Automotive Manufacturers Sell More with a Better Bid Response System

By | CRM, Manufacturing

Do you want to win more bids?

You need a better bid response system.

Without a strong automotive manufacturing bid response system in place, your team is going to be spending too much time putting together quotes that may be late, not competitive, or not complete, and seeing far too few sales successes as a result.

Bid response is a major challenge for most automotive manufacturers.

If you don’t respond well, your competition will, and you won’t win.

If you do respond, you’d better win… because the bid response takes a significant amount of company time and resources.

An automotive manufacturing bid response system like the one we’ve built using Dynamics 365 for Sales can help you win more bids by:

  • Creating one single solution to globally manage all bid responses
  • Coordinating efforts across departments – Sales, FP&A, Engineering and Production Planning
  • Centralizing pricing and all response documentation for quick and easy reference
  • Enforcing standards to create better consistency
  • Automating the approval process
  • Improving employee efficiency through familiar Office 365 tools
  • Analyzing what’s working – and what isn’t

You’ll be able to see every opportunity at every stage of the bid response process, which helps you analyze which opportunities need more attention, and can improve accurate sales forecasting.

Ditch the spreadsheets. Get a professional bid management system that helps you win more business.

8 Ways CRM Helps Manufacturers Improve Business

Learn More

Author: Mark Schindler, Sales Representative

What do CFOs like about Dynamics 365?

By | CRM, ERP, Manufacturing

CFOs are constantly balancing the company’s limitations of today with the possibilities of tomorrow. They look for hidden risks and ways to capitalize on unseized opportunities. With these priorities in mind, let’s look at how Microsoft Dynamics 365 meets the evaluation criteria for CFOs.

What we hear from CFOs about what they value in Dynamics 365:

1. Dynamics 365 is industry specific. Yes. Even as a broad software application, Microsoft has created hundreds of industry-specific features. ISV partners have extended Dynamics 365 into niche industries even further (you can find these Dynamics 365 industry solutions on AppSource). Microsoft partners, like ourselves, tie the solution together by providing industry-specific consulting services and support. CFOs are vocal about their preference for ERP solutions that have been proven in their industry, with consulting resources who can add value from day 1 of the software project.

2. Dynamics 365 is globalized. ERP software solutions running in geographic silos often run into trouble. When your supply chain is global, your ERP solution needs to be available in multiple currencies, multiple languages and follow-the-sun support services.

3. Dynamics 365 is scalable. With Dynamics 365, you buy what you need today, and add as you grow. You can add additional Dynamics 365 applications to extend functionality – like Sales, Field Service, Project Service Automation and the like. You can also add users and additional services. If you were to merge or divest a business unit, your ERP software adapts to the size and scale you need.  That means you’re never over purchasing just to ‘future proof’ your technology investment. When you’re ready to grow, your software will grow with you.

4. Dynamics 365 provides insight for innovation. Gaining a competitive edge requires having the knowledge of what to do, and the capability to act. Business analytics tools like Power BI provide almost real-time information in a context that makes sense to your business users. Because Dynamics 365 allows you to easily configure your software without coding, you have the flexibility to extend it to meet new business needs.

5. Dynamics 365 is always up-to-date and offers a great user experience. Because Dynamics 365 is a SaaS solution, available in the cloud, versioning is automatically taken care of by “the system administrators in the cloud.” Being cloud-based also makes Dynamics 365 inherently mobile, available via any mobile or tablet application. Studies repeatedly show that enterprise software project success depends on user adoption. By offering familiar tools that make it easy to collaborate with colleagues and work with other everyday productivity applications like Office 365, CFOs increase the likelihood of project success.

The bottom line for CFOs is that Dynamics 365 is a great tool to improve the bottom line, while reducing risk to the organization.

Is your company ready to embrace modern technology?

Request a Readiness Assessment

Author: Doug Bulla, VP Business Development

3 Ways Engineers are Staying on Top of Auto Regulations

By | CRM, ERP, Manufacturing

Automotive engineers involved in the sales process have a responsibility to ensure that your automotive supply company stays on top of the latest regulations. Changes in regulations often drive design changes, which changes cost structures, which requires an intense amount of communication and collaboration amongst the sales, finance and engineering staff.

