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In the bag Featured

8:41am EDT April 30, 2002
Jim D'Ottavio wanted to bring technology into his company, but he also to keep out the complexity that it can bring with it.

South Side-based Rynn's Luggage Corp. operates retail stores and repair facilities in Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Dallas, and has contracts with the major airlines for repair and replacement of damaged luggage. The 75-employee company is also an authorized vendor for warranty work for luggage manufacturers.

D'Ottavio, vice president of Rynn's Luggage, figured a technology fix could streamline the customer service side of his business, allowing customers to track their orders electronically to find out when to expect repair work to be completed. Using a Web-based solution, he concluded, could provide 24/7 access for customers while reducing the call load to customer service reps and 800-line costs.

But D'Ottavio realized the Internet might provide additional opportunities for Rynn's Luggage. He wanted to expand its sales to consumers online, offer buying groups such as airlines discount prices for members or employees as a benefit, and operate a business-to-business site for the airlines to purchase replacement products.

And while he wanted to add distribution channels and smooth the customer service operation, he didn't want to add a lot of infrastructure to manage the process.

"What we were looking to do is take advantage of the technology on the Internet," says D'Ottavio.

Enter Blue Archer, a Shadyside company that builds customized Web-based solutions, mostly for manufacturing and distribution applications.

Robert Faletti, a principal in Blue Archer, says his company provided a consumer-accessible e-commerce site, a system that allows customers to track repair jobs, specialty portals for the airlines and employee and corporate buying groups, each with unique pricing, all with a central product database and controlled by one backend site manager at Rynn's.

None of the hardware or software is internal to Rynn's, and Web hosting is handled by a third party.

Airline customers, D'Ottavio figured, are fairly sophisticated as a group and not tech-shy, and the airlines themselves are comfortable using information technology. D'Ottavio, says Faletti, looked at a technology solution in the context of a true understanding of his business and his customers and how a solution could best be applied to his company's needs.

That's not always the case, Faletti has found.

Says Faletti.: "A lot of companies jump in before they work out the strategy for using the technology." How to reach: Rynn's Luggage, www.netbags.com; Blue Archer, www.bluearcher.com