Universal Components

UCUK Group, situated in Sheffield, are a specialist independent wholesale distribution business for commercial vehicle, truck and semi-trailer components. The Universal Components phylosophy is simple - The customer is always paramount, and the group approached Vaalto to bring this mantra to their eCommerce offering.

Universal Components

The Project

While UCUK already had a 'brochure' style website, we were starting from new with the eCommerce package. Universal Components sell primarily through a 1000+ page catalogue, with over 60000 products, and product variants. We'd also have to bring several thousand 'vehicle fit' filter pages online - each one with a different setup.

The brief was relatively straight-forward - put the catalogue online, and allow customers to purchase online too. However, this project was never going to be a simple eCommerce package.  With each section of products being completely different to the next, there could be no single product blueprint, nor a flat products database to power it.

Kentico CMS was an obvious starting point for Vaalto Technologies. An ASP.NET Content Management System with a Microsoft SQL Server backend database, both running on a Standard Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 build meant the system was simple enough to maintain, but powerful enough to cope with heavy load.

As a Kentico Certified Partner, and with an impressive portfolio of other ecommerce systems we had a good starting point. But this custom ecommerce system would need plenty of extra features to suit Universal Components existing business systems. UC use 'Autopart' - an industry standard stock control and dispatch system. Although Autopart also runs on an SQL Server database, the advanced features required meant we couldn't use the limited ecommerce features built in. Direct Autopart integration would be a must.

Universal Components pricing structure means every product has customer specific pricing - along with various overriding offer prices. None of this data needed to reside on the eCommerce site, but we would need to access it. With real-time stock availability and back-ordering capabilities for 14000 products (at launch) we'd need a robust data access layer modelling solution to link our two systems. LLBLGen Pro, a .NET entity modeller provided this, with the full .NET class support we'd need.

A third system, allowing the UC administration to control website-content somewhat removed from Autopart was also provided. 'Weblink' is a custom product produced specifically for the needs of Universal. It comes in the form of a DevExpress eXpressApp windows application, looking at the main Kentico CMS SQL database. This tool allows administrators to override Autopart data with web descriptions where appropriate. It also controls Vehicle Fit imports as well as product parameter definitions, and the parameter settings themselves. Weblink also provided the setup for 'related product' menu's on the eCommerce site, and oblsolete/replacement product links.

UC also required a greater level of eCommerce security - the customer-based pricing demanded this, and a number of options have been supplied to Universal to cover it. The custom Kentico CMS system allows administrators to limit access on a customer or account basis, or switch to 'read-only' mode where purchases are not permitted.

The Kentico CMS shopping cart and checkout process was heavily modified in order to support back ordering, and existing control systems within Autopart. universal also required various email-notifications for non-purchase events. For example if a customer added then removed an item from their shopping cart, an email should be sent. Using built in Kentico CMS functionality and custom code we achieved this without added to server load.

Finally we used simple VBA scripting to inspect orders and automatically print web-dispatch notes in the main warehouse ready for packaging. The site is now in beta testing with selected clients. Current feedback suggests customers are extremely happy with the added ease the eCommerce website brings, and Vaalto Technologies continues to provide support and new feature requests. You can visit the site here: http://www.ucukltd.com