Using Hydromat's HSLdirect, end users view a complete window of their account activity — order tracking, part tracking, and more — on-line at any time.
Shops competing in a JIT environment know the frustration of waiting for a machine or component to arrive. Checking the status of an order usually means that they're in for a lot of phone calls and faxes — sometimes just to find the right person to supply the correct information. But a new on-line service is making it easy to get through to one machine builder 24/7/365.
HSLdirect is an Internet-based, customer-driven search engine from Hydromat Inc., a St. Louis-based manufacturer of precision transfer machines. It lets shops access account information such as order tracking, part tracking, spare parts and repairs, open invoices, and payment history. According to Carl Milligan, director of information systems at Hydromat, "The way HSLdirect works is relatively simple. A customer logs onto the Hydromat web page, selects HSLdirect from the options, enters his password, and then has a complete window on his entire account activity."
A shop can check an open order, for instance. "A customer places an order for a new component," explains Milligan, "and wants to know its status the next day. He logs onto HSLdirect, finds the order, and then drills down to look at the actual packing slip." With this information, the end user can validate that the right component will be shipped as well as how it will be shipped. Links to FedEx and UPS web pages provide tracking status.
Access to account information is only phase one of HSLdirect. Phase two, HSLdirect Storefront, lets end users order parts. "Our motive in establishing an HSLdirect Storefront is to provide added value to our customers," Milligan says. "A customer logs onto HSLdirect, goes to the Store-front, enters a part number, selects the mode of shipment, selects the mode of payment, hits send, and the transaction is complete. The next thing he knows, the part is at his plant."
Before taking the step to e-commerce, however, Hydromat had to address its internal enterprise resource planning (ERP) requirements. "The selection of a software supplier to fulfill our needs was not easy," Milligan says. The company eventually selected Vantage ERP software by Epicor Software Corp., Minneapolis, because of its system flow, architecture, and the traceability of information throughout the system. In addition, Hydromat has entered into full part-nership with Epicor to jointly explore future e-commerce potential for Hydro-mat and Epicor's other partners.