E-commerce project slashes PC maker's costs

Since developing a B2B e-commerce system to take the 'build to configure' process online three years ago, PC maker Acer has reduced transaction processing costs for a single PC from $65 to $15 per order.

In a tough market with slim margins, Acer's e-business director Desmond Paroz said cost control is critical to staying competitive. For its foray into e-commerce sales, Acer upgraded its ERP system and replaced its paper-based system, which was incapable of tracking the whole build-to-configure process.

Paroz said the B2B e-procurement site, in use at 450 resellers around Australia - including David Jones, Radio Rentals and Ingram Micro - has helped the company exceed its 2003, $100 million sales target by 2 per cent.

He said the site runs on a Novell application server against an Oracle database on Windows 2000.

Acer's previous fulfilment model was such that it imported the motherboard, power supply, floppy drive and case while the rest of the unit was based on the customer's order. But it was a slow process of faxed details and manually re-entry to Acer's ERP system. The paper-based system kept partners waiting anywhere between half an hour to half a day to turn an order around.

Acknowledging that an off-the-shelf product wouldn't fit the bill, Paroz said Acer went with the Novell exteNd application server because it had a more promising roadmap than other offerings such as IBM's WebSphere or BEA's Weblogic.

The system also needed to integrate with Acer's ERP software, which ran on Unix. To link the two systems successfully, project staff had to accurately map the data, which was an intricate task.

Paroz said the use of an application server product supporting the e-commerce system allowed the company to respond quickly to changes in the marketplace such as Gateway's recent exit from the PC space, and to re-engage with the retail market as Acer had been out of that sales channel for years.

"Our partners can now configure a system to customers' specifications in one to five days, whereas this process took up to 10 days before," he said.

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