New thesis on the Unitec case introduced near the university of Ca’ Foscari of Venice rewarded with the best note.
The Thesis in Italian language is available in format zip in the download area


Davide Brolese

University of Ca’ Foscari of Venice
“Foreign Trade”

Unitec web tools story and evolution


1. Unitec Introduction

Unitec was established in 1988, according to 10 years of reflections about the industrial world by its founder, Vincenzo Marino.
These remarks pointed out that the big industrial automation development during the Eighties required a suppliers’ number enlargement, caused by the geographic distribution of the technologies needed.
For example, a laser had to be sought in the United States, moulds in Turin and a machine tool in Germany.

The significance of the matter implied a deep modification in the supply chain management environment, not only for investment goods, but also for all the parts involved in plants maintenance.

In the actual case, the conclusion referred to the connection between the worlds of the big industry in Germany and the automation rising pole in Italy, which had in Turin his most attractive city.
Due to language and logistics, companies needed both technical and commercial support in provisioning these articles, that were however handled, but with big resources and time waste.
There was indeed lack of possibility to create supply aggregation, because items were bought separately by various dealers in many countries.
That led processing and supply chain management costs often higher than the value of the item itself, in an amount equal to N times its worth.

By the consideration of all these ineffectiveness elements sprang the supply management idea, that enabled Unitec customers to revolutionize their buying systems and, as direct consequence, spare on both costs and prices.
This idea made Unitec able to consolidate procedures, obtain products directly by the producer, that means lower prices, and distribute these savings to its customers.

The idea obtained immediate approval and, thanks to a word of mouth in the industrial automation circle, Unitec has become in few time an important provision company, expanding then in other language areas.
Another basic factor in the company’s success was the perseverance in understanding that market was, and is, in a non-stop evolution.
This permitted Unitec to adapt to the relevant growth, making the company a pioneer in spreading commercial information.

2. E-Catalog Story

Unitec has always believed in information technology potential, as E-Catalog development shows: its basis were laid in 1993, with some trials carried out already in former years.

At that time the network concept was not so widespread as nowadays: it was still an instrument for big companies only.
This tool’s potentials were fully revealed by the information sharing, projected and implemented in a sequential cycle, in order to reach the result with a logical progress, designed by the work flow expression.
This process’ steady improvement helped Unitec in becoming paperless: in 1999 documents and archives took up a large space in company’s offices, whilst today a drastic reduction has taken place, and paper documents find their existence reason in a not more useful digitalization.
The computerization’s intensive use enabled to change administration systems based on documents to an electronic workflow, which assures a quick answer speed, a drastic errors reduction and, as direct effect, a higher service standard.

In 1997 was established Unitec Services & Web S.r.L, Unitec division which deals with computerization.
The new enterprise’s headstone was the net’s application potentiality, which acquired interesting application perspectives through internet diffusion.
So the environment seemed very attractive, and the firm caught the attention of nine investors, willing to bet on it.


The first provision site launched by Unitec was Netsourcing (, which followed a customer interface philosophy based on the supply integration.
It enabled customers to send offers, place orders and interact with Unitec’s staff, but it gained a modest success. Despite being on the internet it was a closed system, because it required a registration and a private identification.
This was actually the prevailing trend at that time: this means, that e-companies were involved in catching as more information as possible by their customers: so they set up passwords successions and a vast amount of questions which frightened the surfers, keeping them away from such sites.
The market was very limited, restricted to sector’s specialists.
Only in the following years the world wide net would have evolved itself to an opener access standard and easiness degree, conferring the success of the new proposal which run along this way, such as Google.

Following this direction, in 1999 was created a new and less closed application: Estimates On Line (Preventivi On Line,
Although it had a registration, it was built with a different philosophy, which was represented by a greater immediacy level, which permitted the site reaching a bigger success than Netsourcing.
It has now some thousands subscribers and offers a point of reference for the spare parts sector, with 540.000 articles and over 3.000 manufacturers, and some producers’ whole lists.


The site’s aim was giving customers an expenditures’ idea when they want to approach a maintenance activity; prices, even though long-standing, are however actualized thanks to an automatic up-to-dating statistic process, constructing a real support base for maintenance engineers.
They can so use this information for their activities and send a request to Unitec when they complete on-line operations’ cycle.

Both Netsourcing and Preventivi on Line sought customers’ fidelity, which was the custom of the time.
That involves not only raising information through internet pages visits, but also making the site a point of reference for ordering.

In 2000, internet speculative bubble burst swept away e-companies without the required abilities for remaining in the new competitive scenario.
Outstanding firms outlined clearly the new future standards, that is the fully user opening, a complete service and overall their easiness.
On the basis of the new indications, Unitec launched the third sites’ generation: after Netsourcing and Preventivi On Line, was E-Catalog’s turn.
It aimed at a global reaching, without log-ins, as web evolution required.


