American manufacturing is becoming increasingly more digital as new technologies surface and buyers become younger and more tech-savvy. Industry 4.0 is all about using data and automation to drive efficiency and meet the changing needs of today’s buyers, but in order to do this, you need to invest in software.
The first thing to think about when choosing software is where to put your investment. Most manufacturers focus the bulk of their technology investment on the shop floor to drive efficiency, but changing buyer expectations for Amazon-like experiences, instant gratification, and speedy response times can only be filled through investments in digitizing your front office.
Our Part Buyer survey found that 67% of industrial buyers expect a quote in less than 24 hours from the time they submit a request for quote (RFQ), and only 6% are willing to wait up to a week for a response. Activities like sales, estimating, quoting, communication to the shop floor, customer service, and procurement are all at the tip of the spear when it comes to filling the expectation gap and are often fraught with inefficiency in the average manufacturer.
If you are interested in growing your business, you may be considering software like a CRM system. The question you should ask yourself is, “Is this CRM system designed for my business?” CRMs like Hubspot, Salesforce, or Zoho are not customized for manufacturers and are not designed to track pipeline and revenue the way manufacturers do, where the pipeline is a quote.
You may also be asking yourself, why do I need a front office solution if I have an ERP system. The answer is, your ERP system was designed to manage the shop floor and the resources in your business, not sales and quoting in the front office. And while most ERP systems have quoting and customer modules, these are proving to be inadequate in meeting the demands of modern buyers.
Most ERP systems are not in the cloud. This makes it really hard to securely share files and communicate with customers, or access data remotely to answer RFQs from customers from anywhere at any time.
You may also be using or considering software solutions like Microsoft Teams, but if your Microsoft Teams is not hosted on a GovCloud compliant solution and you are sharing files here, you are actually violating ITAR without realizing it.
What you should be looking for is one centralized software platform that is designed specifically for manufacturers to help you securely store and share files on the cloud, grow your business with easy and flexible estimating and quoting tools, and seamlessly integrate with your existing core systems.
Purchasing software to digitize your front office is a long-term commitment, an important investment, and can be a tricky process to navigate. Many shop owners have been burned by their software providers in the past. Download The Machine Shop’s Guide to Evaluating the Right Front Office Software for a checklist of the right questions to ask when evaluating software providers.
The Machine Shop’s Guide to Evaluating the Right Front Office Software