Rootstock was recently a sponsor of an IndustryWeek webinar entitled “Future-Proof Your Manufacturing” that featured four Salesforce customers who are also using additional enterprise solutions from Salesforce’s AppExchange. The guests were seasoned professionals and shared many of their experiences and their enthusiasm for the Platform. But one of the biggest takeaways is how they were each able to further the success of “their whole”, their manufacturing operating systems that in each case elevated their business success from beginning to end.

Why Digital Transformation is Important to Manufacturing Operations

When asked by the moderator, Frank Borovsky, Regional Vice President of Manufacturing Sales for Salesforce, why they embarked on a digital transformation journey, the answers covered the gamut of business challenges that all manufacturers can relate to.

For example, 29-year-old “start-up”, Boston Dynamics, had just begun selling their products to the open market and had no enterprise systems in place so they literally HAD to transform their business. Because they were essentially starting from scratch, the team chose a unified platform upon which they could build their business systems as they grew. Gabby Sheehan, Senior Manager of Enterprise Applications, shared that “We have a lot of processes from different parts of the businesses that didn’t really exist. They were forming themselves. And so, we found ourselves having to support the business as they were creating their own functions and processes, hiring teams at a very aggressive pace, and then defining those processes at the same time while implementing [Rootstock] ERP.” During this process they had begun selling their robots via eCommerce and ended up having tremendous success. This was literally “building the plane while flying it” as they were able to turn on the eCommerce capabilities of the Salesforce Platform in the midst of this broader ERP implementation. Imagine trying to define and build such business systems the old, traditional way with spreadsheets and Quicken.

Kubota Tractor Corporation’s Cristoph Nathan, Senior Director of the Service Group explained how the pandemic’s restrictions on travel and dining out seems to have driven people to stay home and buy tractors to spend more time investing in their properties. This tripled their market in the course of a couple of years and they found they could no longer run their now $5 billion business on spreadsheets. Couple that with a corporate headquarters move to Texas and they no longer had the tribal knowledge of the 70% of their workforce that did not make that move. They needed something robust, that could be implemented quickly, and that could keep their work-from-home professionals connected to fuel their rapid growth.

Other reasons for digitally transforming ran the gamut from “disparate data spread across numerous applications” as shared by Michael Farr, Vice President of Operations and Plant Manager for MSA Safety and moving away from a “completely paper-based” system as shared by Ron Shah, Global Vice President of Operations with Ocean Insight.

These are all classic examples of businesses who have grown to high levels of success and growth through the evolution of their manufacturing tools, their manufacturing operating system, but they realized the power of the platform as the foundation for their next level of growth.

Unified Platform Strategy for Manufacturing Operating Systems

Frank continued with a discussion on how the guests arrived at their strategies to move to the unified Salesforce Platform and again, their answers spanned many common approaches for businesses in all industries.

For example, Michael highlighted how MSA Safety had invested in Propel from the AppExchange for PLM and how “…just getting all of our operations on one platform…” resulted in “…our sales team, our engineering team, our operations team now having the access to that same information where we all see the same thing, we all see the evolution of the process. The continuity is there.” Gabby continued describing how “the demonstrated importance of a single platform provides all the services and allows collaboration between teams, and the data quality that follows. The teams themselves, the business teams, have newfound visibility. And has easily showed the importance of each team doing their jobs and the impact on the big picture and really enable collaboration between them in a very easy way.” This collaboration across the teams has resulted in “a reduction of financial costs close to 60%, and a reduction in our order cycle timeline, days to revenue, by almost 70%.” All this while the company was doubling in size, being acquired, and creating a whole new market for industrial robots.

Ron from Ocean Insight expanded on the value of visibility by sharing that “I’m a big fan of those dashboards and KPIs, the red, yellow, green, you see, like the Star Trek style, where you can see everything what’s going on.” And their digital transformation focused on combining their front-end Salesforce CRM with an enterprise quality management system (eQMS), ComplianceQuest, the result was giving “complete digital visibility of exactly what is happening in the supplier world, in the process world, in the shop floor at different sites across the globe.” Visibility at this scale is not something buyers would have expected from their enterprise solutions of yesteryear. In fact, Cristoph from Kubota’s view is that their strategy described how “Once you started to show some of this data that you could produce, you got this pull from the business saying, ‘I see you can do this, can you do this, this, this and this too?’ And we said, yes, well, we can do that.” Kubota’s AppExchange investment was with Tavant for warranty on demand which spans the entire value chain, and in turn allowed Kubota, their dealers, and even their customers to monetize the data in the platform and glean value from it, resulting in “…a very good transformation for us.”

Implementation on the Unified Platform

Of course, the next question on the viewers lips was likely “What about implementation?”, which was Frank’s next query, and the guests were more than prepared to answer. Both Boston Dynamics and MSA Safety had started their unified platform journey on Salesforce’s flagship CRM product so expanding their implementations on the platform was their strategy. But Kubota—whose first investment was with Tavant—was actually learning the value of the platform first.

