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While the manufacturing industry never ground to a complete halt in the face of COVID-19, the impact of the pandemic on the sector has certainly been felt.
According to the 2020 2nd Quarters Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey conducted by the National Associate for Manufacturers, manufacturing production between February and April fell 18.5%. Unemployment also hit the sector hard, with at least 1.3 million jobs lost.
The good news is the manufacturing sector is beginning to rebound. The Institute for Supply Management, which tracks economic activity in the manufacturing sector, has recorded four months of consecutive growth following April’s contraction.
Despite the good news, the pandemic has exposed the fault lines for the manufacturing industry and exemplified the need for manufacturers to prioritize resiliency and agility — not only to manage the ongoing impact of this pandemic, but to prepare for the next unknown crisis as well.
“COVID-19 is forcing us all to understand how we digitally engage,” says Cindy Bolt, Senior Vice President, Salesforce Industries. “How do we engage the entire ecosystem – from employees to customers – in a way that is personalized and digital? Manufacturers are recognizing that it’s imperative to engage digitally in a way that is effective and allows you to differentiate yourself.”
It’s an issue that Salesforce has been acutely aware of and helping to address for more than two decades. More recently, the company launched Manufacturing Cloud in September 2019 to bridge the gap between sales and operations teams. Manufacturing is capital intensive with complex physical operations, making it difficult to quickly adjust to changing circumstances. Customer and market demands change constantly and the inability to anticipate this variability can have significant negative impacts on the business.
This problem has been especially acute for manufacturers during COVID-19.
As a number of manufacturers pivoted to manufacturing necessary relief supplies for the country, many of these companies realized that their digital infrastructure wasn’t capable of handling a fully remote workforce where speed and close collaboration were essential to success. Some Salesforce customers, like 3M, found that early investments and a single instance of Salesforce deployed across 83 countries enabled the company to leverage knowledge across the organization and collaborate closely with each other.
Salesforce isn’t alone in solving this problem for manufacturers and has seen its AppExchange partners also help customers during this critical time.
“We’ve had lots of customers not only look at how they’re leveraging Salesforce, but how they’re utilizing solutions from our AppExchange partners to connect with customers more deeply as they reopen and look to stabilize their businesses,” says Bolt. “At any time, but especially during a crisis like this one, our partners are a critical part of leveraging the full power of the Salesforce platform to ensure that information is flowing across the entire organization in a way that enables business agility and delivers on customer expectations.”
Salesforce AppExchange offers more than 6,000 solutions built by ecosystem partners and by Salesforce Labs, including many solutions built by ISVs (independent software vendors) specifically for manufacturers. While Manufacturing Cloud offers unified account planning and forecasts in the CRM (in addition to leveraging the full power of the Customer 360), Salesforce partners help manufacturers run the entirety of their manufacturing operations from within Salesforce and replace legacy solutions. In leveraging the ISV ecosystem, manufacturers are able to ensure seamless information sharing across the Salesforce platform to ensure that teams within an organization, from sales to operations to engineering, are sharing information and collaborating in real-time. This includes everything from product lifecycle management to enterprise resource planning.
In the wake of the pandemic, Salesforce launched Work.com—a suite of technology solutions and resources to help business and community leaders reopen safely and respond efficiently to the unprecedented challenges posed by our new normal. This included manufacturing and supply chain solutions built by our partners, integrated with Work.com and available through the Work.com collection page on AppExchange. Supplier Readiness, a solution built by inaugural Work.com partner ComplianceQuest, is a prime example— it’s built to help organizations collaborate with supply chain partners to manage their product’s quality, safety and compliance; enabling companies to achieve their return to work initiatives.
Bolt notes that as businesses have been forced to go remote, customers have even been experimenting with augmented reality solutions on AppExchange as a way to deepen a connection and work with a customer.
Propel, aimed at helping manufacturers create, commercialize and correct their products, is one Salesforce AppExchange partner who has helped manufacturers navigate the COVID-19 crisis.
Dario Ambrosini, Chief Marketing Officer for Propel, notes that flexibility and integration has been crucial to manufacturers who are struggling to forecast demand amidst the pandemic and have seen their supply chains disrupted.
“Manufacturers need to react quickly to unexpected changes from both suppliers and customers,” says Ambrosini. “Integrating their customer, supplier and product records allows them to make fast decisions thanks to streamlined collaboration and complete visibility.”
As a result of the pandemic, many manufacturers have realized that their IT stack wasn’t optimized for this agility, but that has quickly been changing.
AppExchange partner Tavant, which offers a warranty management product for manufacturers, has been witnessing this gap closing first-hand as they work with customers on issues like supplier recovery, faster claim payout and accurate failure determination to help manage cash flow during this critical time.
“In the last three months there has been more digital transformation because of COVID-19, than what has happened in the past few years,” says Vikas Khosla, Executive Vice President of Sales at Tavant. “Companies have been slow to react – testing and playing with new technology and ways to improve customer experience, but there is now a sudden need and rush to improve right away.”
Enabling remote work and training has been critical for manufacturers who suddenly found their workforces at home and needed to maintain a way to both effectively service customers and get their workforces safely back onto the factory floor.
Ambrosini cites how one manufacturing customer relied on Propel to implement safety training remotely as a strategy to minimize factory downtime. With the entire workforce sent home, the company used Propel to remotely train their manufacturing floor team on new state and local regulations with regard to COVID-19. “When factories were able to reopen, they were ready from day one because they had already completed their safety training remotely.”
As manufacturers continue to manage this pandemic, they’re realizing the tools they are investing in have long term value.
“This whole ecosystem is going through a massive transformation,” says Khosla. “It’s not about just solving the problem for today. There is a bigger long term, post-pandemic strategy that they need to adopt.”
To learn more about how Salesforce Manufacturing Cloud and partners like ComplianceQuest, Propel, Rootstock and Tavant are helping manufacturers across critical operational areas, check out this unique series here.