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Case Study

Katun builds a digital infrastructure to support a 50 percent cycle time reduction. Enhancing collaboration, both in-house and with suppliers, is key to the faster deployment of new products


Enhancing collaboration, both in-house and with suppliers, is key to the faster deployment of new products

Much more than a parts distributor

The business of printer, copier and fax supplies is highly competitive. Getting new products to market ahead of the competition is a strategic imperative for Katun. Founded in 1979, Katun is the world’s leading independent supplier of OEM-alternative parts and supplies for the business equipment industry. The company serves more than 19,000 customers in more than 170 countries from its headquarters in Minneapolis and dozens of worldwide locations. Many in the industry think of Katun primarily as a highly efficient distributor offering a vast range of cost-effective products. However, that is only half of the story. Unlike many distribution companies, Katun actively develops and co-develops its products with an extensive network of the world’s finest manufacturers, and rigorously tests them in all their intended applications. More than any other factor, this separates Katun from other companies competing in the business equipment parts-and-supplies market.

Katun dedicates over 90,000 square feet of operating space at its headquarters to product research and development. In addition to 100 of its own employees who are involved in bringing new goods to market, product development includes several other affiliated companies in Colorado and Texas. From these efforts comes an extensive line of OEM-alternative copier  parts, imaging supplies, photoreceptors, printer products and service accessories.

A plan for the future

Because its industry is so competitive, Katun is working to reduce the time it takes to bring new products to market. The company focuses on a “new product deployment” strategy. Its long-range goal is to shrink the overall new product deployment cycle by 50 percent. Yet it wants to do this without compromising the rigorous testing that sets the company apart from mere part suppliers. Meeting this objective will require many different initiatives. Because new product development involves many people, both in-house and at other companies, improving collaboration among product team members was established as a strategic target. Katun has adopted Teamcenter® software as its collaboration platform. The company is relying on Teamcenter’s information management environment and project management capabilities to transform the way knowledge is shared throughout the company.

Here’s a brief overview of Katun’s Teamcenter solution. All product data, including Pro/Engineer CAD models, is stored in the Teamcenter vault. Separate digital collaborative workplaces have been set up within Teamcenter for each new product in development. These workspaces are where all members of a product team go to find the information they need. “People have much faster access to information than in the past,” says Merle Meyer, assistant vice president for engineering and evaluation at Katun. “In the past they had to track down hard copy documents from various files. Now the information they need is available to them from their own computers.” Teamcenter collaborative workplaces are also where the project schedules are created and maintained, and where resource allocation is monitored.

Stable, easy to use and very effective

In addition to providing fast access to product information, Teamcenter is appreciated at Katun for its ease of use and stability. “We had a previous project management system that people found difficult to use, and it was very unreliable,” says Meyer. “Teamcenter is much more intuitive. And in the four years we’ve had it, we haven’t needed IS support. We needed that on an almost daily basis in the past.”

Currently 85 people at Katun have access to information and collaborative sites within Teamcenter. The company is considering expanding this functionality to others within and outside the company. At this time, only one off-site partner, Minco Manufacturing, is linked to Katun via Teamcenter but the eventual plan is to bring in other partners as well. Although Teamcenter was introduced in Katun’s new product development area, it has spread throughout the company as it has become Katun’s corporate-wide new product deployment management system. This brings people from marketing, logistics and supply chain management into the Teamcenter collaborative environment. Faster access to critical information is crucial for these people, too. But Teamcenter brings other benefits as well. “With Teamcenter, we have a better awareness of resource allocation and a common view of all products in development,” explains Meyer. “When everyone is looking at the same, current information within Teamcenter, we no longer have the misunderstandings about who owns what and when things are due that we had in the past. We can be more proactive and more effective with our product planning.”

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