How are Engineering heads managing regulation changes?  They manage by:

1. Staying informed of automotive regulations.

Websites like SEMA and SAE international publish automotive engineering standards, but also automotive engineering standards under development.  As the VP of Engineering, a critical part of the job is staying informed and finding ways to influence change internally as well as externally. Commit budget to go to conferences and network with peers.

2. Communicating automotive regulatory changes throughout the organization.

It’s not enough for you to know when a regulation has changed. Your team needs to understand as well. As a critical part of the engineering team, you may need to understand the impact the regulation change will have to cost, design, timing and production. You can also share regulation documents through Microsoft Team and SharePoint or use Dynamics 365 to automatically post notifications to other users who need to be aware of and understand relevant regulation changes so they know how to adjust appropriately.

3. Manage regulatory changes within the engineering project automation system.

Software applications like Dynamics 365 for Project Service Automation enable engineers to define and track milestones for changes to the automotive part, and have status changes reflected throughout every stage of the process from sales to production. That will keep you ahead of production issues and be more proactive in communicating and resolving problems.  Project templates can also be developed and used to ensure consistency and adherence to best practices such as APQP.

Learn the 8 ways auto part manufacturers can connect the dots to improve marketing, sales and service.

Learn More

Author: Mark Schindler, Software Sales

Bridging the Gap Between Current Processes & Future State Lean Models

By | ERP, Lean, Manufacturing

When we work with clients to implement lean manufacturing principles, we typically use a software tool called LeanCONNECT (formerly called Areteium). With this tool, we can use existing manufacturing production data from any ERP system to identify existing plant floor inefficiencies. Running a variety of scenarios, we can create sophisticated future state lean models.

How do you build a bridge to the future state of lean manufacturing?

Step 1: Lean principles begin with leadership

The first and most important element of any transformation is to get executive buy-in. Lean manufacturing is an ongoing commitment and requires perseverance and adherence to the concepts and principles for the long-term. Lean manufacturing is less of a process, and more of a mindset. Nothing will derail a lean project faster than lack of leadership.

Step 2: Document the current value streams

Step two is to document your current processes, which in lean manufacturing are called Value Streams. You want to look at each process from beginning to end. Document how long each step takes. Note inefficiencies and areas of waste. Document the impact on customers, as well as your company. In lean, we often talk about takt time – how long it takes for a product to be produced. To calculate takt time, you’ll need to know:

  • The production schedule – how much time is spent in operation.
  • How much time is required for equipment maintenance, breaks, shift changes, and clean up.
  • How much customer demand/product is produced within that time span. Many businesses have cyclical demands, by time of day or seasonality, and this factors into your value stream calculations.

The goal of building to takt time is to eliminate non-value adding time and balance the workload of the operators and equipment. In addition to defining how long production takes, you must also account for things like:

  • Product defect percentages
  • Fluctuations in raw material costs
  • Inventory carrying costs
  • Reasons for downtime – changeovers, maintenance, etc.

Ideally, you’ll want to gather these metrics from data gathered over a significant duration in time. We use LeanCONNECT to pull in information from your ERP system, but you can use other business analytics tools as well.

Step 3: Start asking “what if”?

With so much information available, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. Pick an area that stands out as particularly in need of improvement and consider your options:

  • What if we reduced customer defects? Could we charge more? How much would this impact our costs and profitability?
  • What if we added more capacity in this plant – or more resources to this shift?

Quantify the benefit you would obtain by achieving this future state lean model.

Step 4: Pick one area of focus.

Using your “what if” analysis, isolate one area of improvement. This quick win will help get the entire team on board with your lean manufacturing initiatives. Be sure to communicate your successes and the impact across the organization.

Step 5: Look long-term

Lean manufacturing is a never-ending journey of continuous improvement. Make sure your team is prepared for a marathon, not a quick sprint. Those small corrections over time add up to big savings for your company and added value to your customers. The key is to have cohesion and commitment to lean principles across the organization. From sales to production to shipping, each department must work in coordination with the rest of the organization.

9 Ways to Squeeze Manufacturing Revenue & Sweeten Profits

Learn More

Author: Phil Coy, Managing Director, Manufacturing Excellence

5 Ways to Increase Quality Without Increasing Production Cost

By | ERP, Lean, Manufacturing

Razor thin margins leave little room for production errors. Because product recalls and customer refunds are so expensive, you want to be able to consistently deliver quality products, but without adding to your production costs.

1. Define what product quality means.

How are your customers using this product? How do they measure the quality of your product? You can avoid over-engineering your product by understanding the quality standards of your customers. They may be willing to pay less for lower quality – or you may be able to charge more by increasing quality.

