Industrial automation company Lakeside uses Zoho Flow to automate its business processes

About Lakeside CNC Group

The Lakeside CNC Group is a US based industrial automation company with unique business processes. Here's an interview with owner Louis Castellano about the company's workflows, need for integration and how Zoho Flow has been helpful.

Can you tell us a little bit about your company?

Founded in 2009 in Bensenville, Illinois, Lakeside CNC Group is an industrial automation company. Specializing in the famous FANUC brand, we repair a wide range of FANUC CNC products, including, but not limited to, the servo motors, servo amplifiers, and other CNC components. Our customer base comprises manufacturers from the United States and all across the globe.

Can you tell us about your business process and describe the core problems that needed to be solved through integration?

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.

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.

What were you looking for in a solution?

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.

How did Zoho Flow solve your problems?

Technically, Zoho Flow was the main reason why 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. And yes, Zoho Flow was the deal-maker for the whole Zoho platform.

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.

What improvements did you experience after using Zoho Flow?

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 the management about the orders that were filed but not processed within a designated time frame (our standard reaction time is 2 hours). Before that, it was our major problem.

How did you come to know about Flow?

Zoho Flow has been evaluated as a part of the Zoho One platform; we had evaluated the platform first, and after the initial tests we recognized that Zoho Flow actually makes the platform usable for us.

What exactly did you like the most about Flow?

An ability to connect the applications in a different way than it is possible by default. For example, Zoho Books can be integrated with Zoho Desk without the Flow, but in a very limited manner. With the Flow, we can easily manipulate the data according to the changes in the real world, create new documents and interact with the customers in the background. That allows our employees to concentrate on the tasks that are more important than the manual data input.

What was it like for you before you chose Flow? How is it different now?

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.

Would you recommend Zoho Flow?

Definitely yes. For everyone who wants to use more than one Zoho app, Zoho Flow is a must. It also needs a good integrator in order to be implemented properly. At this point, I want to compliment Dmitry Sklyarov (United Parts of Chicago) on a job well done.

Find out more about the Lakeside CNC Group by visting their website

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