A Jolt of Speed

By Sean Gallagher  |  Posted 2003-05-01 Print this article Print

A maker of old-fashioned mixers blends in new technology to stay ahead of the churn.

A Jolt of Speed

Lightnin, a maker of custom-designed industrial blenders and mixers, needed more speed in getting products to customers. An online quote system saved time and money.


1) Lightnin manufacturing or sales rep gets a request for quote from customer.

2) Rep reviews product catalogs, prepares quote and sends documents to customer by fax or mail. [Time: 1 to 10 days]

3) Customer approves quote. [1 day to 2 weeks]

4) Rep writes up order—by hand or on word processor— and faxes to lightnin. [20 to 30 minutes for simple order; up to 2 hours for complex orders]

5) At lightnin, fax goes to an "order editor" who keys in orders. [1 to 8 hours]

6) Editor sends an acknowledgement to rep. [1 to 2 hours]

7) Rep Reviews order for accuracy. about 20% have errors—the process reverts back to Step 5.

8) Order enters manufacturing planning system. [1 to 4 days]

Total Time: 3 to 29 days

Estimated Annual Costs

$ 920,000: wages for 23 Information Technology and data processing employees.

$ 8,000,000: expenses attributed to errors in orders.

Total: $8.92 Million

N0W ...

1) Manufacturing rep gets a request for quote.

2) Web-based ordering system allows rep to generate quote that includes full technical drawing created in autocad. Quote is e-mailed or faxed. [under 1 day]

3) Customer approves quote. [1 day to 2 weeks]

4) Rep uses data from quote to generate manufacturing order. [10 minutes]

5) "Clean" orders with required data go directly into Lightnin's Baan enterprise resource planning system and are scheduled for manufacturing. [immediate]

6) Special orders or those missing data or requiring special handling go to an order-editor. After digital documents are updated, order gets scheduled for manufacturing. [up to 2 days]

Total Time: 1 to 14 days

Estimated Annual Costs

$ 440,000: wages for 11 Information Technology and data processing employees.*

$ 24,000: hosted online order-entry service.

$ 62,500: software license, annualized over four years.

Total: $526,500

Sources: Lightnin, Mills-Winfield, Baseline research

*Lightnin manufacturing reps are independent contractors, and are not included in this estimate.

Sean Gallagher is editor of Ziff Davis Internet's enterprise verticals group. Previously, Gallagher was technology editor for Baseline, before joining Ziff Davis, he was editorial director of Fawcette Technical Publications' enterprise developer publications group, and the Labs managing editor of CMP's InformationWeek. A former naval officer and former systems integrator, Gallagher lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland.

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