This office supply company knows all about paper storage, but collaboration with marketing partners requires a virtual content repository - InformationWeek

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Software // Information Management

This office supply company knows all about paper storage, but collaboration with marketing partners requires a virtual content repository

Field Report: Fellowes, Itasca, Ill.

Field Report: Fellowes, Itasca, Ill.

Fellowes is perhaps best-known for the ubiquitous Bankers Box, but the company manufactures and distributes more than 5,000 office products and computer accessories. Selling through retailers such as Wal-Mart, Office Depot and Office Max to smaller chains and independent shops, Fellowes racks up more than $800 million in revenue a year.

The manufacurer's broad-ranging product line presented the considerable problem of keeping track of marketing brochures, product specifications and descriptions, catalog copy and tens of thousands of product images. Fellowes lacked a centralized content management system, so these assets and specs were strewn across a jumble of file systems and desktop hard drives as well as an Oracle ERP system.

Collaboration with big customers was particularly difficult. Every quarter, Fellowes spent as much as $250,000 working with a services company that compiled CDs with customized collections of content for major retailers, which used the information to create their own catalogs. Between quarters, Fellows scrambled to satisfy requests for updates or content not found on the CDs, and it hadn't produced a comprehensive product catalog in years simply because it would have been too costly and difficult.

In late 2003, Fellowes' marketing department sought to end the chaos by working with IT to implement Interwoven's MediaBin digital asset management system. Rolled out within four months, the Web-accessible repository has since been populated with the information that used to be published on CDs. The system has also been integrated with Fellowes' Oracle back end, which automatically updates basic data such as dimensions, shipping weights, features and electrical specs.

The repository is now accessible to Fellowes' 1,300 employees, and it has also been extended to the company's 40 largest customers.

"The vendors log into their own customized areas where they can see product images and attributes that are specific to what they carry," says Brad Hillebrand, Fellowes' manager of enterprise technologies. "They can download whatever images or information they need, and if they want to see new products or prototypes, we can place those items in their folders."

The MediaBin software cost $120,000, and a dedicated server and consulting services added another $100,000 to the implementation cost. Hillebrand says the project has already paid for itself.

Fellowes recently added catalog and Web marketing content to the site, and it has also integrated sales and inventory management information from Oracle. The company eventually plans to extend the platform to an e-commerce Web site.

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