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5 essential integrations for the manufacturing industry

Written by
Saad Merchant
Published on
March 28, 2024

As Industry 4.0 continues to evolve rapidly, modern manufacturers are faced with the challenge of accelerating their digital transformation efforts to stay relevant. One of the most effective ways to facilitate this is through the implementation and integration of business systems, SaaS solutions, and new cloud applications across the Value Chain. These application integrations help optimize processes, streamline data exchange, and provide valuable data insights. Let’s explore 5 essential integrations that manufacturers can greatly benefit from, and let’s also extrapolate how modern businesses are effectively building these integrations using an “integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS).”

5 essential integrations for the manufacturing industry

Manufacturing businesses are powered by a complex network of processes spread out across various departments. Understanding these processes is essential to deciding how to build application integrations to digitally transform businesses. Value Chain analysis is an effective way to derive this understanding.

The Value Chain is a useful framework that breaks down manufacturing processes into primary and support activities. Primary activities include Inbound & Outbound Logistics, Operations, Marketing, Sales, and Customer service. Support activities include procurement, technology, infrastructure, and HR.

However, one shortcoming of the Value Chain, according to Investopedia, is that "…Chain analysis does a poor job of linking each activity in the chain together. Consequently, it's possible to lose sight of how the activities broadly interrelate."

Thus, to accelerate digital transformation and to link all their primary and support activities, manufacturers can now integrate various business systems and applications across the Value Chain, to streamline data exchange, optimize processes, and centralize data insights.

What are the 5 essential integrations for the manufacturing industry?

Five essential application integrations that modern manufacturing businesses can greatly benefits from digitalizing and automating their processes with, are:

  • ERP integration
  • CRM integration
  • E-commerce integration
  • PIM integration
  • WMS integration

1. Streamline manufacturing operations with ERP integration

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems form the backbone of manufacturing operations, helping streamline and automate crucial functions such as supply chain management, inventory management, production planning, financial tracking, procurement, HR, and more. While ERPs are traditionally on-premises systems, many are now available as cloud services. Since an ERP contains nearly all essential business data from across the Value Chain, it is essential for manufacturers to integrate their ERP with any new technology or application they implement as part of their digital transformation journey.

Some of the most popular ERP systems to integrate are SAP S/4 Hana, Netsuite, and Odoo. Manufacturers can greatly benefit from integrating their ERP systems with CRM solutions and e-commerce platforms.

The benefits of ERP integrations for manufacturing businesses:
  • Real-time inventory visibility: Synchronize inventory data across all platforms. Gain instant insights into stock levels, material requirements, and potential shortages.
  • Improved production planning: Accurate inventory data allows for more effective production schedule planning, efficient resource allocation, and the avoidance of production delays.
  • Automated order processing: Eliminate manual order entry errors. Streamline order processing by automatically transferring orders from e-commerce platforms or CRMs to the ERP system.
  • Streamlined operations: Integrating ERP systems enables seamless coordination between different departments, such as Sales, Finance, and Production, with real-time access to the latest business data.

2. CRM integration to enhance customer engagement for manufacturers

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms can help manufacturers effectively build enduring relationships with clients. Centralizing management of customer interactions, sales pipelines, and service requests, CRM systems create 360-degree views of customers and provide actionable insights for personalized marketing, targeted sales efforts, and proactive customer service. These systems also provide customer support features, which help manage inquiries, resolve issues, and track customer satisfaction.

Some of the most popular CRM systems to integrate are Salesforce, Zoho CRM, and HubSpot. And the most effective applications that manufacturers can integrate with CRM systems are ERP systems and B2B e-commerce platforms.

The benefits of CRM integrations for manufacturing businesses include:
  • Improved customer communication: CRM systems facilitate seamless collaboration between sales, marketing, and customer service teams, enabling consistent messaging across all customer touchpoints.
  • Improved customer service: Empower customer service representatives with real-time customer data to resolve issues faster and enhance customer satisfaction.
  • Faster order fulfillment: Streamline the order fulfillment process with automatic order creation in the ERP system upon receiving order confirmations in the CRM.
  • Data-driven sales strategies: By combining CRM and ERP data, gain valuable insights to identify sales trends, target high-value customers, and optimize pricing strategies.

3. E-commerce integrations to expand manufacturing reach and revenue

Modern manufacturers can leverage e-commerce platforms to reach a broader audience and drive sales growth in an increasingly digital marketplace. Apart from facilitating online sales, e-commerce platforms can help manufacturers reach a global audience, expand their B2B network, streamline their procurement process, and provide self-service order management and tracking. Integrating manufacturing back-end systems such as ERP with e-commerce facilitates automated order processing, synchronized inventory updates, and even omni channel strategies, unlocking new revenue streams.

Some of the most popular E-commerce platforms that manufacturers can integrate are Adobe Commerce, Shopify Plus, and BigCommerce.

