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My Top Takeaways from the First-Ever Salesforce Manufacturing Summit

Propel’s chief strategy officer Ray Hein on his learnings from a unique event for the manufacturing industry cloud space.

In early December, roughly 700 industry leaders and innovators in the industry cloud space gathered in Chicago, the heartland of manufacturing.

As the first event of its kind, the aim of the Salesforce Manufacturing Summit was to gather Salesforce Cloud leaders, top manufacturing industry partners, and independent software vendors (ISV) to both showcase and encourage ideas for product innovation. 

I attended the event along with a handful of other leaders from Propel, and we all took home some key impressions from the unique and inspiring experience.

Here are my top takeaways. 

1. The desire for innovation and transformation continues to accelerate.

In this uncertain time—when we’re seeing interest rate hikes, supply chain challenges, and reductions in workforce across the board—a large portion of companies continue to look for paths to become more effective and more efficient and they are leveraging technology as an opportunity to do so.

It’s the reason transformation is still so rampant among product companies, even when dealing with macro challenges—and why these companies continue to innovate.

And while there are obstacles ahead of us, the best companies continue to look for opportunities to leverage new technologies to help them extend their market leadership or become leaders in existing markets and new spaces. 

2. Industry cloud solutions are growth vehicles.

This summit was unique in that it brought together Salesforce Clouds and ten manufacturing-focused ISVs built natively on the Salesforce platform, along with our joint customers and prospects. There emerged a “better together” story (more on that below), all about extending the Salesforce platform through these ISVs that augment and add value to the Manufacturing Cloud and their customers. 

As Salesforce continues to invest in different industry vertical cloud partners, the manufacturing cloud vertical in particular has proved itself to be a key industry and growth vehicle.

Industry-specific clouds are driving innovation and transformation by taking disparate horizontal services, such as customer relationship management (CRM), product lifecycle management (PLM), and quality management (QMS), and putting them on a single platform for cloud customers. By interconnecting these different solutions, data can be shared and business workflows can be optimized across the entire company instead of just within departments or siloed teams.

Not to mention, the simplicity and greater ROI that comes from horizontal solutions that seamlessly integrate. This simplified IT stack not only lowers costs, it’s also easier to set up, maintain, and administer with broader adoption across the workforce and value chain.

This increasing desire for bringing together different tools and services into a common platform is a natural evolution for product companies to evolve and go deeper and deeper into industry-specific solutions.

3. It pays to be an agent of change.

One of Propel's customers, MSA Safety, featured in our breakout session “Harmonize Product, Quality, & Customer Processes,” truly demonstrates itself as the poster child for leveraging technology to help grow revenue. 

Their VP of Operations and Plant Manager, Michael Farr, spoke to the importance of technology evolution and the personal role he played as an agent of change at MSA Safety. 

Years ago, Farr was looking to be able to do more with less and drive revenue growth at the same time. He knew they needed a unified data source—with both customer and product data in one common environment. 

He shared his journey—a multi-year journey in fact—that allowed MSA Safety to achieve these transformation goals. 

And they did just that—after implementing both product lifecycle management (PLM) and quality management (QMS) across their whole team with Propel, MSA Safety deployed Salesforce Sales Cloud and Service Cloud to create a unified view of products and customers across the entire company. 

The resulting visibility and collaboration enabled MSA Safety to register a 25% increase in revenue while headcount decreased by 20%. Not to mention, they continued to maintain 100% of their product compliance across five different agencies that each audited their operations four times annually.

Plus, MSA Safety extended this transformation through their whole value chain. All stakeholders were required to use the new solution, so the benefits were felt by the engineering and manufacturing teams, sales and marketing teams, as well as suppliers and customers. 

Their transformation process began by assessing their landscape. They determined whatever software they implemented needed to be extensible enough to incorporate all of their needs as they transformed over time.

Knowing that Propel was built on the Salesforce technology platform steered their decision to leverage Propel’s solution first and then build upon that as they went forward.

Ultimately, this is a prime example of business transformation. A 100-plus-year-old company that helped drive the commercialization and product teams into a common platform and modernize their processes.

All for which Michael was the champion.

At the Summit, he shared his success and he also talked about being an agent of change—how it felt rewarding for him personally, after yielding the spectacular results that his company saw, to be able to say he led the way for that transformation.

4. Salesforce has a “better together” manufacturing industry solution.

The success of the event was thanks to the presence of so many amazing partners who not only share a connection to Salesforce, but also a vision for innovation. In addition to Propel, the Manufacturing Summit was sponsored by CDS, ComplianceQuest, Enosix, KetteQ,, Rootstock, ServiceMax, Tavant, and Zilliant. 

All of these solutions are built natively on the Salesforce platform, and as such, they work seamlessly with Salesforce Clouds as well as with each other to extend the value of the Salesforce platform. 

Each brings their own manufacturing expertise and together with Propel deliver one of the most comprehensive and flexible manufacturing industry cloud solutions available.

During the session we led together, Farr and I both made the point that, with the economic uncertainty the world is facing, this is the time when you see leaders lead. The Salesforce platform provides the visibility, capabilities, and flexibility for these manufacturing leaders to truly make an impact on their companies, much like Farr did at MSA Safety.

So many who attended this event shared this common vision for spurring transformation via technology, not only as a means to combat uncertainty but to help leaders lead their companies to continued growth.

It proves that these combined solutions on a common platform, provide a better together industry solution that is tailor-made for the use cases and problems that manufacturing customers are trying to solve.

Listen to Michael Farr's inspiring story about being an agent of change for MSA Safety in the Platform Rules podcast, "Bonus Episode: Keep Transforming."

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Ray Hein
Founder & Board Member, Propel

Ray is a SaaS veteran with 20+ years of PLM, development and product launch experience in both hardware and enterprise software organizations. Ray has held multiple executive positions at companies such as Agile Software, Apttus, Vendavo and Centric Software.

Fun Fact: Ray volunteers about two weeks a year with organizations like the American Diabetes Association, Family Giving Tree and Second Harvest Food Bank.

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Ray Hein