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CRM, ERP Meet at Manufacturing Crossroads

While big, multi-industry ERP vendors rush to fold CRM tools into their suites, CRM software firms are hustling into partnerships that will meld their applications with back-office suites. The reason is the same for all -- most companies now understand that their enterprise software must talk with their customer and sales tools.

Everyone knows integration needs to happen. The question is how to get it done. And the manufacturing industry is no exception.

For example, to meet the needs of its mid-sized customers, Relevant Business Systems has integrated CRM tools into its Infimacs II ERP suite for build-to-order manufacturers and maintenance organizations.

Swanky New CRM

The software's new CRM functions include scheduling contacts and interviews. Users can record and manage interview content, incorporating analyses and keyboard searches. They also can track and manage incidents and projects.

Relevant vice president Chuck Stevenson told that the new development addressed the needs of the company's customers. For example, such manufacturers as Lockheed Martin have a project-oriented workflow that affects how modules of enterprise software handle information.

Staying In-House

Stevenson said that when Relevant looked at its existing ERP package, it found that the application already contained several CRM functions. For instance, Infimacs II already collected and managed prospect- and customer-oriented data along with quotations and sales orders. It also tracked shop orders and service requests.

Relevant chose to take a proprietary development approach instead of partnering with a software firm that offered the functions Relevant wanted to add, Stevenson explained.

"Because we felt that a lot of what we already had, although we never called it CRM, addressed the needs of the small-to-medium manufacturer," he said, "and we knew what we needed to do to round out our offering, we felt more confident in our ability to construct it instead of finding a more horizontal solution.

"The great advantage of CRM implemented within an ERP system is the promise of complete integration," Stevenson added. "Instead of segregating CRM in a stand-alone system, Infimacs II leads CRM directly into the customer management function within the Sales module."

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