, April 27, 2023
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Headquartered in Harahan, LA, Laitram Machinery is a global manufacturer of nut, seafood and vegetable equipment. For over 70 years, Laitram has pioneered high-performance shrimp-peeling equipment, steam cookers, blanchers, nut pasteurizers, roasters, and sorters that increase efficiency and improve product quality and yield for its customers around the world

In the past, Laitram Machinery struggled with its homegrown CRM system, which was created internally on an outdated version of Microsoft SharePoint. The system had no mobile application and was nearly impossible to access remotely through a VPN. “We had bits and pieces of disconnected customer, contact, order, and opportunity information, so we had to go to several different places in our homegrown CRM to get the data,” says Chuck Ledet, Project Manager and Executive Sponsor, Laitram Machinery. “There was no one place we could go to and see all the related records, and we couldn’t easily generate reports or determine estimated revenue numbers,” continues Ledet.

For field service management, Laitram Machinery had very limited functionality within the homegrown SharePoint system, and limited visibility into what the field service staff was doing, or what equipment they were working on. “We had very crude tools to schedule the field service staff from a calendar or schedule board standpoint. We were also unable to track repair parts that were used so we had no way to determine if there was a class problem with a particular equipment model,” continues Ledet.

Collaborative Effort

When Laitram Machinery decided to replace its homegrown CRM system, the company leaned on its sister company for initial vendor research and legwork. “One of our sister companies had already completed a due diligence exercise and comparison of different offerings and selected Microsoft Dynamics for Customer Engagement for their CRM system,” says Ledet. “And so, it was a pretty easy decision for us to make. We met with our sister company, and questioned why they selected Dynamics CE. We conducted our own cursory overview of competitive offerings but a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of selecting Microsoft Dynamics and the reasons why was already done. So, we just kind of rode that horse because we didn't feel the need to create and revisit all the why's or the cost benefit analysis of the competition. In that regard, it was an easy decision for us,” explains Ledet.

When the Laitram Machinery team was introduced to Alithya, there was synergy right off the bat. “It didn't take the Alithya team long to understand our methodology for doing things, where we could improve, and where our previous system had gaps,” says Ledet. “From there, Alithya has really been cranking out some good work and really knocking things out. I've been very happy with the team. If you were to ask what's my headline for the project? That's it. It makes everything else, I won't say easy, but it makes everything else straightforward to deal with,” continues Ledet.

From the outset, Laitram Machinery didn’t have a specific ROI goal in mind for its Microsoft Dynamics project, but wanted it to fall within a reasonable budget. “We were so far into the stone age with what we had, we knew we had to make an investment in a new system and working with the Alithya team, we had a good understanding of what the costs were to do it,” says Ledet. “It was a relatively easy decision for us to make that investment because we knew we would get something that was leaps and bounds ahead of where we were. We knew we needed to do this and felt the cost was in good alignment with the value we would get from a new system,” continues Ledet.

Starting at Phase Zero

Instead of jumping into a full-blown implementation, Laitram Machinery and Alithya started with a phase zero, or pre-implementation phase. This engagement allowed Laitram Machinery to identify the goals, scope, and objectives for its implementation, and focused the organization on solving these specific issues. Deliverables from phase zero included: mapped sales and field service processes to Dynamics, guidance on Laitram Machinery processes that were non-best practices or wouldn’t work well in Dynamics, a CRM roadmap, a phase 1 proposal, and a review of integration options for MAPICS, Laitram Machinery’s ERP system.

“After phase zero, both the Alithya team and our internal team had a better understanding of what we were about to undertake in terms of the full implementation,” says Ledet. “It gave us more information to put together a schedule that was realistic. It let us walk into the implementation with, I think, a better understanding of what we were getting into and what we could expect in terms of the project,” continues Ledet.

Laitram Machinery’s implementation was a success, partly because of the regularly scheduled cadence of workstream meetings. “I like the cadence,” says Ledet. “I liked the fact that we had a set schedule for our meetings, and we knew the topics to be discussed in advance of the meeting. The separate data and admin meetings allowed us to focus on the appropriate issues with the right team members; it was very efficient.  I also liked the portion of the process whereby we had our own internal meeting to identify and discuss issues that need further follow up. So, I like the process; I like it a lot. And I think both teams, on the Laitram Machinery side, as well the Alithya side have really played well off each other, where no one is overbearing, no one is trying to get credit for an idea,” says Ledet.

Streamlined Discussions

Laitram Machinery went live with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement and Field Service, and quickly saw time savings in its commercial opportunity status meetings. “Our weekly meetings to review opportunities are crisper, so there's not a lot of wasted energy or effort,” says Ledet. “Intuition and gut feel would say that we've cut 35 to 40% of waste out of our interactions discussing commercial opportunities, at least,” explains Ledet. Additionally, each commercial opportunity is now documented within the system so that everyone is in the loop. “Everyone's using Customer Engagement to bring up their opportunity, hit the key points, review the estimated revenue, and point out issues preventing us from closing the deal. We have answers to questions such as: Who are the key decision makers? When do we think it will close? When do we think it will ship? When will it be installed? And it really has streamlined those discussions and has resulted in a more meaningful exchange of key information,” continues Ledet.

In terms of field service, Laitram Machinery now has a better understanding of what the team is working on. “The biggest thing is really getting a better understanding of: What are our guys doing out there? Who are they seeing? What are they working on? Do we have recurring problems that our engineering team in-house has to be more attentive to?” says Ledet. In the past, these questions were left unanswered as the team struggled to gather information from the homegrown CRM system, or by sifting through emails or notes from phone calls. Now, there is a central repository of data so that nothing is missed. “We are now much more efficient at dealing with issues,” says Ledet.

Laitram Machinery is also better tracking customer service agreements, which boosts revenue. In the past, Laitram Machinery’s agreements were stored as PDF files, which were inaccessible out of the office, and had to be scrolled through to determine what was included for a customer, such as number of service visits, parts discounts, when their agreement renews, etc. Technicians had trouble making decisions on the spot, and often add-on services were not billed. This information now resides within Microsoft Dynamics Customer Engagement and can be easily searched on mobile devices, allowing field service reps to make informed decisions on site.

Key Benefits Realized by Laitram Machinery

•    Streamlined sales meetings increase productivity by 35-40%
•    Boost in service revenue by identifying service renewal opportunities
•    Better lead and opportunity tracking and revenue prediction 
•    Access to connected customer, contact, order and opportunity information 
•    Accessible on mobile devices
•    Improved reporting
•    Minimization of manual data entry
•    Visibility into and mobile access for field service operations
•    Ability to find repair issues and equipment problems 
•    Interactive, drag-and-drop schedule board
•    Onsite efficiency and improved data accuracy

Phase 2

Now that the Field Service and Customer Engagement pieces are in place at Laitram Machinery following the Phase 1 implementation, Laitram Machinery and Alithya will move on to Phase 2, which will include further improvements of both pieces. “I think we're going to get an incredible amount of value after Phase 2,” says Ledet. “There are some future things that will help, but again, we were just so far into the stone age that after phase 2 we're going to be sitting pretty and we're going to feel pretty good about it…even knowing that there are still more gains to be made down the road,” continues Ledet.

“I like the way Alithya is not an overly rigid or bureaucratic, monolithic organization that's hard to deal with. The Alithya team has been very nimble, responsive and adaptive to reasonable change and has put the success of the project above everything else versus saying, ‘well, that's out of scope and we have to charge you more for that’. I never felt like I was being nickel and dimed by Alithya trying to rack up numerous change requests or change orders.” - Chuck Ledet, Project Manager and Executive Sponsor, Laitram Machinery

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