The Catalog is Dead; Long Live the Catalog
One-inch-thick printed part catalogs from trusted suppliers were once purchasing managers’ encyclopedias. Now that many of us have migrated to search engines and websites to find what we once painstakingly perused through mounds of paperwork to locate, these paper catalogs face the same dreaded fate of phone books — becoming makeshift doorstops.
However, some part catalogs seem to be enjoying a resurgence online. Having received a web 2.0 facelift, they also get slimmer. Suppliers like MISUMI caught on early. In 2004, in partnership with PARTsolutions, MISUMI USA converted its product lines — actuators, shafts, aluminum extrusions, linear guides, XY stages, and other components — to downloadable 3D models, delivered as an online catalog. The success of the project paved the way for parent company MISUMI Corp. (Japan) to engage PARTsolutions to produce its worldwide e-catalogs.
According to MISUMI, “The current MISUMI Metric catalog contains over 3,450 product pages, offering trillions of configurable parts” — a volume that’s impractical to print on paper. For customers in need of a specific part, MISUMI’s online catalog makes the search pain-free with an automatic configurator, allowing them to choose available options from dropdown menus and preview the parts in 3D before completing the order.
“We surveyed our customers, and the #1 reason they buy from MISUMI is online CAD configuration provided by PARTsolutions,” said Patrick Esposito, marketing manager of MISUMI USA. “MISUMI’s Factory Automation configured product downloads are growing at year over year rate of 33% per month, and file downloads are growing at 49%.”
In PARTsolutions’ estimate, to date, it has delivered “more than 24 million digital product files to MISUMI customers.” According to PARTsolutions, file downloads are increasing at 56% year-to-year on average over the past 12 months. PARTsolutions, which specializes in 3D part catalog production and delivery, offers a mix of software and services to help part suppliers create interactive online catalogs with downloadable 3D models.
In PARTsolutions’ own survey, the company discovered that “80% of downloaded parts are purchased for prototypes and for multiple units in production,” and “Design engineers save an average 4.4 hours per part/assembly by not redrawing manufacturers’ products.”
PARTsolutions distinguishes itself by making it possible for customers like MISUMI to offer downloadable parts in buyer’s preferred native CAD formats. In its own survey, it discovered that “85% of design engineers prefer part downloads in their native CAD format.”
MUSIMI is also testing out an assembly configurator, which will allow buyers to specify, preview, and order assembly components that are frequently purchased together. Taking note of the rise of mobile devices, PARTsolutions is exploring options to support mobile devices through its technology.