Salesforce’s Trends in Manufacturing report reveals that over 90% of 750 global manufacturing leaders surveyed felt the deep impacts of the pandemic on their production capacity, customer demand, customer service and sales capabilities, distribution and logistics, etc. Only 57% could confidently say that their company could quickly adjust to changing market demands.

In the past, the manufacturing industry may have been slow to adopt technology, but this is changing rapidly as businesses, market demands and customer needs evolve. This change has created broadly two kinds of manufacturers – those that will quickly react to disruptions in the next decade and those that can’t. The difference lies in the technology they rely on – disconnected processes and disparate legacy systems that trap data in silos and create asymmetry of information, or modern solutions that solve today’s most pertinent manufacturing challenges with agility.

Manufacturing challenges that need immediate attention

A typical manufacturing ecosystem involves complex business processes that are carried out by multiple stakeholders. A manufacturer could have just one/ few distributor partner(s) or thousands of dealers, resellers, or channel partners that ensure their products reach the right markets. 

A manufacturer’s network can be extremely intricate and full of valuable data that may remain unused and eventually lose its relevance. This creates major challenges for manufacturers seeking business insights that are key to their success. 

These challenges include: 

  • An incomplete and inconsistent view of customers and their needs
  • Lack of visibility into partner channels, their performance, quality
  • Revenue and production Forecasts that don’t match the ground reality of demand and sales
  • Inability to tackle change with agility

Many manufacturers have employed some form of sales automation or enablement tools. But leaving out the rest of the value chain means that manual processes – such as managing inventory or orders – still slow down time-to-market. And inadequate communication can cause manufacturers and their partners to lose out on opportunities for mutual growth.

So, manufacturers need to focus on creating connected manufacturing strategies that can help them spot areas of improvement and create new revenue streams.

Digital transformation in manufacturing: imperatives

All these challenges can be tackled by solving one core issue – breaking down the silos between different systems and teams. To this end, use a solution that pulls in data from the factory floor, front office systems, and partner channels to create a single, comprehensive view of customers and operations.

Manufacturers can use cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) software to unify different teams on a single platform, and make real-time updates and insights available to all. This can help manufacturers collect more data and provide teams with the information they need to perform better.

Here’s how a CRM solution can improve data sharing and collaboration to build a connected manufacturing strategy for growth:


1. Enable sales teams to drive predictable growth

Sales processes in manufacturing are lengthy and complex, often based on long-term agreements between the manufacturers and their customers. For instance, an auto company may have a three to five year agreement with a tyre manufacturer for a certain volume per quarter or year.

So, most of the production and supply depends on account-based forecasting created by salespeople using the available customer data and details of closed deals. But a part of production is also volatile to changes in customer demands and after-sales purchases. 

Without the latest data, it is difficult for salespeople to create accurate forecasts, leading to inadequate production. This also means change cannot be incorporated at the planning stage, thereby reducing agility. 

With the right technology, sales teams can increase predictability and productivity. An industry-specific CRM solution can help manufacturers:

  • Drive account transparency by providing a consolidated view of all sales agreements and customer data on one shared platform to enhance compliance
  • Combine data from enterprise resource planning (ERP) or order management solutions with customer data to ensure production goes as planned
  • Enable salespeople to collaborate with other teams and create highly accurate sales forecasts based on new and run-rate business
  • Automate manual tasks such as lead management and quote generation to shorten the sales cycle
  • Use AI-powered insights into account health, product recommendations, and more to improve day-to-day operations
  • Leverage data visualisations and predictions to analyse an organisation’s performance and drive measurable growth

For instance, using Salesforce, Penna Cement consolidated data from across disparate systems to give its sales and service teams a holistic customer view to close more deals. They use Chatter to increase collaboration between teams, and with mobile solutions, everyone is empowered to work from anywhere. 


2. Empowering partners to bring in more revenue

A manufacturer’s success largely depends on how their partner network sells to – and serves – their end customers. Partners too want to sell more and make the sales process easier and faster. To enable them, ask yourself how you can get your partners to understand your business and optimise revenue generation through channel pipeline forecasts.

Improving how you interact with one other can strengthen your partnerships and reveal greater opportunities. Increase alignment with partners by: 

  • Using a dealer/partner management solution to simplify onboarding, ordering and incentive management 
  • Capture real-time feedback on products from the field, and share insights about customers to identify more revenue opportunities
  • Providing online learning tools to ensure continued transfer of knowledge to get partners up to speed
  • Assigning role-based tasks and deals to prevent channel conflict and duplication of work 
  • Helping partners find more leads with pre-built marketing campaigns to amplify engagement while maintaining consistent messaging
  • Equipping partners with 360-degree customer data and intelligent automation tools such as proposal or discount generation to collaboratively close more deals
  • Supporting partners with self-service and performance tracking tools to discover help and align goals

How Salesforce can enable connected manufacturing

Salesforce Manufacturing Cloud is a cloud-based, AI-powered industry-specific CRM for manufacturing companies that:

  • Provides every stakeholder access to crucial sales agreement details
  • Increases visibility into end-to-end operations
  • Integrates with a range of systems for greater data unification
  • Drives business growth with enhanced forecasting capabilities
  • Increases alignment through better partner management
  • Enhances collaboration to reduce latency – from planning to distribution
  • Surfaces AI-driven actionable business insights and recommendation for smoother operations

Watch this demo to see Manufacturing Cloud in action.