Auto Parts Manufacturer Shifts into Overdrive with M-Files Cloud Vault
October 22, 2012
A cloud-based document management system eases the IT burden and empowers a mobile sales force at Racing Industries.
Racing Industries is a New York-based parts maker in the midst of big changes. In the last few years, the company has switched its main product focus from exhaust components to catalytic convertors and relocated its manufacturing operations from Latin America and Asia to its own facility stateside.
“In order to gain EPA compliance and distribute to all 50 states, it became more cost effective for us to get the raw materials in the United States and set up our own manufacturing facility in Long Island,” explains IT manager, Tim Gill. Now Racing Industries is poised to be one of only four companies approved to distribute catalytic convertors across North America.
Racing Industries also was making big changes to the way in which the company managed its IT infrastructure and software deployment. As part of this effort, Gill says Racing Industries assessed both on-premise and hosted document management systems. He had the option of paying the upfront cost for traditional licenses, or add capability through a cloud-based solution with a software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription-based model. Upon thorough investigation, Gill took a forward-looking approach and selected M-Files Cloud Vault as their document management solution of choice.
A number of considerations drove the decision for Racing Industries to transition to the cloud. Gill discusses the four major factors:
1. Mobile sales team access
One of the major considerations impacting the decision for a cloud document management platform was the company’s mobile sales force.
“If we had just a warehouse and manufacturing facility, we would probably still stick to traditional licenses,” Gill says. “Given the variable number of sales people and area we need to cover, remote server access through the cloud made more sense.”
Racing Industries’ new strategy for distribution uses social media and industry-related websites to connect with independent auto shop buyers.
With M-Files Cloud Vault, sales agents can login from laptops or tablets, search for product information, and download the files they need from any location.
Agents can pull up relevant information in a customer’s office in Denver just as easily as if they were sitting in the New York headquarters.
Gill says that Racing Industries has set up M-Files permission controls to give the remote sales team a wide berth to browse company documents as needed. In addition to product specs and customer contacts, reps can compare past invoices and payment history, find old client contracts, and file their own paperwork for payroll or human resources.
“It allows us to be much more integrated with the mobile team, from sales rep visits all the way up to order processing. Sales people will be more knowledgeable and responsive at the point of contact, and it will also provide real-time communication with the warehouses to control inventory and shipments.”
2. Flexible pricing
A unique aspect of cloud-based solutions is the SaaS pricing structure. Rather than requiring a large upfront investment for a set number of software seats, M-Files Cloud Vault users pay a monthly fee per user, which can provide a significant cost savings compared to the traditional application license model.
Gill surveyed the costs both ways. “I do see cost savings with SaaS because with a subscription service you could amend or reduce licenses at any time. With our traveling team, the flexible pricing plan just makes more sense.” Beyond the sales team, Gill can foresee other areas where the need for software seats would fluctuate. For example, Racing Industries customer inquiries are currently managed in-house, but that arrangement is only temporary. Gill says once the sales network expands to all 50 states, the company plans to outsource to a third party service, which likely will use their own software.
“If you want to add departments or move some operations over to someone else, the subscription cost adjusts to what you need,” says Gill.
3. Microsoft platform integration
More technical considerations made Racing Industries choose M-Files specifically. Unlike many new cloud solutions, the product featured a mature set of software tools that have been continually improved as a server-based document management system for over a decade prior to the release of the cloud version. Another technical advantage M-Files brought to the table was its refined backend integration with the Microsoft server environment. Along with M-Files Cloud Vault, Racing Industries is in the process of implementing Microsoft Dynamics GP.
“We are looking forward to expanding our entire IT infrastructure. We are going to a .NET-based platform because it gives us such as vast range of integration. We can link everything together – client and sales data, inventory, payroll, and so forth. The best part of M-Files Cloud Vault for us is the customized fields. I have used Oracle-based enterprise systems and M-Files gives us a similar framework to pretty much link to any existing database.” Racing Industries can embed database fields into business forms created in common applications such as Word and Excel. When users save the document in M-Files, the system updates records in the designated database automatically. Racing Industries managers can apply this simple custom automation to nearly any office procedure.
4. Quick adoption and immediate results
As important as backend database integration is to IT infrastructure, front-end use is equally a consideration when launching new initiatives.
The M-Files user interface integrates directly into Windows Explorer and its file commands corresponds exactly to that of the Windows operating system. Users look for remote files just as if they were opening a removable drive.
“Another advantage is that cloud-based solutions provide real-time back up, so you don’t have to go to a third party to back up data or deal with it in-house – it’s hosted and maintained on their servers. You have immediate access to any changes or modifications companywide.”
Gill reports there is plenty more to do before the full migration is complete, but with this easy and scalable approach, the IT department can rollout the solution gradually as business expands.
“M-Files Cloud Vault has worked out for us,” he says. “I’m in the process of acquiring additional bulk licenses now, and we’re enthusiastic about expanding our use of M-Files Cloud Vault.”
Not everybody is ready to switch from in-house servers to the cloud, nor do they need to. For many companies, installing software on existing infrastructure is still the simplest and most cost effective approach. But for the ones experiencing large-scale migrations like Racing Industries, it is making moreand more sense to take a step into the future -- and into the cloud.
About Racing Industries
Racing Industries was founded in 2002 to service the increasing demand of the aftermarket automotive exhaust marketplace. As emissions and regulatory standards take on more pertinence in the multilateral global initiative to improve air quality standards, Racing Industries is committed to manufacturing and distributing the highest quality products and servicing industrialized and developing economies throughout the world. For more information, visit www.racingindustries.com.