Manufacturing AUTOMATION

ERP overhaul: CB Engineering saves $250,000 annually and reduces operating expenses by moving to the Cloud

June 28, 2011
By Roman Bukary

CB Engineering, a Calgary, Alta.-based manufacturer’s representative in the instrumentation industry, prides itself on strong in-house expertise and extensive customer relationships; but the 37-year-old firm recognized that its growth and future plans were constrained by its aging ERP systems. Built on legacy green-screen applications and multiple separate Microsoft Access databases, there was little in the way of integration or automation – leading to repeated processes and a great deal of redundant data entry. Separate databases managed repairs, technical support tickets, commissioning projects and sales operations.

In short, each functional group had its own, siloed software, with no clear communication between them. Generating critical sales pipeline reports was a manual process, requiring regular review and testing. Each step in the opportunity-to-quote-to-sales order was conducted by different people, using different software.

The disparate IT infrastructure was hampering CB Engineering’s ability to leverage information available across the customer’s sales-to-purchase cycle. The outbound field professionals had a difficult time staying connected to the inside sales and technical support groups. Hours of internal telephone communication were required to ensure everyone was kept informed about potential issues or new opportunities.

The costs of conducting business were mounting as a result of the operational redundancies and lack of software synchronization. In the operations group, skilled workers would burn hours re-entering pipeline, proposal and order information across various systems. Thousands of dollars in wasted expenses forced CB Engineering’s cost curve to rise.

With widespread markets in industrial processes from food production to water and oil processing, the competitive stakes were high. A single, specialized component can sell for as much as $250,000. Manufacturing partners wanted a closer, more seamless relationship with CB Engineering, which would not have been possible on the existing systems.

“We realized we couldn’t get the type of visibility we wanted and couldn’t optimize our teams any further without moving to a more cohesive system,” says Brad Bowyer, CB Engineering operations manager.

The NetSuite solution proved to be the ideal fit for CB Engineering. Because NetSuite provides comprehensive accounting, sales and service capabilities, it was able to replace the entire slate of disparate applications and spreadsheets with a single solution capable of managing all of the company’s CRM and ERP needs. NetSuite’s cloud delivery model means that CB Engineering no longer has to maintain expensive data centres and servers.

With NetSuite, CB Engineering can spend more time attracting highly trained staff and winning the trust and confidence of its manufacturing partners, instead of fretting over data entry and mismatched information. Thirty-five users now have real-time access to all order, customer and service data relevant to CB Engineering’s business. Instead of one static sales report per quarter, monthly reports are automatically generated and distributed, and any sales or management employee can generate an up-to-date report on demand.

Because all searches, queries and reports come from the same data source, CB Engineering’s analytical capabilities have greatly improved.

“Now everybody has much better visibility, and there is much more co-ordination between the outside and inside sales groups,” Bowyer says. “We have more sophisticated alerts and reports, and as a result, we don’t miss sales opportunities, and we get the right people in front of customers at the right time.”

Order flow is greatly accelerated. With superior process flow and fewer repetitive steps, processing an order for in-stock items takes one-sixth the time compared to the old solution. The time to prepare large, itemized custom orders has also been cut by one-sixth. The significant efficiencies and time savings have enabled CB Engineering to reassign its data analysts to become part of the sales organization.

“We used to have quite a few clerks who didn’t do much more than data, but those people have been rolled into the sales team because we can do everything in a much more cost-effective way,” says Bowyer.

NetSuite helped CB Engineering reduce operating expenses by 30 percent across the board. Sales personnel are much more immediately valuable to the company, as well. A full training cycle took as long as two years under the previous system before a representative could be fully ready for the field. Now, comprehensive sales training takes just three months.

The benefits extend to CB Engineering’s manufacturing partners, as well. Because the company’s relationships and sales pipeline are more transparent, manufacturers are more frequently able to extend executive sales support for major client engagements, including executive sponsorship deals and more frequent dialogues with factory personnel. And the company has been able to expand its operating footprint using virtual offices. The NetSuite cloud-based solution has enabled CB Engineering to retain talented employees as remote workers, when life circumstances required them to move away from the company’s warehouse and four sales offices.

CB Engineering’s cloud revolution with NetSuite has created a leaner and more efficient company, and one that presents a much stronger image to customers and manufacturing partners alike.

“Our relationships are long-term; we often engage for 15 to 20 years. Our manufacturers want to know what’s going on in the field, and now our reports and data deliver exactly what they’re looking for,” says Bowyer. “Our repeat business with customers is improving, our opportunity close ratio is higher, and customer satisfaction is higher because now everybody knows what is happening with the customer process.”

Roman Bukary is the head of manufacturing and wholesale distribution industries for NetSuite.

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