08 Jun How to handle system integrations as a manufacturer
by Matt Heidenreich
It’s an inescapable IT need of every modern-day business: system integration. Of course, every business is unique and approaches systems integrations with different needs. But in manufacturing, those needs are exacerbated by often antiquated processes and overly customized technology platforms. That may be why over 80 percent of surveyed manufacturing and plant organizations said integration management takes anywhere from a moderate to a great deal of time. At least half of manufacturers are actively using integrations for enterprise systems, plant, equipment, and IT data. But are they using these integrations as efficiently as they could be? More often than not, the answer is an exasperated no.
Integrations can get messy fast, and when you haphazardly introduce too many into the back-end systems of a manufacturing organization, the risks are even higher. Based on our years of experience implementing large-scale transformations for top-tier manufacturers, we’ve noticed a few repeating themes for the best way to approach integrations in the industry that we’d like to share.
Embrace fundamental process changes
This is perhaps the most critical thing your organization can do to handle system integrations with ease: manage change wisely and embrace the new processes and tools that will come along with it. In manufacturing, the back-end systems are often made up of various platforms and tools that have been piece by piece duct-taped together just to get by. On top of that, several of these tools may be several decades old and actually holding the organization back.
A thorough examination of manufacturing integrations and clean-up of those no longer benefitting the company for the long run will demand employees in every department to adapt. In the process of eliminating manual processes and archaic technologies, you’ll have to cut the status quo comfort of certain tools. Keeping Salesforce in line with back-office financial systems, for example, will require you to sync payments, credit memos, etc. with the back-office system and potentially get rid of other integrations no longer serving you well for a modern market. By preparing your departments for change and encouraging the new benefits they’ll enjoy through the change, you can ensure greater big data adoption and clarity as the new system integrations take place.
Get the right people talking
When beginning a large-scale data transformation project, it’s easy to want to keep the room small and only invite executive decision-makers. While these voices are certainly needed, projects that don’t take a closer look at their daily operations and seek feedback from other employees ultimately suffer. Data proliferation is a problem for at least 76 percent of IT executives, and that data sprawl certainly won’t be solved by only asking a select few to weigh in. Everyone who touches data as it flows through various departments needs a seat at the table for data projects.
When Simplus begins a transformative data transformation project with any client, one of the first steps in the discovery stage is to identify the right people and get them talking. That means not the Simplus project manager, not the client-side project manager, not the executive sponsor even, but the boots-on-the-ground employees who will be undertaking the day-to-day operations that system integrations impact. By talking to the people in the trenches, we’re able to clearly identify where every process starts and ends, every step in between. We can identify areas ripe for streamlining and minimizing manual work/human error. The final solution needs to cater to the needs of the workers doing daily fulfillment work.
Streamline your product catalog with dynamic pricing and configurations
Finally, another key way to prepare your organization for modern system integrations is by streamlining the product catalog. Manufacturing products change quicker than most industries do. Between new parts, swapped parts, discontinuations, and more, manufacturers have complex product catalogs that are constantly evolving. So how can you best support the master catalog? Integrating it with Salesforce from an external system. Salesforce can provide bundling and dynamic pricing options to help consolidate your product catalog and make it easier to navigate by sales reps, optimizing your overall productivity.
If manufacturers can step back and think about product groupings in a meaningful way, that information can be used to streamline the product catalog with Revenue Cloud in a way that your back-office system alone might not support. If Salesforce houses the dynamic master catalog and then syncs with your other critical tools, you can drive back-office products with easier, more powerful product information and reap the rewards: renewals and amendments, eCommerce opportunities, subscriptions, self-service product configuration, and more.
Ultimately, approaching integrations as a manufacturer is less a technical challenge and more cultural. You have to get your people to support you by getting on board with process changes and the expected benefits. By embracing fundamental changes to how your systems operate, reaching out to the right people as you go through transformation, and streamlining your product catalog for optimal efficiency, you can make system integrations an impressive value-add for all departments. To learn more, reach out to our manufacturing industry experts today.
Matt has held a position as a Senior Developer or better for the last 13 years, possessing the necessary skills to mentor other developers and coordinate large teams. Matt has excellent customer service skills, and good oral and written communication skills. He has worked on many very large projects for companies that are used globally and are critical to the core of some very large businesses like Pacific Interpreters (a Language Line Services company).