Industrial Automation company Lakeside uses Zoho Flow as its "business process designer"

The Company

Founded in 2009 in Bensenville, Illinois, Lakeside CNC Group is an industrial automation company. Specializing in the famous FANUC brand, the team at Lakeside repairs a wide range of FANUC CNC products including, but not limited to servo motors, servo amplifiers, and other CNC components. Their customer base is comprised of manufacturers from the United States and around the globe.

Spreadsheets were not an effective solution for managing internal data

The CEO and owner of the Lakeside CNC Group, Louis Castellano, knew that his company's business processes required customization. "The business processes in our industry are quite different than the average setup offered by the majority of CRM on the market. Let’s say that our quotes are offering up to three prices and three types of service at the same time. We cannot use fixed prices, we have to use a variety of shipping methods, including blind shipping using the customer’s UPS account. In other words, it is as flexible as the needs of our customers. Working on the high-profile industrial automation market, we have to follow the customers' needs, no matter what," said Castellano.

It didn't take long for the team at Lakeside to realize that managing data in spreadsheets wasn't the most effective solution. "Like many businesses, at the very beginning we were using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets for all the internal data, and Intuit QuickBooks for accounting. The core problem was that all the operations were requiring manual input and processing. Record a repair request in one spreadsheet, assign the number, issue an estimate in Quickbooks, make the cross-reference to the spreadsheet record, and so on. We were sending and receiving literally tons of emails, even the internal communications were based on emails," Castellano said.

In order to automate their business processes, the Lakeside team first tried implementing a Windows-based ERP system, then moving on to SaaS apps and finally realizing they needed further integration and customization. "Our initial attempt to automate our business was the SIMMS software by KCSA, Inc. It was a Windows-based ERP system with a client-server architecture. We had to set up and maintain the local server and the related IT infrastructure. The main problem with SIMMS was that we had to request the developers for every bit of customization we need. Then they were releasing the new version, we download it, update every workstation and the application server, and so on. Moreover, SIMMS has very limited functionality when it comes to customer relationship management. After two years with SIMMS, we decided to move over to the next generation software. We began the in-house testing, evaluating the major players on the market: Salesforce, Hubspot, Insightly, Zoho, and SugarCRM. One of the key requirements was the ability to be customized at our end," said Castellano.

Zoho Flow - the integration engine for Zoho

Once Lakeside decided SaaS apps were the way to go, Zoho Flow was instrumental in their choice to use Zoho apps for their SaaS stack. "Zoho Flow was the main reason we decided in favor of the Zoho platform. An ability to integrate the different parts of the platform is priceless, and we were able to set as many process triggers as we need. Currently, we have eight large flows. They integrate Zoho Books, Zoho Desk, Zoho CRM, and Zoho Cliq in various combinations. For example, our technicians are getting notified when the customer accepts the quote at Zoho Books portal, so they can start to work on the customer’s unit immediately, not waiting for the direct order from the supervisor. Creating a ticket in Zoho Desk triggers another flow that sends a packing slip directly to the customer so they can pack and ship a unit immediately, and these are just a few examples."

An integration platform should be the nucleus of your SaaS ecosystem and Castellano agrees this perspective was critical for Lakeside.

"First and the foremost benefit is that Zoho Flow connects the apps that cannot be connected in other ways. With the proper flows, we have all the processes standardized, and the interactions between the different roles in the company are standardized, too."

“In other words, we use Zoho Flow as the business process designer, where our apps are connected according to the actual, real-life interactions. The most measurable benefit is that we do not have the 'forgotten repairs' anymore. Zoho Desk checks the 'untouched records' every hour, and the appropriate flow notifies management about the orders that were filed but not processed within a designated time frame (our standard reaction time is 2 hours). Before, this was our major problem."

With the depth and variety of services that Zoho offers, coordinating all the information collected becomes crucial. That's where Flow proved to be significant for Lakeside.

"Zoho Flow was the deal-maker for the whole Zoho platform," said Castellano.

No more manual data entry

The most rewarding thing about automation is that it can relieve programmable, manual work that would otherwise take hours every day, and that's exactly what happened with Lakeside. "Back in the day, we had to manually link the different data sets between each other. For example, after finishing the repair, our technician had to send an email to the management or notify them verbally. Then, the supervisor was changing the appropriate record in the repair order database, then they had to inform the customer by email or phone that his order is ready to pick up. The unavoidable mistakes were piling up and our turnaround time was not great. Now, things have changed like hundreds of light-years ahead. We don’t have to check and execute the key points in our processes manually.

All the interactions, including customer relationship management, are automated and pre-determined in Zoho Flow. This allows our employees to concentrate on the tasks that are more important than the manual data input," said Castellano.

Castellano reiterated that investing in Zoho Flow is especially useful if you're already using or planning to use multiple Zoho apps. He also stressed how much automating manual processes has a direct impact on how well you can serve your customers. Castellano said, "for everyone who wants to use more than one Zoho app, Zoho Flow is a must. At this point, I want to compliment Dmitry Sklyarov, our Zoho Partner, on a job well done. Zoho Flow had eliminated the most routine and repetitive tasks that were creating a huge burden on our employees, leading to many unnecessary delays and mistakes. Now, we have better data integrity and we serve our customers faster. It is on a totally different level."

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