Managing Director Alison Forsythe sees 2017 as offering massive opportunities for manufacturing, which should mean massive opportunities for Macola and its partners.
NEW ORLEANS – Manufacturing and wholesale distribution are the core markets for Exact’s Macola ERP software. However, while the company has always been stronger in specific verticals within these areas, it has not had a specific focus on selling to these verticals. That’s about to change, however, as a key part of this year’s go-to-market strategy is to double down on those verticals where Macola is strong.
The new strategy is part of the company’s attempt to take advantage of what it sees as an exceptionally strong environment for U.S. manufacturing in 2017. A big part of that is due to a focus by the new Trump administration on revitalizing the manufacturing sector, but there are additional elements within the economy that the company believes favours manufacturing – and thus Macola’s business.
“We are all primed for a return to manufacturing glory,” said Alison Forsythe, Exact, Macola Division’s managing director, in her opening keynote at the Macola Evolve 2017 event. “Macola is on the move in this positive climate, putting engineering to work again.”
Forsythe cited a recent Bloomberg report that manufacturing is expanding at its fastest rate in years, as well as a yet-unpublished survey Macola has conducted that is scheduled to be released in May.
“That survey outlook is really optimistic,” she said. “More than half of manufacturers and wholesale distributors say the pending trade deregulations will be really helpful to their business, and they are already beginning to take action. A third of them have begun to expand and hire more U.S.-based employees.”
Forsythe identified five positive signals in the business climate for manufacturing: the likelihood of more favorable taxes and regulations for small business; the certainty that natural resources will be more readily available because of changes to regulation, and the approval of projects like the Keystone pipeline; a booming market for infrastructure, which could see in the construction industry alone a 50-60 per cent growth in productivity; the continued growth of jobs in the private sector; and strong investment from Wall Street.
“Think of the products needed by this boom, and who will manufacture and distribute all these products,” Forsythe said. “The question for each of us is how we will capitalize on those changes.”
The manufacturing environment is also being stimulated by its long-delayed adoption of technologies which have long been common in other areas.
“We see opportunities opening up in areas where things were invented a long time ago, but the application of them to manufacturing in ERP is where the opportunity lies for us,” Forsythe said. For instance, the origins of RFID technology go back to World War Two, and it has been standard in supply chain management for years, but it is only now gaining traction in manufacturing.
The use of data in manufacturing is also changing massively.
“ERP’s initial purpose was to collect data,” Forsythe said. “Now we have evolved to understanding that data, and getting actionable insights. That’s true business intelligence.”
“With Artificial Intelligence, some decisions can be made for you, and it is maturing to the point where soon even small businesses can have decisions made for them. Think of the impact on manufacturing!”
Forsythe said that since Derek Ochs came on board from eBay two years ago to lead Macola’s software development, the company has built out the technical capabilities to do this kind of work.
“In the last two years, we have put together a phenomenal development organization, and brought on board the skillsets to help with the architecture to adapt to these new trends around AI and Big Data,” she said.
Leveraging these opportunities requires a stronger vertical go-to-market strategy than Macola has used in the past.
“From a marketing perspective, we haven’t taken a vertical approach targeting those verticals that we feel are our sweet spot, although there will be more of that in 2017,” Forsythe said. “We have identified a half dozen key verticals where we feel we are the leading option. One of these, for instance, is food and beverage. We have got a lot of awards in this segment, but it is a relatively small part of our revenue.”
A vertical strategy has never really been a part of Macola’s channel strategy before now either.
“We have never had a vertical message,” said Lisa Wise, director of alliances and channel development at Exact, Macola division. “We are looking to attract new partners with a vertical focus, who can hook their technologies into our platform. Some partners we have recruited lately have their own niche.”
The new version of the Macola partner program, which they term Unity 2.0, was announced earlier this month, and Forsythe said this will also help with this strategy.
“We have invested a tremendous amount of energy and time in our Unity 2.0 partner program, and with our new 10.5 release, we think it’s a winning combination,” she said.