Digital transformation Dec 15, 2015 8:30 AM
Materials Services sets standards in digital materials distribution
thyssenkrupp Materials Services is rolling out mature online solutions for materials distribution in the European market: The market leader operates three online shops for existing and new customers to push ahead the digital transformation. “The time is ripe to make our digital solutions available also in Europe. Enterprises and customers are thinking increasingly digitally, and day-to-day cooperation is becoming more and more networked. This digitalization improves the basis for business and makes processes much easier,” explains Hans-Josef Hoss, member of the Executive Board of Materials Services.
Based on a dual approach for both existing and new customer groups, Materials Services provides its customers with tailor-made solutions matched to their respective requirements:
Existing customer groups (B2B)
The Materials Services online portal will initially grant online access to framework contracts and the corresponding inventories, document downloads and the use of defined product catalogues. These catalogues already comprise over 15,000 products and are available to users online. Full e-commerce functionality will follow in 2016.
B2B customers can additionally use the Online Processing Shop to have blanks fully automatically cut to size according to CAD drawings.
New customer groups (B2C)
Under the name of “materials4me”, the new online retail shop will among other things offer small businesses and end users products in small batches in standard lengths and bespoke short lengths. Building on many years’ experience in the US online business, this second brand will open up promising market potential for Materials Services to reach target groups such as the skilled trades and do-it-yourselfers now also in Europe. In the USA, Materials Services has operated in this market segment since 2007. About 65,000 products are currently available to these new customer groups.
The online solutions will successively be rolled out in the individual European countries and will be customized to each individual market. First launched in the USA, the portal for existing customers is now also available in Germany. Benelux will follow in February 2016, Denmark and Sweden in April and Switzerland in June 2016.
The UK, a market characterized by strong digital affinity, already offers end customers access to “materials4me”. This market will be followed by Spain in February and Germany in April. Other European countries in which Materials Services is active already will be added gradually.
A smooth roll-out is ensured by the existing IT infrastructure, where the company benefits from its long-standing SAP expertise. The system is already designed to handle up to 10,000 users and cover over 30 countries. Add to this a comprehensive logistic and warehouse network at some 480 locations in over 40 countries. This size and the established know-how will allow Materials Services to ensure continuous support of the online channels.
As the connecting link between production and processing, Materials Services focuses its digital strategy among other things on lean and IT-supported automation, better plant utilization and more precisely matched workflows. On this basis, the purchasing and sales processes can be optimized going forward.
“Our aim is to outgrow the market. This is possible only if we consistently implement efficient, cost-effective and customer-oriented digital solutions. Our online solutions are already being used by more than 90,000 customers, and we already receive over 150,000 orders per year. These figures show that we are on the right track and can expect strong growth in the coming years,” says Hans-Josef Hoss. Materials Services intends to re-invest the growth resulting from digitalization in the market, while at the same time making jobs competitive for the future.
This strategic approach underlines Materials Services’ deep understanding of the market to provide its customers with efficient, reliable and customer-oriented offerings. To live up to this objective also in future, the company has anchored digitalization within the organization as a business strategy and not merely as an IT strategy. Future solutions will thus be developed jointly with the customers.
The digital transformation at Materials Services is complemented by a change management process to ensure that the company’s employees embrace the digital change.
About Materials Services
With about 480 locations in more than 40 countries, the Materials Services business area specializes in materials distribution, logistics and services, the provision of technical services as well as services for industrial plants and steel mills. In addition to rolled steel, stainless steel, tubes and pipes, nonferrous metals, specialty materials and plastics, Materials Services also offers services from processing and logistics to warehouse and inventory management through to supply chain and project management.