The next phase of digitalisation calls for closed loop systems where processes can be streamlined and data can be harnessed in real time.

How Manufacturers Can Tackle Data Management Challenges, Industry Today

By John Cheney, CEO, Workbooks

The manufacturing industry has seen significant growth in technological adoptions across production facilities over the last couple of years in order to improve productivity, deliver great value to customers, and remain competitive. However, rapid digital transformation brings a number of challenges, such as how to manage increasing volumes of data. 61 per cent of organisations believe data management challenges, such as identifying new customers, streamlining operations, and driving efficiency, have slowed or will slow the automation of their business processes.

Further to this, sales teams increasingly need easy access to real-time data, deeper customer insights, and the tools to close deals quickly and efficiently. In the manufacturing sector, the rise of unexpected costs in other parts of the business is delaying buying decisions: for instance, energy prices and cost of goods equate to a major part of overall costs. So then it becomes a battle between slowing down or accelerating quickly.

To address these needs, a growing number of mid-size manufacturers have turned to cloud-based CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) technologies to grow their way out of downturn, increase customer lifetime value through more effective sales, marketing and services, achieve greater operational efficiency, and improve collaboration throughout the business.

Addressing sales and marketing challenges with digital transformation

Over the past few years, the majority of manufacturers have recognised the importance of new technology in improving customer intelligence. However, the key objective for most is generating efficiencies within their manufacturing facilities, whilst keeping costs of implementation and operation low. But revenue growth is also reliant on today’s sales and marketing teams being able to sell faster and smarter, and to focus efforts on the right opportunities at the right time.

Likewise, while most manufacturers understand the importance of their service department in driving the right customer experience, many are still using spreadsheets or paper-based systems to track customer information, including purchase history and service requests. Many still have engineers printing out service tickets to take on customer visits.

Manufacturers need to adapt sales and service models to keep up with customers’ needs and expectations. The digitalisation of manufacturing processes has enabled many to gain a competitive edge: when done right, customer service can become a strong competitive advantage too – and even be transformed into a revenue stream for the business. For instance, 60% of customers stop buying into a brand after one poor service experience, while 67% of this churn is preventable if the customer’s problem is resolved during their first interaction. That means excellent customer service not only retains your customers, but potentially leads to acquiring customers from competitors too.

This is also why many are embracing new CRM technologies which enable manufacturers to streamline operations and drive efficiency throughout the entire lead-to-cash process – all while delivering customer service excellence. This technology enables manufacturers to improve productivity in their sales functions and boost their competitiveness.

Integrating ERP and CRM

Creating an automated exchange of data between CRM and ERP systems provides a bridge between sales, marketing, customer service and production, encouraging greater collaboration across organisations.

Linking systems together opens up a flow of data that can be turned into information and insights and acted upon quickly. ERP systems do a great job of managing the order-to-invoice process, including manufacturing, billing of materials, stock control, invoicing and accounting, but they are often poor at supporting the sales and marketing processes within a business, so a best-of-breed approach is often the most successful.

Being able to market to clients effectively requires having transaction data in ERP and CRM systems, and integration allows sales and marketing teams to use existing customer knowledge to full effect. Profiling existing customers by industry, purchase history and historic revenues allows teams to upsell and cross-sell to existing clients more effectively.

It becomes easy to promote new products to customers if marketing teams can identify all the clients that bought previous products. This two-way stream of information provides production teams with pipeline visibility so they can plan production schedules accurately, and sales teams can review stock availability, product warranties and maintenance contracts. And by having access to stock control and production information, sales reps can better manage their sales pipeline, and manage customer and channel expectations.


Manufacturing is undergoing a transformation that some refer to as the fourth industrial revolution (or 4IR). For many manufacturers, 4IR is about gaining insights to help improve productivity, deliver greater value to customers and remain competitive.

Digital transformation has taken many organisations as far as improving processes and automating systems, but this often comes at the price of creating siloed internal structures. The next phase of digitalisation calls for closed loop systems where processes can be streamlined and data can be harnessed in real time. CRM is an effective enabler of these ambitions: it improves the way manufacturers manage data. This, in turn, generates new revenue opportunities for manufacturers and improves efficiency.

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