Industry 4.0, digital transformation, IoT, and digital twins are just some of the recent trends that manufacturing companies have faced over the last several years. Yet one trend that has completely transformed the retail, hospitality and financial services and healthcare industries has largely been ignored by many manufacturers - the customer experience.
I wrote about customer-centricity in my last blog post with medical devices, and to be clear “customer experience” isn't just buying products on an e-commerce website or browsing the aisles of a brick-and-mortar retailer. Instead, customer experience means that manufacturers need to think about every level of interaction they have with customers - from their initial interest to delivery of the product to real-world usage and service.
One very unique case of the customer experience in manufacturing is Engineer to Order (ETO). ETO is the ultimate in customer experience - a blend of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM ) and CRM, where everyone at a manufacturer is involved - Sales, Engineers, Purchasing, Operations and Finance. Engineer to Order companies need to understand what a customer wants from an initial opportunity and then deliver the exact product the customer is looking for. This is the case whether you're a Tier 1 automotive supplier, custom electronics provider or specialty chemicals manufacturer. How well you do Engineer to Order dictates your growth, profitability, customer retention and employee satisfaction.
While many companies have been doing ETO for decades, more nimble companies are now using new cloud technologies and techniques to take market share away from manufacturers that don’t collaborate well on customer requirements, product updates, schedules and costing estimates. Losing new business is just one of the problems that occur from poor product collaboration, but companies also experience:
- Low margins from inaccurate cost estimates, supplier inputs or product designs
- Missed commitments from changing requirements, design updates or unexpected work
- Customer churn from poor communication, slipped deadlines and unexpected charges
- Employee turnover from chaotic schedules, last minute requests and frequent overtime
To avoid these issues, manufacturers need to have an optimal Engineer to Order process where Sales, Engineering and Operations have a common view and process across customers, requirements, products and activities - which are all needed to deliver the best possible product.
That's why Salesforce and Propel provide a unique solution for helping Engineer to Order manufacturers. Since they both share a common platform and offer leading PLM and CRM capabilities, it's easy to get everyone on the same page and deliver products to customers easier than ever before. An ideal Engineer to Order process should seamlessly integrate data and processes across PLM and CRM similar to the below diagram:
What are some of the best practices of a successful Engineer to Order process? Here are just a few of the key characteristics that Propel has learned from customers like AMS Technologies, FlexGen, Blentech, Meyer Sound, and many others:
- Customer-centric: how well does your Engineer to Order process focus on the customer? It should be easy for your teams to see projects and commitments across all customers, as well as make it easy for a customer to understand how their products are doing. Advanced manufacturers are also thinking about how to make it possible for customers to directly suggest changes, approve designs and view schedules - without having to constantly ask their sales person or program manager.
- Integrated: the process from an initial customer request to final delivery of the product needs to be completely seamless. This means that companies need to break down silos of information that typically exist across different departmental systems. Well-run Engineer to Order companies need to integrate data that lives in sales opportunities, customer requirements, product designs, files and drawings, cost estimates, tooling, supplier components, schedules, and delivery commitments.
- Change based: it's critical to have a process that can easily coordinate changes across multiple teams and keep everyone in sync. If a customer makes a change or Engineering recommends an alternate part, that change needs to be visible and clearly communicated to all potentially impacted parties. Having a single place to view changes also makes it easier for companies to decide which changes they should do based on the impact to financials, equipment availability, employee bandwidth or customer satisfaction.
- Collaborative: a smoothly running Engineer to Order process requires a high degree of coordination across Sales, Engineering, Operations and Finance. So processes or technologies need to be collaborative, so everyone has a stake in the game.
And as I mentioned in my last blog post, you also need to make sure that you use a modern cloud solution that is:
- Flexible: so you can adapt it to new types of products and services, business models and information that you want to track
- Easy to use: so multiple teams, partners and suppliers can quickly ramp up and use it productively
- Scalable: so your system can go with your business as it grows