Panasonic Australia is set to launch its e-business solution for its 150-strong dealers and distributor network, enabling faster fulfilment and trackable orders for its channel partners.
The new system, e-Pan, is being piloted by selected partners and will be available to all Panasonic dealers, including about 2000 retail stores, by December. Graham Day, director of Panasonic Australia, says the new strategy will cut lead times by up to 50 per cent and reduce the amount of stock retailers have to hold.
"At the moment, we order stock from Japan six months in advance," says Day. "If we can reduce that, the industry gains by having the right product at the right time without having to hold stock. This improves the supply-chain process and creates efficiencies all the way down."
Key functions of the e-Pan system will include the ability to streamline product orders by placing them online in real-time, as well as extensive product information, model searches, stock status and pricing, and a support system with online help and communication.
"The reseller has 24 x 7 access with e-Pan, as opposed to the current 9-5 restrictions. It means they can run their businesses the way they want to," says Day. "For retailers, placing orders within business hours means lost selling time, and if they have to meet with sales reps it could become a lengthy process. By eliminating these back-end office expenses, the reseller stands to make significant gains. Now he can start building an order in the morning and suspend it until the end of the day before sending it off all in one hit."
Panasonic intends to use its e-business offering to gather information from channel partners on sales and service, which will allow the manufacturer to interpret trends and adjust local and international factory ordering accordingly. "A key objective is to obtain sell-through' information, which allows more precise and immediate reporting on every model sold through a dealer," says Day.
The e-Pan solution operates on an IBM platform and has been six months in the building. With a Jaywalk software application provided by Seagull, Day estimates the pure costs to be about $150,000, "plus a lot of time and labour".
According to Day, the e-business strategy is considered an integral part of Panasonic's three-year business plan. The company is touting ambitious projections that will see 50 per cent of all orders taken electronically by April 2001, the organisation's next fiscal period.
Day believes the move is "revolutionary" for an operation which previously took all orders and stock requests via fax or phone. Automation alone will enable the company to cut industry transaction costs by up to 50 per cent.
"The industry transaction cost to run an invoice is about $35-40," explains Day. "When you're talking about 600,000 transactions a year it starts to move up into serious figures."
The site has already recorded over $650 million in sales in the last financial year and shipped around 1.8 million units.