Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift Europe (MCFE) is a joint venture between forklift manufacturers Mitsubishi and Caterpillar. The company manufactures, sells, and distributes 18,000 forklifts and related spare parts each year. MCFE relied on manual or sometimes paper-based processes to support dealer inquiries and orders, resulting in missed orders or unanswered dealer requests. To improve the forklift configuration and ordering process, the company deployed Microsoft Dynamics® CRM 4.0. Because of the flexible xRM development platform that underpins Microsoft Dynamics CRM, MCFE created several customized applications. By using xRM to rapidly develop relational business applications, MCFE has increased employee productivity, improved its ability to respond to business needs, reduced development costs by 60 percent, and improved order processing times.
Founded in 1992, Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift Europe (MCFE) manufactures, distributes, and sells internal combustion engine and electric forklift trucks, material handling equipment, warehouse equipment, and spare parts. The company is a subsidiary of Caterpillar Industrial and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. MCFE has facilities in the United Kingdom and Germany, and offers its products to dealers and distributors in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
Hampering Dealer Support Without a Single View of Information
||I don’t know of any business that can succeed when it loses orders—we needed to find a solution that was reliable and that we could integrate with our ERP solution.
General Manager of Information Systems, MCFE
All of the business departments within MCFE help support dealers—from order entry and production to sales and marketing. However, dealer requests were managed using ad-hoc, disparate processes. Each department at the company used its own solution to support dealer needs. For instance, some departments used Microsoft® Office Access® 2003 database software or Microsoft Office Excel® 2003 spreadsheet software to manage dealer contacts. Other departments used paper-based methods to manage requests from dealers. “Manually processing orders or support requests from dealers meant that requests could easily be lost and left unanswered,” says Robert Vleeschhouwer, General Manager of Information Systems for MCFE.
As a result, MCFE did not have a single view of dealer information across the company. “Without a single, integrated system to manage contacts from dealers, it was difficult to get a holistic view and good business insight into what our dealers need from us,” explains Vleeschhouwer. “Mistakes will always happen, but we needed to find a way to minimize that risk.”
In addition, MCFE wanted to find a way to improve its order-entry process for dealers. The company processes 18,000 orders annually and used a third-party, Web-based solution for dealers to enter orders for parts, equipment, and other supplies. It also uses a third-party tool to enable dealers to configure specific forklifts during the ordering process. However, that solution did not integrate with the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Also, the order-entry solution was unreliable and inefficient to manage. Orders would often get lost, and the IT department had to reboot the entire system daily in order to troubleshoot technical issues. “I don’t know of any business that can succeed when it loses orders—we needed to find a solution that was reliable and that we could integrate with our ERP solution,” says Vleeschhouwer.
Finally, customizing solutions for order-entry and reporting required significant time and was costly. If employees needed new functionality, additional fields on a Web form, or new reports, they called the IT department to submit a request. Customization required considerable development time, and with a limited number of IT support personnel, even simple requests could take months to resolve.
MCFE sought a unified solution that would give it a single view of dealer information across all departments and would automate manual tasks. It also wanted to streamline how dealers place orders online and mitigate the risk of lost orders. In addition, the company wanted a solution that would be easily customizable in order to keep up with rapidly changing business needs and to allow employees to make simple changes—such as modifying reports—rather than relying on thinly-stretched IT resources.
Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift Europe began looking at customer relationship management (CRM) systems to meet its business needs. At the time, the IT department at MCFE had nine requests from users across the company for solutions for automated workflow functionalities and process portals, and considered purchasing stand-alone systems to meet its various business needs. “When I reviewed the requests from users, it was obvious that a single CRM solution would support more than 90 percent of those requests,” explains Vleeschhouwer. “And even more, an easy-to-customize solution would enable users to make many of the changes themselves, without requiring IT support.”
||Everyone already knows how to use Microsoft Office, so the seamless integration was key to our decision. Giving users solutions that have an interface they’re already familiar with means less training time and more productive work.