By E-Catalog a new specialization comes up: this time the philosophy consists in avoiding offering the hundredth marketplace with the same automatic answer system, and support pure automation with a component still rare on the web: people.
Actually, when users are not able to find what they wish, they can apply to a Unitec operator for the needed technical support, and he will search the requested item for him.
That’s what’s new in this new generation site, which does not know anything similar on the web yet.


A real internet support by Unitec operators is depicted by the banner above: clicking on it, surfers can enter a real time chat service, where they will found a Unitec operator, ready to discuss with them.

Company’s comprehensive aim is supply understandable information to wider market possible: this involves an English language focus, but avoiding to fail most important markets, that are the European ones, in particular Germany and Italy.

3. E-Catalog Description

E-Catalog was published in three different languages, and contains in about 80,000 articles in each of them, which represent more than 5,000 international firms’ catalogues abstract.

All these products were not published on the net at random, otherwise offering not very well-known products would have been a considerable risk, which had made researches dull.
In fact, only Siemens has an about 2,5 millions items sales assortment.
So just the most-required articles were chosen for E-Catalog.

In order to increase its internet visibility through the main search engines, the company has registered its on-line catalogues in many different languages, registering more than 300,000 pages.

Thanks to these tricks, E-Catalog receives more than 2,000 daily visitors nowadays (that means 60,000 visits a month and 720,000 a year); of these more than 300 carry out specific researches, and a percentage between 10 and 20% on these 300 use the effective Unitec operators’ support to complete or go into their research.
This trend is rising, and the Unitec site’s International Traffic Ranking has sometimes reached the RANK 100,000, that means Unitec is among the first 100,000 world sites.

A new element confirming the growth trend is the always bigger internet diffusion among operational divisions’ professionals such as maintenance engineers, who as soon as few months ago did not used using internet for their work.
Considering statistics, we are now in this phenomenon’s beginning, still so far from its widespread distribution, with great growing rates’ outlook in the next years.
As support to this progress, a new instrument has been developed: it’s the “Unitec Toolbar“, a research toolbar which integrates itself in the browser, and holds a service set including articles research by code or description.


Another future development side concerns E-Catalog enrichment with featured articles’ and pertinent manufacturers’ images, in order to offer a better representation to customers.
Also technical data will be added, with the aspiration to become a reference archive for this sector’s engineers.

Moreover, a research system improvement has started, and is at present in a refining phase, in order to amplify user’s chances to find the required item, even though typed in an approximate way.

Aiming at all these evolutions’ best development it has been necessary to adopt particular infrastructures, which have led to the choice to keep Unitec servers by a major provider located in the centre of Europe, where they are connected to the internet by a 6-gigabyte speed band.

4. Unitec Supply Chain Approach

The industrial world’s necessities observation was not restricted to the pure growing demand trend existence, but comprised a fast-scientific processes’ and pertinent expenses’ study.

The price management sphere was actually one of the matters in which Unitec has been a trail blazer: the company was one of the first in thinking and creating ABC (Activity Based Costing) process analysis, which distinguishes itself through cost drivers from traditional accountancy, that allocates expenses using cost areas based on structures (example: marketing).
The ABC is a system which supply real costs’ incidence on each product or service sold by the company, leaving his structure out of consideration.

Traditionally cost accountants are right if only one product is manufactured, as they will be sure of the correct costs allocation.
It is not more so with several different products, because, for example, a certain product might take more time in one expensive machine than another one, and a simple proportional mean is not correct in this case, but an accurate analysis is needed.

ABC’s use enable a correct market-price setting for all articles, as the realization cost is correctly calculated.
This concept was applied to supply chain management, which in greater companies can reach 144 operational steps, from the customer’s inquiry to the accounting record.
Every stage has its cost and by summing them results the entire process charge.

A supply’s cost, considering the process only, may vary from 300 to 2,000 euro in a big industry: Unitec has seen in the processes’ rationalization possibility an opportunity for offering large savings to customers.

The firm has developed and implemented an internal procedures set, which are informatically supported, in order to achieve the paperless objective: as direct result Unitec obtained a supply management cost lower than its customers’ (nearly 50%).
That has driven to the furnishing activities outsourcing proposal, which is a BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) specific area.
The major consequence for customers is the immediate provisions expenses reduction and that they become variable instead fix, so directly connected to company’s trend.
As secondary effect there is the enormous supplier number reduction, but safeguarding close relationships: when suppliers are transferred for managing, they keep their status for the customer, avoiding to lose all the good business’ relationships which have been set up in the past.


The picture on the left represents the suppliers relationships situation in a company which manages them itself: the connections’ dispersion is considerable.


