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AMP adds 3-D parts to its Web catalog

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When it comes to offering detailed information on a Web site, AMP Inc. is a specialist, going so far as to offer 3-D models of AMP parts for its engineer customers.

Since January 1996, the Harrisburg, Pa.-based developer and manufacturer of electronic/electrical interconnection devices has been giving its customers access to information on 90,000 products through its sophisticated online catalog.

"Our aim is to provide the fastest and most comprehensive information to our customers, and the electronic catalog has proven to be a very effective means of doing so," says James E. Marley, chairman of the $5 billion-a-year company. "Our success is very encouraging."

To set up the best site possible, AMP first did extensive interviews with its customers regarding the kind of online content, layout and interactivity they wanted.

MORE THAN 90,000 PRODUCTS

The result is a site that enables any customer from virtually anywhere in the world to search for more than 90,000 products -- alphabetically, by product picture or by part number.

Key to the site's popularity is its Step Search, a versatile online search engine that allows users to drill down for a particular part by answering a few, highly specific questions.

Co-developed by AMP staff and Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Saqqara Systems, the system enables users to search for parts quickly without having to wade through the multiple screens of unrelated data.

"One of the primary advantages of Step Search is that it enables a user to dynamically build a result -- rather than simply offering a yes or no answer," says Jim Kessler, AMP's Harrisburg-based director of global electronic commerce.

The site also offers engineers 3-D models of more than 6,000 AMP parts that they can quickly download on the fly and incorporate directly into their own designs.

MODELS SAVE WORK

That kind of 3-D model accessibility is nothing less than a godsend for engineers working in 3-D, according to Mr. Kessler, who says engineers would otherwise have to create each of the 3-D models of themselves.

Adds Thea C. Hocker, a Harrisburg-based AMP spokeswoman: "Customers have indicated that the availability of 3-D models can save up to two days of design work for each model they download."

Indeed, 3-D model availability was the most requested addition to the AMP Web site, Ms. Hocker says, and the company has plans to upgrade the service by offering to design 3-D models of additional parts on demand.

Another major site perk is that it's multilingual. Since the site launched in January 1996, users have been able to log onto the electronic catalog in any of five languages -- English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. During the past year, AMP has added Japanese, Mandarin Chinese and South Korean.

Ms. Hocker says AMP turned to Lucent Technologies for translation software and consulting, at a cost of about $100,000. "We were able to cut translation costs significantly after we realized that each word only had to be translated into another language once -- rather than each time it appeared in text," she says.

STAFFING THE SITE

To staff the site, AMP has four, full-time information technology workers dedicated to the site, and eight part-timers.

Ms. Hocker says the initial setup costs for the site were around $1 million for database creation, along with ongoing help from in-house information technology staff.

PAPER COSTS REDUCED

While AMP has yet to quantify overall savings and additional business generated by the site, Ms. Hocker says she has seen a 40% reduction in paper costs since the site went live.

"Our users have seen that the site reduces the cost of sales, facilitates around-the-clock transactions, and most importantly adds another channel to market," she says.

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