Synergy in I.T.

“We’d rather be a strategic partner than merely a transactional partner.” —Ellen Holladay

Motion Industries’ eCOS procurement platform delivers traditional ERP functionality with an innovative focus on customer care

“Keeping industry in motion” is the perfect tagline to describe the concept upon which Motion Industries was founded in 1946: to provide a comprehensive offering of bearings and power-transmission replacement parts to help manufacturers keep production lines moving. In recent years, Motion, a wholly owned subsidiary of Genuine Parts Company, has expanded its product lines and now offers a vast range of maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) products, including fluid power and industrial supplies.

Serving a variety of complex industries and now boasting a product database of over five million SKUs, Motion recently made the decision to invest in the development and implementation of a specialized software platform called eCOS. “eCOS is different from most commercially available ERP systems, because it is optimized specifically for MRO and provides customer service representatives [CSRs] the flexible tools they need to respond to those unique demands,” says Motion’s CIO, Ellen Holladay. “We pride ourselves on the fact that our system is less about ERP and more about customer care at every level.”

With this intense commitment to customer care, Motion has moved beyond mere order fulfillment into the role of strategic supply-chain partner—taking that standard of MRO excellence to the next level. “With eCOS, we’ve been able to move very quickly into more advanced capabilities by leveraging our relational database as a foundation for the sophisticated analytics our customers need to effectively manage their MRO investment,” Holladay explains. “We not only have history on purchase patterns, hard-to-find sources, substitutions, and repair history, but we also understand that we now live in a world of big data and must provide robust support for unstructured information—plant drawings, pictures, and on-site inspection reports.”

As a true supply-chain partner, Motion utilizes its expertise and industry knowledge to also provide preventative customer care, helping customers understand how to plan, manage, and apply products. This in turn reduces Motion’s customers’ total cost of ownership, including costly downtime associated with a failed or misapplied product. From the moment a customer begins working with Motion, purchases and preferences are tracked to develop a custom profile. Detailed records of purchase history, where parts were sourced, and usage patterns allow Motion CSRs to quickly pinpoint hard-to-find items across the company’s 500 branches, 50 service centers, and 10 distribution centers, or a substitute if the part is no longer commercially available.

Motion’s IT infrastructure allows the company to rapidly fulfill orders at its automated distribution centers.
Motion’s IT infrastructure allows the company to rapidly fulfill orders at its automated distribution centers.

“Even before eCOS, we recognized that customer usage and application of a product are just as important as the product itself,” Holladay says of Motion’s legacy order-fulfillment system, the precursor to eCOS. That said, the abundance of information available in eCOS is a tremendous resource for Motion’s CSRs. The system can even help prevent unnecessary purchases of product due to existing warranty availability. This may mean that Motion foregoes an immediate sale, but this capability can pay dividends in the long run. “We’d rather be a strategic partner than merely a transactional partner,” Holladay says.

One of the most significant advantages of eCOS is the ability to quickly locate inventory in a variety of ways. A CSR not only has the ability to scour Motion’s internal inventory across North America, but with the click of a link can dive directly into a manufacturer’s inventory and immediately place an order into the manufacturer’s ERP system, transferring all key delivery information and customer preferences to that supplier. “Our supplier-connectivity platform is called MiSupplierConnect,” Holladay says. “It allows CSRs to see real-time availability, cost, and location of any product. This opens up about a billion dollars worth of additional options for customers while eliminating approximately 30,000 phone calls per day. The real benefit is an immediate answer to the customer.”

Some MRO products may be even more difficult to locate. For those products, eCOS provides a capability called PowerSource. With PowerSource, any CSR in the company can quickly identify potential sources for hard-to-find inventory through advanced search and analytics capabilities. They can virtually tap into the knowledge of any CSR in North America to determine where a product may have been sourced in the past. “PowerSource is critical to supporting the breadth of products that our customers expect and need,” Holladay says. “The real benefit to the customer is the identification of a potential product source or substitute.”

For all the ease eCOS grants Motion’s CSRs and the time it saves, the greatest success of the system is how it has enhanced the customer experience. “Because we have the flexibility to configure our processes by customer, we can meet virtually any requirement they have for acknowledging and managing orders,” Holladay says. The eCOS system will also continue to grow as customer needs arise. It’s that flexibility that has carried Motion through 65 years of service, and it’s what will allow it to continue running like a well-oiled machine, keeping the industry in motion.