Whether you are sitting in your car dealer's service area or your local garage, chances are the mechanics in the bays are using tools and shop equipment carrying the Snap-on label. Noted for its service and quality (and a much sought-after calendar), Snap-on Inc. is a global developer, manufacturer, and distributor of hand and power tools, diagnostics and shop equipment, tool storage products, diagnostics software and a growing list of other products for the transportation and industrial service industries. Fiscal year 1996 revenues of $1.5 billion attest to the continuing popularity and widespread use of these products.
What do technology and socket wrenches have in common? At Snap-on, it is a dealer channel that has been Extranet-enabled. According to Bob Gingras, E-commerce Manager at Snap-on Inc., "Our vision is to give our customers everything they need to do business electronically. For example, we want our expanding worldwide customer base to be able to place an order -- anytime, from anywhere, using anything from a credit card to a formal purchase order."
Gingras described himself as being in the information delivery business. "Sometimes the information is static. Sometimes it's transactional. My job is to make sure I have the right technology to deliver that information payload. I've used everything from e-mail to push technology to EDI to packaged application software. It all depends on the information and what we're trying to do with that information. What is constant is my perspective. I'm responsible for interconnecting our customers and suppliers and employees."
A New Breed --
In talking with Snap-on's electronic architect, it soon becomes apparent that Gingras has a different perspective -- a technologist with a refreshingly pragmatic view of technology. Said Gingras, "Technology for the sake of technology is no good these days. It must be tied to and deliver a better business process or there's no added value. For example, we began implementing our Extranet systems before our public electronic information systems. We wanted to give our business partners -- and that includes our dealers, our suppliers, and our employees -- the benefits of the technology we've opted to use."
Part of that adaptation is Gingras' openness to packaged software -- no "not-invented-here" syndrome for this architect. Snap-on utilizes Connect Inc.'s OrderStream and PurchaseStream. Said Gingras, "our vision is one of an E-commerce system that really ties together our three major constituents -- customers, suppliers, and employees. With Connect, we're well on the road to making that vision happen. There's another thing to remember regarding packaged software. We seem to have a technology base with a three-year life span. If we had implemented that application software, we'd constantly be adjusting that software to the evolving technology. With software packages like the ones from Connect, it's the vendor that has to do that adjustment. We reap the benefits."
When we asked Gingras what he looked for when selecting a package (other than the obvious functionality), his response was definitive. "We needed to make sure the product was scalable. Given our plans for growth, scalability is essential. Another thing we looked for were references that included customers with a profile similar to Snap-on's. And the last criteria was the ability to interface with the other packages we're using. We can no longer afford applications that operate in a vacuum and don't communicate with our other major application solutions."
Gingras' view on change translates into simple advise for Internet application developers to be able to adapt. "Don't be afraid to learn -- even if that learning experience means you have to kill your pet pilot project. Technology and business are moving too quickly these days. What satisfied yesterday's needs may not be suitable for tomorrow's growth. You have to adapt."
Snap-on's stated mission is to create value by providing innovative solutions to the transportation service and industrial markets worldwide. With drivers like Bob Gingras, that mission appears to be well within the grasp of this forward-looking company.