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Digitization Doesn’t Have To Be Daunting: A 3-Part Framework for Manufacturers

Face-mask wearing colleagues in a warehouse

Virtual is the name of the game today — here's how manufacturers can address this challenge and thrive.

Eric Marotta is director of product marketing at Salesforce Industries, driving global awareness for Manufacturing Cloud and Energy and Utility Clouds.

Digital transformation is no longer a project to push off until a more convenient time in the manufacturing industry. Remote meetings, virtual signatures, and the ability to work from any location at any time are now business as usual. Manufacturers need the ability to meet these customer expectations or they risk losing business to competitors.

Digital optimization enables manufacturers to operate their businesses safely, at a distance and more efficiently, no matter what the situation. And as daunting as transformation may seem, it doesn’t have to be. With the right technology and partners supporting you every step of the way, digital optimization can happen in a matter of months, not years.

A crawl, walk, run approach can help you build a cohesive framework that enables you to make strides in your efforts toward digital optimization, and ultimately, transformation.

1. Crawl

When thinking about where to start, you’ll want to begin by focusing on the highs and lows of your current customer and employee experiences. Ask yourself:

  • What are the friction points in your process?
  • What are customers asking of you? Are you able to deliver?
  • What can you put in place that might make it easier to do business with you?

When answering these questions, don’t be afraid to hone in on discrete and/or detailed aspects of your business. For example, your collaborative sales and operations planning (S&OP). What can you do to foster better cross-organizational collaboration so you have a more accurate prediction of supply/demand, predicted sales, etcetera?

Next, it’s time to set your foundation. Cloud-based digital solutions, such as a customer relationship management (CRM) platform designed specifically for the manufacturing industry, provide a single source of truth. The ability for everyone to access the same tools and data vastly improves collaboration across your ecosystem. This means that in the S&OP example, you can elevate your sales team’s input into the process, giving teams across all business functions visibility. This may seem like a small step but the result is a fast time to value. This means your employees (and customers) will see an immediate positive impact from the actions they take on your platform. Think of it as a near-instant reward.

And, though these may seem like big changes, you don’t need a big team to implement them. Kawasaki Engine began their Salesforce journey with a small but mighty team. 

Learn more about Kawasaki Engines’s path to digitization and how it’s impacted customers and employees at Deloitte Digital and Kawasaki Engines Real-World Guide to Digitization.

2. Walk

Every manufacturing executive wants to know, how will my investment support needed innovation in the future? When we talk about the CRM as your foundation, we mean that in every sense possible. It is where you build the rest of your operation. It opens up a world of possibility by unlocking traditional sales and digital channels. 

Let’s take a look at how exactly this works. When you unite data across marketing, sales, commerce, service, and IT departments, you get a complete, shared view of your partner or customer (for example, enterprise resource planning and CRM data). This single source of truth is the secret sauce that helps deliver the experiences they expect. With your data in one place, intelligent analytics can provide sales and marketing leaders with white space analysis on customers and segments. For example, you can take advantage of predictive scenario planning to provide revenue and production forecasts so that finance, sales, and operations teams are better able to collaborate and plan more predictable outcomes. In short, this means you can use information you already have (like company data, sales records, etcetera) to uncover new opportunities. It allows you to both identify and then take advantage of gaps to increase sales and or market share.  

Learn more about how GE Renewable Energy and St. Gobain Energy use data and analytics to steer business forward and find opportunities

3. Run

Once you have these tools in place, you’re on your way to transforming how you do business. You now have the ability to accelerate simple projects, garner new and valuable insights into your daily operations, and continue to innovate to connect with your partners and customers more efficiently and productively. Going forward, ensure both flexibility and scalability so that you can continue to deliver the experiences people expect. 

You can also layer more features into your operation. For example, apps. Apps are simple to implement and provide high impact capabilities for both employees and customers alike. They might enable better tracking of sales performance management and/or contract lifecycle management. They can also help you institute a feedback management system to better capture the voice of the customer. This allows you to take your customer feedback, couple it with the data in your CRM, and take customer insights to a new level. 

Rather than a well-intentioned (but often clumsy) customer experience, you’ll now have the ability to easily locate cases and document new information into the customer file. This is transformational. It’s now easy to find previous conversations, pictures, and prior feedback from other customer service representatives. Literally any person can pick up where another left off. It probably goes without saying, but this vastly improves the overall experience for both the customer and your employees.

Learn more about how online chat and high-quality access to product experts helps Lippert Components put customers at the center of every interaction.


The ongoing pandemic has upped the urgency to digitally transform. This is no longer something manufacturers have the luxury of leaving on the backburner. Even if it is confusing, this three-step process can put you on the path to digital transformation, as soon as today. 

Is Your Customer Experience Meeting Today’s Expectations?

The key to future manufacturing success lies in your customer experience. Learn how to improve it with setting the right goals, integrating your data, and adjusting your culture and policies to align with putting your customers at the center of your business.

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