Manufacturer Boosts Sales with Oracle CRM and Business Intelligence

by Drew Robb

Pella turned to Oracle to integrate its manufacturing and customer relationship management applications.

Pella is a manufacturer and distributor of windows and doors. It runs a lean manufacturing operation, keeping little inventory in house, so it's important for the company to keep its finger on the pulse of demand so the supply chain is ready to fill those orders without delays.

Its strategy is to use HP (NYSE: HPQ) hardware and Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) applications as its IT backbone. HP storage, SuperDome servers and HP blade servers form the hardware foundation for Oracle ERP, CRM, supply chain management and other Oracle apps for manufacturing and delivery. These are organized into a self-service portal.

On the customer relationship management (CRM) side, the company is using Oracle modules for sales, marketing, contact center and the iSupport communication tool for branch offices, as well as Oracle CRM on Demand and the Oracle Business Intelligence Suite Enterprise Edition (OBIEE).

"We had a lack of process on the sales side, such as no way of tracking the steps taken on the sales cycle and no idea on follow up of leads," said Rick Hassman, director of corporate applications at Pella. "If a sales person left, we had no idea of who he had been talking with."

The organization also needed a more effective way to pass leads to the branches; once handed out, visibility was lost. And the call center didn't have a tool to document interaction with customers. Hassman noted that the company had previously focused on channel and distributor marketing. As it hadn't done much in the way of individual marketing, it had no real idea of advertising effectiveness.


Application Integration

Prior to bringing in Oracle, Pella had multiple disparate systems. On the business intelligence (BI) side, for instance, it had Cognos (now owned by IBM) for many years. Hassman wasn't critical of Cognos as such, saying the problem with BI had more to do with the low quantity of reliable data coming from branches and other information sources.

"We build to order and had a short lead time to get orders to customers," said Hassman. "We couldn't expand, as we had so many disparate systems that required a lot of effort to maintain."

A 13-member cross-functional team identified opportunities to improve systems. Their findings were used to look at the market to see what was out there. That narrowed it down to Oracle and another candidate. Both were tried in house to see how they dealt with product configuration online, how they worked in a lean manufacturing environment and the logistical complexity of Pella's multi-plant set up that included the setting of truck routes.

The decision was made to go with one integrated vendor, and Oracle won out.

"We really wanted to be with one vendor, as we had bad experiences trying to keep all of our systems in synch when we were best of breed," said Hassman. "We wanted integrated applications with a vendor who could be a partner for what we were trying to achieve."

Pella found that having everything on one platform significantly eased the support burden. While Hassman thought Cognos was a good tool, only a couple of people in the organization knew how to work with it.

"We have 50 people within Pella who know how to work with Oracle, including the BI side," said Hassman. "They are all familiar with the BI processes and table structures."

The company takes an active role with Oracle. It is a member of its advisory boards, which enables it to provide high-level product input and receive knowledge on product direction.


Siebel a 'Huge Step Forward' for Oracle CRM

Hassman said he noticed a big shift in Oracle CRM compared to his previous experience with Oracle a decade ago.

"Oracle CRM apps took a huge step forward when they acquired Siebel," said Hassman. "They took many of the Siebel capabilities and married that flexibility into Oracle CRM."

On the integration side, he said it is a benefit that the manufacturing and financial systems use the same customer database. That way, he can see customer interaction all the way across the company.

"There is a lot more flexibility in layouts on screen and in terms of options," said Hassman.

Pella makes use of both Oracle CRM and Oracle CRM On Demand. The trade and commercial side uses CRM on Demand for interaction with builders and contractors.

"On Demand is more of a contact management system which helps us manage interaction with builders," said Hassman.

Oracle CRM is used in house for such functions as lead management. Marketing generates the leads in Oracle marketing which are then passed onto sales people and then are tracked all the way through the system. If someone calls the call center based on an ad, for instance, all actions taken on that lead are entered into the system for supervisors and sales people to monitor.

Oracle BI, on the other hand, is used primarily used for retail.

"Oracle CRM and BI give us more and better information than we ever had before in order to make the right decisions," said Hassman. "We have used it to grow our retail segment significantly."

Moving forward, Pella is upgrading to Oracle 12g. After that, IT will decide whether to use Oracle's new Fusion applications. Hassman said the company will probably implement certain modules in conjunction with the Oracle eBusiness Suite, though no specific plans have been formulated.


  This article was originally published on Thursday Nov 4th 2010
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