PlastiMach (video testimonial)
Plastimach and its subsidiary CNC Router Store had an outdated website and relied on a third-party, external database to manage its inventory and online Quotation process.
As machine brokers, Plastimach needs to be able to quickly respond to quotation requests from website visitors. They also need to be able to post newly acquired inventory on their site quickly and easily to they can sell the machines. With multiple disparate systems, it became cumbersome and time-consuming to add machines to the site and respond to customer queries.
We built a unified custom solution that allows Plastimach and CNC Router Store to quickly and easily add new products to the website and respond quickly to Quotation Requests. The also have an integrated Customer Management function that allows them to manage Companies, Contacts, Machines and Ownership data in a secure, online portal.
The website is here.
Background/The Problem/Project Goals and Objectives
Plastimach is a machine broker to the plastics and industrial manufacturing sector. The firm buys and sells machines, some they own and some on consignment. Their website is a catalog of machines where website visitors request quotes and Plastimach responds with a Quotation to purchase the machine.
The machine inventory process is managed with an external database program from another vendor and the synchronization of that database and the website catalog has continuously been a challenge for Plastimach.
Plastimach also has a sister company and separate website for CNC Router Store that provides similar brokerage services for CNC Routers and Vacuum Pumps. In addition to responding to Quote Requests for machinery, the CNC Router Store also allows direct e-commerce purchases on its website.
The management of Plastimach wanted two new websites with a common back-end admin function to simplify machine inventory management, quotation response management and the quote/ecommerce function.
Our project focused on integrating the existing external database with the website so that Plastimach could terminate its relationship with the external company and save the monthly cost. We wanted to give Plastimach and CNC Router Store a common interface for managing machines in inventory, their ownership, associated quotation history, and sales results.
The public facing websites needed to be easy to navigate and provide a simple way for customers to find the machines they wanted and quickly request a quote.
As a machine broker, Plastimach seeks machines that they can sell on other’s behalf, either by taking ownership of the equipment or selling them on consignment. They needed to make it easy for website visitors to submit a machine, along with its details, for Plastimach to sell.
The external database contained the companies, contacts and associated history for the entities Plastimach and CNC had done business with over the years. In order to stop using that external resource, we needed to integrate that data into the new website and provide the tools to manage, query and act on the data.
Process and Insight
We spent a great deal of time interviewing Plastimach and CNC Router Store management so we could be sure our solution met the business and technical requirements.
We knew that the project would require custom programming to make the total solution work for Plastimach and the CNC Router Store:
- We needed to create a relational database to replace the external database so Plastimach and CNC employees could search for customers, machines and quote history.
- We needed to customize the ecommerce function so that the website functions like a quote basket (i.e., no payment processing/ecommerce function) while also allowing the full ecommerce function, when necessary.
- We needed to create several custom forms to allow website visitors to submit machines to be sold, directly or on their behalf.
- The new sites needed to be mobile-friendly and easy to use. Categorization of machines, intelligent menu design and robust search mechanisms were required to make it simple for visitors to locate and request information on machines.
- History information needed to be easily accessible so Plastimach and CNC workers could understand history for customers and machines.
- The inventory function needed to be easy to manage and update so that new machines could be quickly added to the site, complete with descriptions, pictures, videos, location information and financial data.
We built a custom, multi-site website with a customized Request a Quote function that allows Plastimach and the CNC Router Store to quickly respond to website visitor queries. Key attributes of the solution are:
- The Mult-site website that allows machine inventory (and their categories) to be shared across the two sites (or not shared, if the machines are not common to both stores)
- Quotation Requests for machines are processed by each of the sites individually. Ecommerce payment gateways are available on both sites for online sales, as needed
- Website visitors can submit a machine on the website via a comprehensive form. Machines submitted on the internet are entered into the website machine inventory as ‘drafts’; once the content is verified and approved by Plastimach or CNC staff, the products can be published live on the site.
- Website visitors can search for machines via a comprehensive, easy-to-use menu scheme that works well on all device sizes. There is a universal search box that is optimized to search the custom attributes associated with the machines. The category pages (by machine type or brand) have user controls for machine quantities shown and sort order.
- A secure Administrative Portal was built to allow PlastiMach and CNC Router Store employees to easily look up Company, Contact, Machine and Ownership information. The Portal complements the standard WordPress Dashboard, which still provides similar information, albeit with a less intuitive interface.
The new website has been well received by website visitors and the management and staff of Plastimach and CNC Router Store. The Request a Quote process is very smooth and visitor requests are responded to quickly and professionally, often within minutes of submission.
The website has generated online sales as well of the few products that are configured to use the ecommerce function. It’s easy for CNC Router Store management to add products for direct sale to supplement those machines that are available for Quote.
It’s easy for website visitors to add multiple machines to their Quote Request and it’s equally easy for the website managers to respond with custom quotations and terms.