General Manager of Information Systems, MCFE
After evaluating other solutions, MCFE decided to implement Microsoft Dynamics® CRM, which is built on the xRM application platform. Compelling for MCFE was the tight interoperability between Microsoft Dynamics CRM and the Microsoft Office suite of applications. “Everyone already knows how to use Microsoft Office, so the seamless integration was key to our decision. Giving users solutions that have an interface they’re already familiar with means less training time and more productive work,” says Vleeschhouwer.
MCFE partnered with @work Management Associates, a leading CRM systems integrator in the Netherlands, to implement Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Now, there are 245 MCFE employees who use Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
After deploying the system, MCFE and @work Management Associates began looking at ways to use the xRM development platform to build and integrate customized solutions to support its business processes. Streamlining the Order-Entry Process
The company first developed an order-entry solution for dealers. As an add-on to its CRM implementation, the company chose Experlogix Parametric Configurator—a solution that was developed using the Microsoft .NET toolset, so the dealer order-entry interface and integration are virtually seamless.
Now, dealers can use a self-service Web portal to configure products to fit their customers’ needs. The configurator guides the dealer through the steps needed to build a forklift order and prevents incompatible builds. Once the dealer submits a configuration, the system automatically generates a quote. When the dealer accepts the quote, it automatically becomes an order in the existing ERP system. The system also generates a promise date, which is then shared through the dealer portal. Enabling Fast Responses to Dealer Inquiries
In addition to its order-entry solution, MCFE also developed a solution to help manage support requests from dealers. Whereas previously the company handled inquiries from dealers through manual processes, now it can manage these contacts using automated workflow, helping to minimize the risk of lost requests inherent with manual, paper-based processes.
MCFE built Web forms on its dealer portal that enable dealers to enter questions, problems, or other requests. Based on the information that the dealer enters, requests are automatically routed to the appropriate person in the right department—from production and logistics, to sales and marketing—for speedy resolution. Supporting Internal IT Operations
In addition to building applications that support its dealers, MCFE also used the xRM development platform to develop a project management solution for its internal IT department, which supports internal employees as well as dealers and suppliers. The department receives more than 9,000 support calls annually. In addition, when a project is entered, a project timeline and project tasks are automatically generated. Tasks are then routed to project team members.
MCFE also uses the xRM–based application to help streamline how IT support requests are managed. Now, when a user contacts IT support with a request, the information is entered and assigned a predefined classification code based on the type of request. Then, the request is automatically routed to an appropriate queue for resolution. IT support employees receive support requests and tasks directly in their inbox in the Microsoft Office Outlook® messaging and collaboration client. They can then resolve their assigned requests quickly.
Finally, IT managers can easily run reports to find out important operational data such as project status or support request trends. “Running a report used to be a fairly complex process, but now, it takes just a click of the mouse and I can see an accurate report of what is going on in the IT department,” explains Vleeschhouwer.
Needs-Based, Rapid Development Process
||It used to take us five minutes on average to record an order into our ERP system. Today, it’s more like 90 seconds to enter an order.
General Manager of Information Systems, MCFE
The process for developing custom, line-of-business applications at MCFE is a highly collaborative one between MCFE and @work Management Associates. When a user submits a request for new functionality, business analysts work with the user to gather requirements and write a functional design specification. After approval from the employees, the technical design team develops prototypes for user feedback. Finally, MCFE tests the application and deploys it to users.
Small customization efforts are handled in-house at MCFE, while larger projects are executed by @work Management Associates. “Now, we can complete smaller projects in as few as five days,” says Ryan Martin, Services Manager at @work Management Associates, “and our largest project took only 45 days—that’s incredibly fast. Most of our work now is up-front with users getting sign-off on the functional specifications, and actual customization and implementation takes little time.”
By using xRM, Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift Europe has been able to build custom applications that meet its needs and realize a variety of benefits. Employee productivity is up, the company can respond quickly to changing business needs, and customizing the solution costs less. Dealers’ orders are handled more efficiently, and the internal IT team can focus on more strategic tasks. Today, MCFE is seeing new opportunities for growth by working with its dealers.Increased Employee Productivity
Because service calls to the IT support desk are now routed automatically to appropriate queues, IT staff are able to more quickly respond to issues. “We now spend far less time chasing problems,” explains Vleeschhouwer, “and we’ve reduced the amount of time we spend on service calls by an average of 80 percent.” The automatically generated and published due date also eliminates much of the back-and-forth phone calls and paperwork with dealers experienced with the previous process.
