W.W. Grainger Inc.: Delivering on the Promise

W.W. Grainger is a worldwide distributor of industrial supplies. Discover how this market leader is using SAP solutions and service-oriented architecture to develop new capabilities, gain visibility into customer data, and provide customers with the highest levels of service.

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    • W. W. Grainer is a wholesale distributor of industrial supplies. We prov ide hundreds of thousands of products to millions of business customers in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, China, India. We have a multi-channel, multi-brand format in our business, and in that multi-channel business we can have customers who start on the Internet and continue the order on the phone or come into one of our branch locations and finish their transactions across the counter. In all those circumstances, what's really critical is that we have complete visibility and transparency into all of what has transpired for that customer previously and in the course of solving this particular business problem. So we turned to SAP, and in particular service-oriented architecture and the offerings in the enhancement packs following ECC6, as a way to help us create a new set of capabilities that combined all the different information sources that we had, all the information from within SAP, and brought it to bear in a very simple, easy-to-use format that allows our customer service agent to be very effective when they're dealing with the customer. This is a huge success story for our IS organization within Grainger, because this has been an opportunity for us to really deliver on a lot of the promise that came with our implementation of SAP. Access to all that information – you know, it's one thing to have all that information and all those disparate screens all throughout the system, but it's something else quite complex, actually, to know where to get the information and how to get there. And in particular, to do that when you're standing across the counter from a customer. We think that service-oriented architecture, in particular, has really been an engine for innovation for us. We're using it in a lot of different ways. The simplified order-entry capability that we just recently created is one example, but we see other examples where we extend our abilities to search for product out to some of our more significant customers so that they can connect their procurement systems directly into some of these services. And that enables them to search our entire catalogue effectively, find the item that they're looking for, and then turn around through their indirect purchasing system and send us that order. Driving cost out of a transaction is really important to us, and finding innovative ways to drive that cost out to the benefit of our customer is really what our business is all about. SAP stands right at the center of everything that we do. All of the services, all of the capabilities that we express out to our customers in helping them to drive cost out of the indirect purchasing process are centered on SAP and SAP systems. In every way, when we punch out to a customer's purchasing system or when they send us an order, they send us a query, when they want to know the availability of a product, when they want a better price, when they want to know the price that they're going to pay for something, in all circumstances in all of those requests and all that interaction comes back into our SAP system that sits at the center of everything that we do. It is the reason our supply chain is efficient. It is the reason that we can provide customer service.
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