CESI: Digital Innovation for a Sustainable Energy Future

Salesforce supports CESI by giving it the tools it needs for a shared overview of sales, planning, and technical engingeering resources.
4 min read

About CESI

A global leader in independent testing and engineering consulting for the electric power industry, CESI is the very best of Italy. It also advises on civil infrastructures and those relating to the design and manufacture of solar cells for space satellites. Headquartered in Milan and with offices elsewhere in Europe, in the Middle East, South America, China, and the United States, CESI’s mission is to help build a more efficient and sustainable future, particularly, but not only, in the energy industry.

Active in over 70 countries, with almost 70 years of experience and a global network of more than 2000 professionals, CESI’s customers include the largest utility companies in the world, energy transmission and distribution system operators, system integrators, global electromechanical and electronic manufacturers, major space agencies, constructors and operators of large infrastructures, as well as governments and regulatory authorities.

The Group’s present structure is the result of a series of strategic acquisitions. These include KEMA Labs in the Netherlands, which, thanks to the Flex Power Grid Laboratory, a facility for the advanced testing of smart grids, has made it the world’s leading independent tester of power components.

The platform enables us to codify distributed knowledge and make it available as a global CESI knowledge base. Unlike other factors, shared knowledge provides a sustainable competitive advantage and takes businesses to a new level of quality, creativity, and efficiency.

Daniele Daminelli
Group Information Technology Director, CESI

How Salesforce Helps CESI

1. From Excel Sheets to connected processes and data in CRM

Using specialized laboratories, with different assets and skills, and having a vast portfolio of services, requires CESI to carefully manage every phase of the lifecycle of extremely complex orders. Accurate quoting, efficient service execution, and timely delivery to customers have a big impact on competitiveness, project profitability, and customer satisfaction.

Take, for example, the work needed to prepare a commercial proposal for testing a piece of equipment designed for use on a global scale. This involves working with global cross-functional teams to: analyze country-specific regulations; validate suitable engineering methods; identify and book technicians and labs (availability, location, equipment); estimate execution and reporting times and costs,; and assess the local costs and procedures for issue of certification by local authorities.

Previously, each country in which the Group operates had different models and procedures, managed manually through Excel spreadsheets and personalized applications. The big challenge for CESI was to integrate the processes and data of the various offices and business units into a single technology platform to control the business, in real time.

The starting point for the Group’s digital transformation process was the possibility of creating effective synergies between the sales, planning and delivery teams around the world.

2. Data-driven planning and sales, aligned in real time

CESI began working with Salesforce through CRM and Sales Cloud, optimizing sales management and control. “They were the factor that enabled us to begin our transformation process,” explains Daniele Daminelli, Group Information Technology Director. “They provided us with an extremely user-friendly and universally accessible environment. They are also the cornerstone of our program for integrating data and applications into a single, comprehensive overview of our customers, which will enable our international teams to work together more easily.”

The solution was then bolstered with CPQ (Configure, Price and Quote), the automated, rule-based configurator used to speed up personalized configuration of the most frequent services, estimate prices and produce some of the quotation documents, thereby ensuring that better-quality, comprehensive quotes can be delivered to customers more quickly.

However, it was the adoption of Field Service and Service Cloud that really highlighted the benefits of optimizing the entire “lead-to-cash” cycle: Field Service has improved planning and project and asset management control in Project Management Offices (PMOs), not only at delivery, but also during pre- and post-project execution phases.

“Ours remains a complex business,” says Daniele Daminelli, “but having a single overview means that operations personnel can check the status of activities, manage necessary change orders in good time, or upsell value-added services during the project.”

The first people to benefit from the new platform are the inspectors from the CESI Group and international network. Via mobile devices, the company provides them with an integrated app so they can receive the daily work schedule, get project information that the CRM has already populated into the documents required, and collate the necessary video, audio and test results.

The technicians can then log the activities carried out during the day and monitor progress against overall project schedules.