2. Create, document and follow established processes.

Create discipline around your business processes. Consistent routines deliver consistent results. One of the reasons most manufacturers have MRP and ERP systems is to enforce standardization. However, these manufacturing systems must be flexible enough to change as your business processes change. If people start working around the system, the software will not reflect the reality of the shop floor.

3. Hire good people and train them.

With your processes established, you need people who will follow the guidelines you set. You also need competent people to manage others and perform skilled labor jobs. If you can’t find people with enough experience, find people with a good attitude and give them opportunities to learn from your more seasoned employees.

4. Maintain your equipment.

Equipment problems can degrade the quality of your output. Preventative maintenance is the key to avoiding down time and lowered production quality.  Conduct regular checks and replace worn components before they break down. Many manufacturers are starting to use IoT sensors to detect issues early, by monitoring usage, heat variations and other deviations from baseline settings. Part of your maintenance plans should include having critical and frequently replaced spare component parts on hand. You’ll also want to make sure you have multiple people who know how to fix your equipment.

5. Create a clean, organized work environment.

Many manufacturing processes create residue – paint, oil, sawdust, metal filings, etc. This production “dust” can clog machines and get stuck to finished product.  Maintaining a clean production line can improve quality with little effort. Product can also get damaged by mishandling, being stored improperly, and in the shipping process.  Having an organized work environment can lower your risk of delivering damaged product.

What else would you add to this list? Have you found ways to increase production quality without adding to your production costs?

Manufacturers are Gaining a Digital Advantage

Running a manufacturing operation is no easy task. Gain a competitive advantage by embracing digital through Microsoft Dynamics 365 and the Microsoft Cloud.

Learn More

Author: Phil Coy, Managing Director – Manufacturing Excellence

Even old-school CFOs are demanding modern manufacturing technology

By | CRM, ERP, Manufacturing

“How do you achieve better profit margins?”

That’s the bottom line question for every CFO. Your job is to make sure there’s enough money in the bank to keep operations running smoothly, and to decide how your company will invest in its future.

Your company’s profit margins come from:

  • Controlling costs
  • Increasing revenue
  • Creating operational efficiency

In addition, you have to manage risk. You don’t want one mistake to wipe out your business – or set you back for years. Only technology has the capacity to consistently improve your business in all 3 areas.

If you’re in tier 1 automotive supply manufacturing, your business is depending on orders from the big automobile companies. Modern manufacturing technology can help you with:

  • Accurate forecasting – Sophisticated data models and predictive analytics can provide clear forecasts, enabling you to better manage inventory, cashflow, and production schedules to optimize operations.
  • Reduction in errors and product defects – Using IoT devices and machine learning, you can spot products more likely to fail or have defects. Automation workflows built into modern ERP and CRM systems speed up approvals and collaboration across global cross-functional teams.
  • Distributing knowledge across the enterprise – Collaboration is critical. Your sales, marketing, production, R&D and service departments each need their own insight to do their job. Role-based dashboards in your ERP and CRM system speed up collaboration, provide visibility into key performance indicators and identify issues early on.
  • Creating competitive differentiation – One way to increase profit margin and market share is to offer products and services that deliver greater value to customers. You need an easy way to customize and modify your business systems to adjust for changes in your unique business process.

One reason that even the most old-school CFO is embracing technology now is cloud computing.  With cloud software like Microsoft Dynamics 365, you’ll find new opportunities to improve profit margin.  Here’s why:

  1. There’s no big upfront costs for hardware or software – less capital expenditure.
  2. Cloud software is automatically updated and upgraded – less risk, less administrative overhead.
  3. Many industry and functional packages are available – if you buy a solution like Microsoft Dynamics 365, you have access to thousands of add-ons (less risk, less cost).
  4. Employees can access the system wherever they have an internet connection. That means your engineers in Michigan can easily collaborate with your factory in Mexico.
  5. Now, more data means more information and insight. Prior to the cloud, data would be discarded because it was too expensive to store. That information can now be used, and even combined with big data and historical data to provide even better information.

Is your company ready to embrace modern technology?

Request a Readiness Assessment

Author: Mark Schindler, Software Sales

What is Manufacturing CONNECT Accelerator?

