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Erie Bronze constructs billboard on 'information superhighway.' (Erie Bronze and Aluminum Co.)

These `on-line' foundrymen explain the revolutionary powers of the Internet and its potential impact on the casting world.

In September, Erie Bronze and Aluminum Co. (EB&A) launched one of the foundry industry's first "home" pages (a company advertisement) on the Internet. This marketing tool was chosen because the Internet is now connected to more than 25 million worldwide users--a number that is growing by almost 1 million per month as computer sales actually approach TV sales.

The world is being constantly bombarded with the word "Internet," which describes an international network of information databases accessed by personal computers. The foundry industry, however, has yet to fully understand, let alone begin to use, the power of going on-line with this technology.

The Internet is becoming one of the most powerful business tools in America. In the very near future, many foundries, and all companies for that matter, may not even be able to do business without having an on-line presence.

Every engineer and marketing student graduating today is aware of the Internet's power and how to best use it. Because these individuals are the ones who will make the buying and sales decisions in a few years, every growthoriented foundry must examine the possibilities of this new technology. With 63% of all office employees working at computers today, it's evident that material and product selections won't be made looking through books--they will be made on computer screens.

Making your company's brochure and technical data available to anyone in the world that has access to a computer and a modem offers unlimited possibilities. Regardless of the size of your foundry, you can service a potential customer in a manner only available to the likes of AT&T and IBM less than a year ago.

Having an on-line presence not only connects you to your domestic customers, but to the whole world of companies looking for sources of castings. You may even offer your information in several language options for your customer to choose from.

In addition, since your information isn't printed on paper, it can be updated quickly and often. If you have a news release or a technical advance that you want the world to be aware of, you may revise your information, and it is available to the world immediately. You no longer have to continue to distribute outdated materials or reprint them.

The best part of marketing through the Internet is that while you are talking to a potential customer, he/she can review your full brochure and technical data on their computer screen from anywhere in the world. Better yet, potential customers can view your information after hours while your office staff is at home. Unlike traditional mail-distribution of brochures, you can track the number of people actually connecting to your Internet home page.

Because anyone connecting to your home page can print whatever sections interest them, the need to mail out a brochure to every phone contact is eliminated. The potential customer can also leave on-line messages or inquiries for you to respond either with a phone call or on-line.

Starting Out

EB&A developed its World Wide Web (WWW) site with the assistance of Erie-based multimedia company Tal, Inc. A WWW site is basically a brochure with the capacity to include unlimited amounts of information on products, including pictures. The company logo usually headlines the home page, and from here the possibilities are endless--just by the viewer's click of the computer mouse.

EB&A supplied text and photos to the multimedia company, which created the site with "links" that allow a viewer to navigate through the brochure. The entire process took fewer than four weeks, and because the information is computer generated, all revisions and additions were done in minutes rather than days. For EB&A, which did much of the preliminary work itself, producing the finished home page cost fewer than $2000.

As shown in Fig. 1, EB&A's home page includes company history, capacities, casting capabilities, alloys, technical data and news items. Each subject is linked so that a customer looking for information on "glass alloys," for instance, can also read the company's history, while reviewing and printing technical information on a certain alloy's mechanical properties as well. All of this information is built and programmed by the multimedia company.

[Figure 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Once your home page is developed, the multimedia company places the information on the Internet via a local server. A local server is a company that has purchased a doorway for anyone to jump on the Internet. EB&A's monthly subscription costs (on the Erie Net) are about $20, which provides the path, similar to a telephone number, which all 25 million people and businesses on the Internet can follow to reach your home page.

Anyone in the world interested in looking at EB&A's home page just needs to type in its address (http:// moose.erie.net/~eba), and the home page appears. Normally, there isn't any long distance phone charge to reach home pages other than the monthly subscription costs.

How it Works

Upon reaching your home page the customer navigates through your information by clicking the mouse arrow on graphic buttons or any part of the brochure that is in italics (usually in blue). These are called "links" because they actually bring a viewer to different pages or levels of information.

In this case, a viewer interested in "aluminum tubes and rings" clicks the designated button and a new page (Fig. 2) appears, along with product data. Then, if interested in the "aluminum alloys" poured, the viewer clicks on the words "ASTM B 26," and the next screen (Fig. 33 appears. In all cases, the information viewers select can be printed or copied to their own computers. Navigating through the home page is made interesting by graphics and other eye-catching icons.

[Figure 2 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

EB&A also has a comments link intended to gather information about the viewers. Here, on-line users can identify their company, ad dress and phone, type of operation and specific needs.

How Others Find You

Once you have an address, it should be listed just like a phone number on every piece of printed material going out the door--on business cards, letters, faxes, advertisements, etc. Internet Yellow Pages, in which specific addresses are listed, are also available throughout the country. Proper key word descriptions through search service swill also help others located your firm.

To be successful in marketing on the Internet means building awareness and maintaining visibility. To kick off EB&A's Internet site, a direct mailing postcard was produced for its customers announcing the location of their home page. The cards are also being sent to design engineers in specific markets throughout the world to let them know where to find the foundry.

In addition, many organizations will "link" your company for free through your local server, including your city, state, and local Chamber of Commerce. The Internet offers a number of "gophers" that allow the viewer to search a database for castings and locate your address. Once customers locate your home page and print what they need, they can leave you a message requesting you to call them, or they can order by using a built in feature called electronic mail, or e-mail.

Why Do It?

The foundry industry must accept this technology and use it to their advantage now. If information on cast metals can be placed at the fingertips of design engineers today, they will be much more inclined to select a cast metal product over competing processes. And while foundry people are known for being frugal with marketing dollars, going on the Internet is cheap.

The basic price is far less than a standard brochure and can be updated with new product information as it is being developed, inure stead of printing a new brochure. na In addition, any product or plant photo can be added just by scanning the data into the home page. A final reason for going on the Internet is that it's easy for people to get the information they need without waiting for the mail to arrive. As the world changes to an "I gotta have it now society," the Internet allows the industry the capability to fulfill these requests.

Foundries that avail themselves of this new and exciting technology will be on the cutting edge of marketing and engineering. The opportunity to take advantage of this technology--before our industry competitors in the plastic and forging industries jump in--should be taken today. Instead of being the last, foundries should sieze the opportunity to become the leaders in this technology.
COPYRIGHT 1995 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Martucci, Rich
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Dec 1, 1995
Words:1439
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