Racine, WIEveryone knows that engineers rely on the Internet to solve design problems and find suppliers and product specs. The big question is how much they will actually buy on the web.
A major study of Design News readers shows that, while more than 70% of respondents regularly use the web to find technical information they need in design work, less than 20% make purchases of components, materials, and systems online.
Even so, as e-commerce increases in consumer products, more OEM suppliers are setting up online purchase options. Some have chosen to enroll in industry portals that link engineer customers with suppliers who respond to RFQs. Other suppliers are handling their own e-commerce, shipping directly to customers.
However, many suppliers serving OEM engineers have spent years building a distributor network that not only fills orders but provides the technical support engineers often need after the purchase. Typical is Bosch Automation Technology, which recently launched a new e-commerce program for its pneumatics products. "Our decision was not to sell direct," says Karen Ford, senior marketing services manager. "We wanted to partner with our distributors."
While Bosch created the e-commerce option on www. boschat.com, customers order directly from distributor. After entering their zip codes, engineer customers see a list of distributors in their area. They can narrow product choices by following prompts on sizes, capabilities and other characteristics. To get prices, a short registration is required. Typically, customers will receive products within five days.
The program, which began in late January, will embrace all of Bosch's pneumatics line by July 1: filters, regulators, lubricants, valves, actuators, cylinders, tubing, fittings, and flow controls. Among the target applications: packaging equipment, machine tools, plastics fabrication, printing presses, and process machinery.
Besides giving customers more flexibility and faster service, the new venture will give Bosch greater market intelligence, notes Mark Woelfel, product manager for Pneumatics. Since the system tracks every order, Bosch can more easily spot buying trends. Says Woelfel: "We should get a quicker and more reliable picture of who buys our products."