By | ERP, Manufacturing

Since manufacturing enterprise management software (ERP) was first developed, a truth that “everyone knows” is that implementing new MRP / ERP software is a long, expensive and complicated process.

Worth it? YES! Usually.

Easy? NO! Almost never…at least that’s how ERP implementations USED to be.

Technology has changed radically over the past decade. Costs are coming down. Complexity has been simplified. Modern cloud ERP systems have removed financial, technological and geographical barriers. There is less software and technology infrastructure to buy, build and maintain.

In the Fall of 2016, Microsoft launched Dynamics 365, a cloud-based subscription-based option for implementing ERP and CRM software across a global enterprise.  ManufacturingCONNECT Accelerator takes Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations (ERP) a step further, preconfiguring the settings for the needs of a discrete manufacturing company.

ManufacturingCONNECT Accelerator is not a “light” or scaled down version of Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations. Once the initial implementation is complete, you can easily customize or add any additional features you want. Think of ManufacturingCONNECT Accelerator as an industry package. All the typical configuration a discrete manufacturer needs is setup before you even get your hands on the software. We provide process guides to lead you through the implementation, and to help train your users.

Is ManufacturingCONNECT Accelerator right for you?

  • Do you plan to use Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations as your ERP system?
  • Are you a discrete manufacturer?
  • Are your manufacturing and ERP requirements relatively straight-forward?
  • Do you appreciate saving time and money?

If you answered YES to these 4 questions, you’re likely a good candidate.

Contact us to schedule a demo or visit the resources listed below.

Learn More About our ManufacturingCONNECT Accelerator

Download our Fact Sheet to learn more.

Download the Fact Sheet

Author: Jay Rutledge, Director – Product Development

5 Secrets to Improving Bid Responses for Auto Suppliers

By | CRM, ERP, Manufacturing

Automotive supplier sales reps and engineers spend a lot of time responding to RFPs (Requests for Proposals). With so much time and energy going into formulating each response, what can you do to increase the odds of winning the opportunity?

1. Build relationships. Become a supplier that automotive manufacturers trust to deliver on your promises. When other automotive suppliers swoop in to provide lower prices, your track record of consistent excellence and commitment to the automotive manufacturing community will set you apart from competition.

2. Keep innovating.  Car buyers want a reason to upgrade to a new vehicle. Car manufacturers want buyers to switch to their brand. One reason they attract new buyers is because of the products companies like you produce. From offering fuel savings to safety improvements to the latest upgrades in navigation and audio, the automotive products you create help drive new car sales. Having something your competitors don’t offer is a sure way to differentiate from the crowd.

3. Keep better track of the sales process.  When will that RFP be posted? When is it due? Who needs to be involved in the engineering, design and price costing process? The only way to properly manage the bid response process is to use bid management software.  There are too many moving parts to rely on Excel spreadsheets and homegrown Access databases.

4. Create re-usable templates.  As a software consulting company, we believe in building processes. Rather than re-creating the wheel with every new RFP, or digging through folders to find that one paragraph you needed, Dynamics 365 integrates with Microsoft Excel and Word templates to create consistent quotes, proposals and email communications.  Another advantage of using a system like Dynamics 365 for Sales to generate quotes is that costing and engineering changes can be made in one central location and will automatically flow throughout the organization.

5. Communicate changes.  Employees, suppliers and customers need to be notified as costs and design changes are made. Workflows in your bid response system and customer relationship management systems can help ensure the right people are being kept in the loop.

We hope these 5 tips will help you improve your bid response success!

Learn 8 Ways Auto Supply Manufacturers Can Improve Sales Success with CRM

Download this free whitepaper to learn the top 8 ways Automotive Suppliers are utilizing Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Engagement and MCA Connect to improve their Sales success.

Download the Whitepaper

Author: Mark Schindler, Software Sales

Life After Moving to a Modern ERP System

By | ERP, Lean, Manufacturing

Anytime you switch out your ERP system, you can expect a certain amount of grumbling. Change doesn’t come easy to most people! But if you are moving off an older system that hasn’t been upgraded in a significant amount of time, you are likely to see employees quickly get excited about the possibilities, especially if you’ve been communicating the changes and providing training on the new ERP system throughout the implementation process.

