Design firms should draw on Web

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Design and engineering companies should be able to gain a competitive advantage by making their industrial drawings more widely distributed by electronic means, according to a new study. The research also shows that b-to-b spending has begun to revolve around real production, as opposed to paper clips, said Tina Gaffney, director-marketing research at Thomas Register of American Manufacturers, New York, which sponsored the study.

The company found that marketing executives at design and engineering companies must find ways to market themselves to as many industrial drawing libraries as possible, or face the prospect of inferior customer service and lost revenue opportunities.

The study, conducted by Marketing Research Group L.L.C., Rocky Hill, Conn., focuses on Thomas Register’s PartSpec and PlantSpec brands of CD-ROM and Internet industrial parts libraries. The study—conducted in early 2001—found that parts specified electronically were equivalent to a run rate of $5.7 billion. Just released, the data also show that b-to-b production spending far eclipses piecemeal maintenance repair and operation (MRO) spending. For example, $4.3 billion was spent on systems used in manufacturing a product while $1.4 billion was spent on MRO.

The study found exactly 50% of all parts for upcoming products are specified through CD-ROMs and Internet libraries, Gaffney said. The other 50% were selected from stock on hand, through paper-based catalogs and drawings or other means, she said.

The findings prove more clearly than ever that sales and marketing executives at industrial manufacturers need to provide technical product information and computer-aided design (CAD) drawings, Gaffney said. Though electronic delivery of CAD drawings may seem old hat to those involved in the military, automobile or aviation industries, it is bleeding edge for many industries, she said.

Because it can take three to five months, with involvement of special consultants, to transfer a supplier’s products from pen and ink to bits and bytes, marketers should move immediately to make themselves accessible to industrial parts libraries, Gaffney said. "The cost of doing nothing is a lost sale," she said.

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