In a bid to cut manufacturing costs, offer faster product turnaround and compete with direct vendors like Dell, IBM has announced a new scheme to make it easier for all its resellers to assemble, configure and set up PCs to exact customer requirements.
The Advanced Fulfilment Initiative (AFI) has been running since September in the US where, according to Roland Hagan, director of marketing for IBM PC Company EMEA, PCs assembled this way now represent around 25 per cent of IBM's output. A similar scheme is now planned for 1998 here in the UK and has already been announced to IBM's business partners. It will run alongside the existing large reseller Authorised Assembler Programme.
Core to the new programme are PC products which are simple to assemble from a series of modules to create customer requested specifications. Using a snap-in NLX motherboard, fewer screws and more easily swappable hard drives, resellers will be able to stock fewer core components and assemble PCs to order, so competing with the turnaround and response times of direct vendors. The first of these new products was the PC 300PL launched at the end of August -- others will follow in February 1998
Speaking about the announcement, Douglas LeGrande, the new general manager of the IBM PC Company EMEA, explained that this was a key step in the creation of a `virtual enterprise' where IBM would use its proven expertise to develop and manufacturer components which could then be delivered directly to resellers able to assemble according to customer need. The ordering systems and stock control required for this kind of enterprise are also being developed by IBM and its partners.