In addition, MCFE is using xRM to build a centrally accessible knowledge base to record answers to known issues and share best practices for resolving issues with consistent and repeatable methods. Instead of researching and resolving an issue from scratch each time, employees can search the knowledge base and find answers quickly. When new issues are uncovered and resolved, customer service personnel can easily update the knowledge base, which is searchable by issue, keyword, customer, and case number. Reduced Customization Time from 35 to 10 Days
Today, the IT department at MCFE is able to quickly respond to changing business needs. In the past, the company built custom Web solutions to meet the needs of the business, but customization efforts took up to 35 days. Thanks to the easy-to-use xRM platform and a wealth of Microsoft resources, these customization efforts now take less than half the time. “Now, our customization efforts take an average of 10 to 15 days,” says Vleeschhouwer.
Reduced Development Costs by 60 Percent
||Whereas previously we spent much of our time fixing bugs and managing ad-hoc requests, now we have the time to give valuable insight into the business.
Services Manager, @work Management Associates
MCFE has realized a dramatic cost savings by using the xRM platform. In addition to easy customization, users are now able to make simple modifications themselves without development support. If employees want to modify a report, for instance, they can make those changes themselves without the need for IT to step in and create customized reports for each request. Says Vleeschhouwer, “Using xRM has reduced our development costs by 60 percent.”Faster Order Processing—from Five Minutes to 90 Seconds
One of the key business goals for MCFE was to speed its order processing time, while increasing accuracy and minimizing the risk of lost orders inherent with a manual process. Now, when a dealer is configuring a forklift, the order automatically generates a quote, saving substantial time. “It used to take us five minutes on average to record an order into our ERP system. Today, it’s more like 90 seconds to enter an order,” says Vleeschhouwer. With the improved order processing time, MCFE is able to save more than 1,250 hours of labor each year for its 22,000 annual orders.
“Now, all the dealer sees is a self-service portal where their requests are routed appropriately, aren’t lost, and are resolved quickly,” says Martin. Improved Ability to Focus on Strategic IT Tasks
The IT department at MCFE is now able to be proactive, rather than reactive, and has time to focus on more strategic tasks. In the past, IT staff spent much of their day on operational tasks and trying to resolve issues. Now, they are able to act as advisors to employees and collaboratively work together to resolve business process issues and positively impact the health of the business. “Whereas previously we spent much of our time fixing bugs and managing ad-hoc requests, now we have the time to give valuable insight into the business,” says Martin.
In addition, because of the time saved by using the xRM development platform, the IT department can spend more time planning its short and long-term IT strategy. “Although it’s something that should be a part of any IT manager’s job, I was able to present my three-year IT strategy to the business last year for the first time in three years—and everyone was enthusiastic about the opportunities IT could offer to support the business,” explains Vleeschhouwer. Foundation for Future Business Growth
One of the keys to success for MCFE is maintaining good relationships with its dealers. “It’s not just about the product—it’s how you support your dealer that makes you successful,” says Vleeschhouwer. While the company now has solutions in place to help streamline order entry and ensure timely responses to dealer inquiries, it continues to look for new ways to expand the support it can offer its dealer ecosystem. With the xRM platform, MCFE sees an opportunity to also provide IT services and solutions to its dealers.
“In the past, while we did our best, it wasn’t a structured way of supporting our dealers and gaining more business,” explains Vleeschhouwer. “Now, with our new IT strategy, we’re looking beyond our own operations and thinking strategically about how we can offer IT solutions to dealers. Let the dealers focus on the business, and we can focus on the IT solutions that help them succeed, too. That’s a valuable offering.”
You can read more about the Configurator for Microsoft Dynamics CRM that Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift Europe chose in the Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace.
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