site for you and make sure they are appropriate for your business.
Allocate resources to manage the site and keep it fresh.
Developers: Glazier Systems
Technology: Unix server with an SQL database
Hosting: Biolab in Albany