Here is a detailed list of what you can expect:

  1. You’ll hear lots of suggestions! While some people may be trying to figure out how to do things the old way with the new ERP system, most people will be filled with ideas on what ELSE they could do to make their job easier. Build a process for evaluating input from employees. Sometimes there really is a better way.
  2. You’ll see fewer spreadsheets and hold fewer meetings.  Less meetings?! What will you do instead? Be productive! When company information isn’t centrally stored and easily accessed, organizations see a proliferation of emails, spreadsheets, access databases, and meetings – lots of meetings. Having a modern ERP system will enable you to reclaim your time, and be more productive.
  3. You’ll discover new KPI’s. With a modern ERP system that can synthesize data from across the organization, you’ll have one version of the truth, and improve your ability to uncover the root causes of issues. With better insight, you’ll be able to produce even better results.
  4. You may need to re-distribute your resources. If you choose a modern cloud-based ERP system like Dynamics 365, you won’t need those same resources to manage the hardware, software and servers. Instead, those IT administrators may be re-deployed to other projects or to handle software configuration and security.
  5. You’ll want everything to integrate. Once you see how much sense it makes to have procurement, engineering, scheduling, production, shipping, sales, etc. all in one integrated system, you’ll start looking for ways to bring in the pieces that weren’t identified in the initial project scope. You’ll experience how workflow, automation and predictive analytics makes your system more “human-proof”, reducing errors, improving collaboration and accelerating innovation.

Success with your new ERP system won’t come overnight. Implementations take a concerted effort over a significant period of time, but perseverance pays off.

Decide which Modern ERP System is Best For You

Download this Free ERP Evaluation Guide to help you decide which ERP solution is best for your business.

Download ERP Evaluation Guide

Author: Doug Bulla, VP-ERP Business Development

Starting your Lean Manufacturing Journey

By | Business Transformation, Lean, Manufacturing

Every journey begins with a first step. And the first step is deciding, “Where do I want to go?”

Lean Manufacturing is a process that is designed to take your manufacturing production from supplier to customer with no wasted effort or steps:

  • Perfect flow
  • Zero safety incidents
  • Zero product defects
  • Zero waste

In an ideal lean manufacturing scenario, you deliver exactly what the customer wants, exactly how they want it, and exactly when they need it.


That’s the halting sound of reality. While the utopian dream of constructing a perfect lean manufacturing system may remain eternally elusive, that doesn’t mean that the effort is futile.

As defined by the Lean Enterprise Institute, lean manufacturing is the principle of “maximizing customer value while minimizing waste.”

Step 1: Pinpoint your destination

Like every journey, we begin with the end in mind. For a lean manufacturing journey, we begin by asking these two questions:

  1. Where can we maximize customer value?
  2. Where can we minimize waste?

Some organizations have clear priorities. Others may have to do some discovery work to figure out where they should prioritize their efforts. If you’ve never embarked on a lean journey before, it’s wise to hire a “lean Sherpa” or as we more commonly call it, a consultant to help guide your way. Pick a few key priorities where you believe you have the most to gain.

Step 2: Decide if the lean journey is work the risk, time and effort

Can you forecast a high enough ROI (return on investment) to take on this project? We use a tool called ManufacturingCONNECT for Lean to visualize various “what if” scenarios. Other companies use complex Excel spreadsheets to forecast potential costs and savings.

Step 3: Build Your Lean Team

Lean is more than tools and takt time. It’s a mindset. For lean to be successful, lean principles must permeate throughout the company culture. The Lean Leaders you select should have time to devote to the project, be passionate about the company, and willing to embrace change. As the Lean Team builds the Lean Project Plans, they also need to create a communication and change management strategy to help the entire company learn and embrace Lean Manufacturing.

Step 4: Set Bold Goals

Make them visible. Build a vision for each area about why change is needed and what the expected results may look like. These goals must have buy-in from Executive Leadership.

Step 5: Build Your Lean Project Plan

Identify all the resources you need to execute your lean manufacturing plan. Your manufacturing systems may need to be upgraded, changed or replaced to support your lean manufacturing initiatives. Develop a reasonable timeline, but one that gets you into action as soon as possible, creating visible results. Start small and expand scope as you build momentum.

One final piece of advice is that we recommend you begin evangelizing Lean Principles as early as you can. Develop a strong communications plan. Develop training programs to get lean into the hands of your supervisors and engineers. Our “Learning Lean with Legos” training program is one of the most popular and fun ways we’ve taught lean concepts.

Learn the Benefits of a Lean Transformation

Download the Whitepaper

Author: Phil Coy, Managing Director – Manufacturing Excellence