It was a similar implementation experience for Michael with Propel. “We knew that the Salesforce Platform was going to be our platform of choice.” Started Michael, “So we signed onto both, and we actually implemented the Propel solution ahead of the CRM solution. And we did that implementation in 30 days!” which is an almost unbelievable feat considering the alternative PLM solutions they could have adopted. “And the learning curve is so intuitive.” He continued. “It’s just the whole presence that you see in the lightning course background, it’s really, really straightforward.”

Again, Boston Dynamics had made an early commitment to the Salesforce Platform because it served their early needs for a rapid ramp up in sales, but according to Gabby, “ERP was our core focus for year one. And we found Rootstock through a series of evaluations, it really showed the power of a well-built, robust manufacturing focused ERP, running on the Salesforce Platform. It natively leveraged so many of the services that we have in Salesforce. It allowed us to implement a manufacturing process, inventory controls and run our financials on a single platform. And then we quickly built other functions. We now effectively run our whole business on Salesforce.”

Availability of Data Across the Value Chain

Because so much of the discussion of digital transformation focuses on the data collected and managed, Frank pivoted the discussion, asking “How has your digital transformation initiative helped to improve the availability of data across your value chain?” Each of the guests had interesting analogies to explain the global reach they have achieved.

“I believe that we have this solar system,” was the picture painted by Michael. “The digital customer capability where the satellites are the engineering team, the customer service team, the sales team, and the operations team who all have this great visibility looking at the CRM process, the accounting, the accounts, the opportunities, the quotes, handing off into maybe some sales order customization or OEM product development.” Expanding his analogy, he continues, “The whole universe is all connected right now, and it’s all looking at the same thing, and it’s so bright. It’s just incredible. Everything happens so quickly now.” Gabby reinforces this visual, “Our plan is a multi-year plan where we are connecting effectively every single function to the business, including our products through IoT to a single platform. The nature of the platform and how it has been open to the entire business has allowed all teams from engineers, product managers, to finance, to solve problems instantly where we only have a single data point.”

Ron articulated how they transformed away from their paper processes including what many consider ‘digital paper’, spreadsheets. “We were sending Excels across the globe. And then they were merged into a final Excel. And then all the numbers were speeded out where it took almost seven to ten days before we would get our numbers. “Now with the CQ-CRM combination, we are able to get all those numbers in real time on a daily basis, which we do through our daily management meetings. Every plant, every site has to do that in the morning. And it truly became this combination of proactive approach rather than a reactive approach, which is why we are still growing and we continue to grow more than 25% overall for the Ocean business.” Cristoph piled on, “As soon as you publish that Excel spreadsheet, it’s already outdated and you need to have something that’s living, that’s live, that’s dynamic. The field needed to have the information they need to go into a meeting with a dealer. And that was done through the dashboard.” The result using live data? “We could actually see an improvement with the happiness or the delight of our customers through our customer service index, and then our net promoter scores.”

Recommendations For Your Manufacturing Operating System Journey

The discussion continued until Frank asked each to share “recommendations or tips to those companies who are just starting out on their journey.”

Gabby jumped right in with “One of the best things you can do is always have that executive alliance. It’s incredibly critical throughout the entire process, because when you’re talking about digital transformation, you’re definitely talking about people, processes, and tools. So, don’t lose sight of your goals, have strategic partners, but also have the knowledge to do it. I think it’s an amazing journey to build a solution, but we want to make sure it ultimately answers to the business needs.” “I have a similar tip as what Gabby said.” Added Ron. “Leadership commitment, and then buy-in, because if the leadership team is not bought in, you could be doing anything and everything, and things will fail.”

“At Kubota we ask these questions before making investments.” Shared Cristoph. “The first one we start with, is why are you going to do it? So what problem are you going to solve? What are you going to get for it? What’s the benefit? Why make the investment? Why is it this particular product? Or why are you going to do it in this specific way? And then why are you confident that is going to be the solution for you? And then the final thing is the value statement is what are you going to get? What is the value that you are going to get?” The answers to these questions uncover many, if not most, of the issues that need to be discussed prior to moving forward. He continues, “I echo everything that Gabby, Ron and Cristoph have said, especially the management and leadership importance. The other point that hasn’t been touched on is that there are so many great resources out there. The Salesforce and the Trailblazer Community are available, so you don’t need to have an expertise, you don’t need a computer scientist to go out and understand how to get things going and moving”.

Think about how analogous these foundational elements are to the operating system in your computer and you can see how leveraging the Salesforce Platform as your manufacturing operating system can support your own business process innovation for the coming years. The Industry Week webinar featuring these fascinating professionals and customer experiences is available for replay here.