GenAlpha’s president explained the problems she saw that led to the founding of GenAlpha. This video is an excerpt from Exit Your Way’s “The Faces of Business” series.
Kris Harrington: When a product left the factory typically it was moving with a static manual that went with it right. So in those days you know for a shovel we had three manuals that went so it was one of three two of three of three and they were these very thick manuals.
Damon Pistulka: Those six-inch thick things that they used to put with equipment.
Kris Harrington: Yeah, so you know these things would ship out when the equipment shipped, and immediately they would be outdated because things are always changing back at the factory. Obsolescence, supersession, upgrades changes those things were very difficult to communicate back to the equipment owner. So what would happen is you’d go visit the mine and you’d sit with that equipment owner and you’d be planning and they would pull out their parts book and they had sticky notes everywhere within these parts books because they were crossing out part numbers, writing the current part number, and you might see three cross-outs because that piece of equipment has been operating for 15 years.
So over the 15 years, they’ve got this old manual, it’s sitting in one area of the business so everybody has to go into it check the manual when they’re looking for things. So that was a big challenging area so they would come in say they needed a part quickly and they didn’t know the part number and answering the question on what part number they needed was a big challenge. So we initially started GenAlpha with the idea of let’s improve that process. Let’s make sure that equipment owners have access to the latest information inside the ERP related to the equipment they own because every piece of equipment is either identified by a serial number, a VIN, a model, something unique that they reference to say this is the product I own, and then they start to describe the problem that they have to help identify what product they need.
So we thought if we could take and there was technology out there available to take bills of materials, 2D and 3D drawings and repurpose them you know reduce the file size introduce some hot-spotting, so some interactive identification of the parts so people could see this visually. So basically turning that static manual into an interactive image where they can look at the 2D drawing and hotspot to it, or interact with a 3D model and just click on the parts within the 3D model and it would tell them in the bill of material which part that is. And the cool thing about that is that through an integration to the ERP you could get the latest update on the changes that have occurred to that part over time. So part number four might be legacy part one two three but the current part number is four five six and through integration, we were able to quickly show that. So that was helping people improve the identification and solve that problem and that was the first problem that we set out to achieve and then once we did that we recognized okay we can repurpose engineering bills and materials 2D 3D drawings we can make this interactive.
We said well we might as well have a button we’re already integrated to the ERP let’s give them price and availability and allow them to add it to their shopping cart. So that’s where eCommerce came in is that we had this eCatalog with eCommerce built around it but it was limited eCommerce at the time and those were the problems we were setting out to achieve. We thought we could ease the process of doing business with a manufacturer by updating this process so that customers were no longer having to go find that one manual that’s old and outdated but rather go to a safe place online with their credentials and just by entering their serial number or their VIN, get full access to the current bill of material. So that was the original goal and design.
Damon Pistulka: And in doing that too you just made the support mobile which is a huge deal especially if you’re working in construction, or mining, or something where you can be all over and carrying a you know six-inch thick binder with you out to a shovel that’s two miles from the maintenance place or whatever you’re doing that all just adds to the complexity. Whereas you know a tablet or a laptop in the right setting is right there beside you to make sure that you found the right things and then if you go beyond it and think about the maintenance and other things that you can help with that same kind of online data it’s a very powerful portal to provide to the end customer which ultimately as you talked about the people around the table to help you sell that system is another person almost sitting at the table that is a dramatic differentiator between you and someone else.
Kris Harrington: It’s a tool that is used by the end-user but there are so many other areas of the business benefiting from it as well. Customer service can use it, technical service, yeah well if a technical service person is standing out at the machine just to your point now they can pull out their tablet be right on that piece of equipment and you know things that we’ve introduced into the product are roles based type of different roles when you log in you get to do different functionality. So a technical service person might not have the authority to buy, but they have the ability to be at the customer’s place of business on that factory floor or in the mining pit looking at the equipment adding the things that they need to their cart under that customer’s account number very quickly turning it into a quote that’s now sent to that maintenance engineer.
So that when they leave the inspection site your quote with the parts that you need for the repair is all in your email and now all that maintenance engineer has to do is maybe send it over to procurement and say please get these out these on order and through this roles-based login, the procurement person logs into the eCommerce site sees the quote because it’s under their account, and they just convert the quote into an order. So the admin for all of that is taken away and now they’ve safely have the parts that they need and can be on their way.