23 Oct Process manufacturing technology strategies and the cost of doing nothing
by Chris Larsen and Kevin Willemse
In process manufacturing, change is the name of the game. Since 2013, the market has seen a continuing increase in deal activity, full of various mergers, acquisitions, and integrations with new entities, subsidiaries, and parent companies shifting hands.
However, the IT landscape supporting these hasn’t really followed suit; here, change is not so much the forté. Quick fixes, purchasing licenses without true implementations, or just hoping things will find a homegrown resolution as headcounts move from one organization to the next are the accepted standards for technological processes at far too many plants and manufacturers.
Over time, these “easy solutions” lead to poor adoption rates, a slew of unused applications (and their license fees), and gaps in customer knowledge, all while the competition gains market share in areas your IT infrastructure can’t compete with or support. To fully leverage the people, processes, and data gained through various M&A events, process manufacturers need to enable their teams with a true digital transformation. Every manufacturer has to face this challenge at some point or risk a critical failure in customer engagement, lost revenue opportunities, or compromised data driving subpar decisions; it’s just a question of how long you’ll wait and the consequences of waiting too long.
Let’s dive deeper into the hard costs (monetary) and soft costs (people/culture) of doing nothing. Then, we’ll evaluate how process manufacturers can reject the status quo and take action using innovative Salesforce solutions.
The reactionary approach towards solving IT problems in process manufacturing has created a host of hard cost problems for many organizations in the industry. This includes wasted time, impacted wages, missed revenue, and lost customers. The overly myopic view of technology and how it is meant to merely serve the current accepted state of the business operations is holding many organizations back monetarily, while end markets they serve are moving more rapidly with technology transformation than they are.
Quick fixes and small investments create a web of mediocre solutions that end up costing more than the value they provide. A fixated dependency on older legacy applications—often overly customized or bespoke—stifles innovation and new opportunities, limiting a company’s ability to respond to change while riddled with technical debt and maintenance costs.
Here are a few of the specific hard costs process manufacturers experience:
– Upfront or annual subscription fees for under-utilized software applications
– Money spent on training for platforms that are quickly rendered useless or poorly adopted
– Reduced business velocity and employee productivity due to lack of a digital infrastructure to support their processes
– Lost deals due to information silos locking up mission-critical information that could move deals forward faster and more successfully
– Loss of inorganically gained market share due to diminishing customer trust and loyalty
– Missed revenue or hard costs incurred due to poor sample management processes that do not track these or treat these as key sales opportunities
By contrast, soft costs may not have quite the same immediately tangible impact on your bottom line, but over time these cultural costs will hold your organization back from realizing its full potential. When the IT landscape of your organization is stuck in a never-ending cycle of “fix-it-quick” attitudes and technology—rather than a holistic strategy—your existing workforce is simply operating at a reduced pace and efficiency levels, while you will have trouble growing and attracting top talent to push your organization into the future.
Many of these soft costs come down to an inability to recognize and capture growth opportunities and innovate around change. For example, many process manufacturers have no visibility into their total addressable market or struggle to pivot to an account-based marketing strategy that relies on solid customer data. Or they’re struggling to adapt for the future due to lackluster employee experiences and outdated technology that aren’t attracting candidates from the younger talent pool, a demographic that demands sophisticated IT tools (this is a particularly pressing problem as manufacturing stalwarts age out of the industry). And finally, many process manufacturers long to better understand the complete B2B2C process, identifying where and how their aggregates and compounds are actually being used to get ahead of the innovation curve and plan around market demands. But without a modern CRM in place, they struggle to organize these complexities in an actionable way.
Maintaining the status quo and never committing to a comprehensive IT strategy in the organization doesn’t help process manufacturers move forward on any of these growth opportunities or mitigate their associated risk; it keeps the organization on a slow, ill-fated decline towards eventual irrelevance as talent, partners, and leads go elsewhere.
Create a holistic manufacturing technology strategy with Salesforce
Transforming your organization digitally is the first step to stop accepting what’s always been done and instead future-proof for accelerated growth and innovation. The Salesforce CRM platform has spent over 20 years perfecting market-specific solutions to provide the ideal foundation for leading manufacturer transformation. More than just another application that adds to the pile, Salesforce can take over that existing assortment of outdated half-functional tools and create a holistic solution in their place. Here are a few of the ways process manufacturers can realize immediate value with a Salesforce implementation:
Market Data Visibility and Segmentation
Every manufacturer’s end goal is to have predictable, reliable, known demand that you can plan around and supply for. To achieve this, you need complete visibility into your order management process and customer relationships, as well as market data beyond your organization’s existing contracts.
Salesforce can capture your current data and provide better insights that will empower you to make decisions around the customer experience and their demand trends. Additionally, Salesforce’s dynamic dashboards can break your information down seamlessly by segments, showing you where low, high, and in-between value opportunities are in your pipeline. You can pivot focus and capital more effectively by expanding visibility into deal segmentation, market value, and customer experiences.
Forecasting and Order Management
While “closing the deal” is crucial, these wins are less meaningful in the manufacturing realm unless you have sophisticated systems and insightful data that is recording the orders that result from these won opportunities.
Contract performance monitoring and demand forecasting are crucial to ensuring actual revenue flows from your successful sales efforts and that the expected orders are forthcoming in a predictable fashion. Salesforce separates out the sales and order management processes and data in a way that ensures orders are forthcoming, tracked against deals, and invoiced correctly and allows you to get ahead of any trends that may impact the forecasts generated from won deals. Salesforce’s open architecture also allows it to be plugged into almost any back-end demand, inventory, or production planning application, back-end ERP, or data repositories to provide even deeper, real-time insights into your customer and production performance, driving faster, better, and more profitable decisionmaking while avoiding revenue leakage downstream.
More than just lending your team visibility into existing customer data, Salesforce also drives new relationships through its reporting and dashboard capabilities. By removing the tech gap between your organization and your customers, you can enter the conversation sooner by proving your viable sales process and manufacturing technology strategy through deeper customer and partner engagement. The world-class CRM not only creates new relationships, but it also fosters more loyal relationships out of those new opportunities with its Customer 360 approach.
Additionally, a specific need for process manufacturers, you can use Salesforce to drive greater visibility into your products’ B2B2C flow, allowing you to win the rights to spec sheets your compounds are featured in and pursue new opportunities at those end customers.
Finally, sample management is a largely untapped opportunity (or unrecognized cost) for many process manufacturers. Historically, the unwieldy and cumbersome sample distribution process ends in fragmented customer data, lost leads, or, at best, unattributed revenue. But with Salesforce workflows automating tedious steps in the process and organizing crucial information, samples can turn into golden opportunities for prospecting and pipeline growth. Learn more about transforming your sample management through CRM integration from Simplus manufacturing expert Alyssa Suchy here.
You may not realize it now, but your process manufacturing organization simply can not afford to do nothing in the long-run. It’s time to clean up processes, transform data, and do business better with a true revolution in your IT infrastructure. Reach out today for help getting started.
Chris Larsen is Simplus’ Director of Strategy (East) for Advisory Services. He has more than 20 years of experience delivering business value from strategy and technology projects, focusing on CRM, field service, cloud services, data integration, and analytics. Chris applies deep experience and proven methodology to successfully facilitate strategic planning and change management across various constituencies. He has led numerous CRM strategy and roadmap engagements, leading to multi-year CRM implementation and optimization programs for large and mid-size companies with global and domestic scope.
Kevin is a Director in Simplus’ Strategic Advisory Practice, focused on bringing valuable transformation to customers looking to maximize their investment in Salesforce.com alongside their integrated systems and business processes.