Warehouses and distribution centers are the backbones of e-commerce operations, but many operate with complicated material handling systems made with an endless number of parts from rollers, belts, motors and bolts spread over miles of conveyors.
If something breaks down, good luck figuring which part needs fixing—and finding the right replacement. The necessary replacement parts can vary widely based on the type and size of components and conveyor beds used near the location of the breakdown. Downtime in warehouses and distribution facilities, meantime, quickly adds to operating costs as conveyors come to a halt, interrupting the flow of packages headed for shipments to customers or to shelves for re-stocking. “When something breaks, it’s really hard for a maintenance engineer to find, say, one bolt on a conveyor belt,” says Sean Cummings, director of e-commerce for Wynparts.com, a replacement parts site operated by material handling systems manufacturer Wynright Corp. Wynright is a wholly owned subsidiary of Daifuku North America Holding Company, a subsidiary of Japan-based Daifuku Co. Ltd.
That challenge led Wynright to develop a part-finding application that blends the design of its material handling systems with a coordinated search application on Wynparts.com. “It helps a customer not have to spend all their time getting the right part,” Cummings says. It also frees up Wynright’s sales and customer service reps from fielding customers’ questions about how to find the right parts, he adds.
Wynright designed its material handling systems with six- to eight-foot sections of conveyor beds, each individually labeled with its own identification code. When a section breaks down, halting the flow of goods, a maintenance engineer at a Wynright customer’s warehouse or distribution center can scan the code for the section needing attention to quickly identify a narrower list of parts from among tens of thousands of SKUs to order a replacement part.
That code-scanning system works together with an online part-finder system Wynright developed that lets the engineer search on Wynparts.com among thousands of SKUs in segments triggered by the UPC code. Wynparts.com customizes inventories of spare parts for each customer, based on the particular configuration of a customer’s materials handling system. The site search lets a buyer view tailored search results based on the particular parts used in his company’s material handling system.
The parts-finding system is one reason why Wynparts.com has been recording annual sales growth of more than 20%, Cumming says. The site carries parts made by other manufacturers as well as those made by Wynright. Wynright took about six months to develop the part-finder system; its e-commerce site runs on the AspDotNetStorefront platform.
Wynparts is also beginning to sell other MRO— or maintenance, repair and operations—supplies like wrenches, power generators and other products that companies need to keep their facilities running properly. It’s working with Milwaukee-based web design and development firm Brilliance Business Solutions to explore additional ways to improve even more how it can engage customers with online content.
The parts-finder system and an educational webinar about it, meantime, are helping to create buzz about Wynparts and increase its site traffic. As useful as the parts finder system is, Cummings says, there are still people at customer sites unfamiliar with it or how it works. “But once they see the webinar and realize how easy it is to find what they’re looking for, that alone gets more people to our site,” he says.
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