Here is shown the change after assigning furnishers to Unitec.
This spare purchaser’s irregular contacts, more expensive and difficult to manage.
However, strategic and core relationships are preserved.

5. Unitec Web Tools Advantages for Customers

Unitec-projected and designed web tools:

  • are usable by all departments in a homogeneous and transferable way;
  • enable home working;
  • run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year;
  • are always available in 3 languages at least;
  • spare to customers thousands fax communications;
  • track all operations;
  • control expenditures’ budgets;
  • enable consumptions analysis (even for a single plant);
  • put at management disposal real-time reports about company’s expenditures situation.

The system expands by using it, although if at the start-up moment has already a remarkable basic information content.

Customer-sized E-Catalog, which is situated in Net Sourcing, contains products used by the specific customer: the site is so built for himself, featuring most used articles, which are up-to-dated day by day, when he uses this internet tool.
Many firms, besides having an article code and its description, have also a third code, the internal one, which is usually the warehouse code, used in internal communications, and lies also in their inquiries.
Net Sourcing is designed in order to handle the interface between this internal code and the one used by producers to identify their articles.

The most innovative Unitec idea, which won a Marino’s contribution on the “Digital Economy Dictionary” ( Dizionario dell’economia digitale di Vito di Bari. Il Sole 24 Ore – Techno – I dizionari – 2002.), is the Virtual Warehouse (Magazzino Virtuale), which has a special internet site dedicated,
It’s based on the possibility, for many companies, to share a only virtual warehouse, which contains however real provisions, accessible by everyone in the system.


The Virtual Warehouse permit new advantages for adherents: the principal is the stock reduction, obtainable thanks to the warehouses sharing among joining companies, in which everyone is allowed to get hold of the articles he needs.
At the extreme point, the complete stockroom elimination can be supposed, applying only to the Virtual Warehouse.
All its fix expenses would so be removed, and they will be replaced by the unsteady costs due to the system manager intermediation.
The substitutes’ stocks joining the Virtual Store are turned from liabilities into assets, as if the member company is in a position to sell its articles in stock, they can get profits by this operation.
In connection with the system’s benefits, the single operator can move between two extreme points:

  1. Cancelling the warehouse, because all what the company needs is available inside the Virtual Store. Only articles of wide consumption, such as screws and gaskets, will be kept, whereas specific substitutes will not be put away anymore, because if necessary Virtual Store can be asked. In this way, the thousands square meter area which stores all the spare parts becomes now as big as a cabinet.
  2. The other way is managing carefully inquiries which comes to one’s warehouse from the V. W., concentrating on strengthening the offer in order to achieve these components immediate stock availability objective, so to be able to resell to third parts through the system. Such benefits contributes however to the structure keeping, reducing stock’s costs.

Another possibility is definitely the management of obsolete spare parts for plants: using the Virtual Warehouse customer are enabled to access replacements which lie unused by system’s companies depots, granting advantages not only for the parts purchaser, to whom long and expensive researches all over the world are spared, but also for the corporation who hold these articles, because they can sell and get money from a piece which had instead involved the related stock or dump costs.

Special thanks to Unitec’s CEO, Vincenzo Marino, for his primary contribution to this paper’s draft.

Curriculum Vitae

Davide Brolese

ADDRESS: Via Tuna, 21, Casella d’Asolo 31011 (Treviso) Italy
TELEPHONE NO.: 0039 – 0423 / 529271,
MOBILE NO.: 0039 – 3334750343
DATE OF BIRTH: 4 July 1984


September 2003 – Present:
Degree Course in Foreign Trade, University “Cá Foscari” of Venice (Third-Year Student)
September 1998 – June 2003:
Diploma di Ragioniere e Perito Commerciale (Final Mark 100/100), Commercial High School “Luigi Einaudi”, Montebelluna.(Treviso) I was member of the school chess team.


June 2002:
Three-week internship with Replay (Fashion Box Industries S.p.A), Asolo (Treviso). DUTIES: tasks concerning Microsoft Office applications, ordering archives.
February 2006- May 2006:
Three-month internship with the company Unitec-D, Gersthofen (Germany) DUTIES: Creating and managing the company’s account on the IMDS site (, inquiring and getting in touch with different nationalities suppliers, searching Unitec E-Catalog articles’ images and technical data, translations, managing data sheet using Microsoft Excel.

Italian: Native speaker
English: Good spoken and written
German: Fairly good spoken and written
Spanish: Basic knowledge

Operating System: Microsoft Windows
Good Knowledge of Microsoft Office Pack Applications: World, Excel, FrontPage, Explorer, Outlook.
Expert internet surfer

I play football in an amateur team.
Playing chess.
Collecting stamps.
Listening to music.

The primary objective of supply chain management is to fulfil customer demands through the most efficient use of resources. (Wikipedia)