“The platform enables us to codify distributed knowledge and make it available as a global CESI knowledge base. Unlike other factors,” Mr. Daminelli continues, “knowledge provides a sustainable advantage and takes businesses to a new level of quality, creativity, and efficiency.”

To this end, CESI has integrated into the Field Service scheduler all personnel data (technicians and consultants), their skills, the operational planning models and the critical assets of the global laboratories (occupancy and equipment), as well as information from the Group’s various custom tools.

We consider the personalization of services as a strategic element in ensuring that we provide the best possible service to customers.

Robert Menger
Global Inspection Manager, KEMA Labs

3. Stakeholder benefits and growth

About 50 CESI people, both internal and external users, currently directly work with Salesforce solutions. In the coming months, these same solutions will be extended to laboratory operators. “The platform,” Mr. Daminelli explains, “is characterized by its simplicity and scalability, helping planners with their most complex decisions by enabling them to match tasks and pre-assign the best technicians.

The single overview integrates skills, location and availability of consultants, together with automatic rules that make it easier to put teams together. It is a business facilitator that enables us to provide more accurate plans for customers right away.”

To achieve this, the project includes MuleSoft, the Salesforce integration engine that has replaced the old middleware to synchronize master data and orders, replicating SAP ERP information to Salesforce and ensuring access to employee attendance and skills data.

In addition to identifying technicians, CESI sales representatives can also select laboratories and pre-book critical test assets during the bid phase, drawing on historical average execution times. They can also monitor the progress of activities in real time and inform customers promptly if additional work is needed.

Operations now also benefit from greater visibility on incoming orders. They can optimize the organization of laboratories, increase resource usage capacity, and better assess the opportunity for investment in new, currently lacking assets, thanks to future demand forecast data and lost-bid history.

“We consider the personalization of services,” explains Robert Menger, Global Inspection Manager, KEMA Labs, “as a strategic element in ensuring that we provide the best possible service to customers.”

For example, any internationally acquired companies can now be integrated more quickly because country asset, service, and customer data can be added easily to the 360-degree view of the CESI business.

The solution is replicated for each of the seven countries that manage the test platforms (Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, China, the United States, Czechia and Germany, each with 30 specialist laboratories, taking the total to more than 180 laboratories) and that support all the ad hoc projects for clients around the world.

4. Performance and efficiency KPIs

Simplification and data-driven decisions are the two drivers that, thanks to integration between Field Service, Sales, CPQ and MuleSoft, have enabled CESI to optimize their proposals, better exploit the resources of individual laboratories, enhance communication to put technicians in touch with consultants around the world, and provide senior bosses with immediate visibility of sales and operations.

The 360-degree view allows for the creation of analytical dashboards with KPIs to monitor improvements in performance and operational efficiency.

The project is also evaluated according to financial KPIs: the increase in turnover of change orders accepted by clients during projects due to the ease of entry into the system and the positive impact on cash flows due to the prompt nature of change orders and the speed of projects.

From an IT perspective, CESI can also use the continuous innovation of the Salesforce solution roadmap, the ready availability of market expertise, and the support of a system integrator, PIC Informatica (Lynx Group), which has led to high-level expertise in this vertical.

5. AI-assisted reporting for continuous innovation

The CESI innovation journey is by no means complete. In particular, the company is working to further optimize the test post-execution phase and the production of deliverables for customers.

Thanks to Conga, a partner in the Salesforce ecosystem, CESI already automates some document production, populating them with data from the 360-degree view collected during the bid phase.

CESI is evaluating solutions such as entering the data collected during testing into templates, thus helping to produce final reports more quickly and ensuring a high quality standard.

The single overview is also essential for potentially using generative AI in the future to make assisted compilation of final deliverables even easier, while increasing quality and completeness.

Finally, the historical data gathered in real time on service demand by business area and on the saturation of assets (laboratories/technicians) also opens up the possibility of future optimization thanks to predictive AI. The data collected will help to create innovative dynamic pricing algorithms for a testing service based on laboratory availability and order urgency, presenting customers with alternative prices and service level agreements according to their needs.