The benefits of e-commerce integrations for manufacturing integration include:
  • Accurate product information: Synchronizing product data between the e-commerce platform and ERP system ensures customers have access to the most up-to-date information
  • Streamlined order processing: Enhance order fulfillment processes by automating tasks such as order confirmation, invoicing, and shipment tracking, leading to greater efficiency.
  • Marketplace integrations: Seamlessly integrate Amazon, eBay, or other popular marketplace as an extension of your manufacturing business’s e-commerce integrations, and expand your product visibility.
  • Improved customer insights: Integrating e-commerce with manufacturing can provide valuable insights into market trends and customer demands, enabling manufacturers to launch new products faster.

4. PIM integrations to improve manufacturing product data management

By integrating a Product Information Management (PIM) system, manufacturers can centralize where all their product information is stored and enriched. A PIM system helps ensure consistency, accuracy, and accessibility of product data across various touchpoints, and it also helps improve product information with detailed descriptions, high-quality images, and technical specifications. Thus, integrating PIM systems with manufacturing business systems can help streamline product data management workflows, from creation to enrichment to distribution and updates.

Akeneo, Pimcore, and inriver are popular PIM systems that manufacturers can integrate. They can also greatly benefit from integrating a PIM system with their ERP system and e-commerce platform.

The benefits of PIM integrations for manufacturing businesses include:
  • Increased Operational Efficiency: PIM integration automates manual processes, such as data entry and updating, reducing the time and resources required to manage product information.
  • Streamlined product onboarding: Manufacturers can introduce new products faster by consolidating product info from various sources (description, tech specs, images) into the PIM system. From there, it can be easily distributed to all relevant channels with a single click.
  • Accurate product information: PIM systems ensure that product information remains consistent and up-to-date across all touchpoints, including e-commerce websites, catalogs, and marketing materials.
  • Enhanced cross-selling: PIM systems enable manufacturers to enrich product data with related accessories, complementary products, and personalized recommendations to increase order value.

5. WMS integrations to improve manufacturing warehouse management

A Warehouse Management System (WMS) helps improve inventory tracking, order picking, and shipment processing, reducing errors and minimizing fulfillment time. By integrating a WMS with manufacturing systems, businesses can accurately track stock levels, enhance warehouse labor productivity, and derive valuable insights into warehouse performance metrics. This enables manufacturers to identify areas for enhanced resource allocation and the optimization of supply chain operations.

Popular WMS systems that manufacturers can integrate include Istia and MontaWMS. They can benefit from integrating WMS with their ERP system or CRM platform.

The benefits of WMS integrations for manufacturing businesses include:
  • Reduced picking errors: Automate order-picking processes by integrating the WMS with sales orders from the ERP or CRM. Minimize picking errors and improve order accuracy.
  • Efficient inventory management: Maintain real-time inventory visibility across all warehouses. Optimize storage space allocation and streamline stock replenishment processes.
  • Faster shipping and reduced costs: Automate shipping processes with real-time tracking information, leading to faster deliveries and potentially lower shipping costs.
  • Improved warehouse visibility: Gain valuable insights into warehouse operations through combined ERP, WMS, and sensor data to identify bottlenecks and optimize workflows.

Read our case study on how b-boo Baby & lifestyle GmbH integrated their ERP,  PIM, e-commerce platform, WMS, and marketplace broker with an integration platform →

Building all manufacturing business integrations with the iPaaS

While manufacturing businesses can greatly benefit from integrating the five aforementioned applications, as exemplified, this is still only a part of the solution. In order to seamlessly build these integrations and facilitate real-time data exchange, businesses are now using an “integration platform as a Service (iPaaS)”.

The iPaaS is a cloud-native, no-code/low-code integration platform that helps connect any two or multiple systems, SaaS, cloud apps, or data sources without the need for custom code. As an API-driven solution, it helps create, monitor, and manage these integrations via one user-friendly web interface. It synchronizes data and helps build workflows to automate thousands of processes between integrated systems.

By implementing all data and application integrations via the iPaaS, manufacturers can freely interchange connected systems or modify the integrations. They can freely add new integrations in a scalable way as they grow without the loss of data integrity. Most importantly, the iPaaS provides a rich library of connectors (pre-configured app data) that can be used to build faster integrations with popular applications.

The integration advantage for manufacturers

In the ever-evolving landscape of manufacturing, where agility, efficiency, and innovation are paramount, the role of integrations and the integration platform cannot be overstated. It binds together the disparate threads of the many manufacturing operations into a cohesive and streamlined whole. From streamlined workflows and data-driven decision-making to improved production efficiency and stronger customer relationships, the benefits are undeniable

By embracing integrations as a cornerstone of their digital transformation journey, manufacturers also prepare themselves for future technologies or market evolutions. The ability to integrate any new technology (or replace outdated ones) via an API-driven integration platform (iPaaS) empowers businesses to seamlessly navigate the complexities of modern manufacturing and achieve sustainable growth.

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