“Innovation is a key component for us. As we look at what products we have, the quality and the breadth of products and services we offer, being a national brand, is a distinguisher for us,” remarks Pella Corporation Chief Information Offer Rick Hassman. Passionate about the company’s leading ambitions to remain ahead of the curve and cater to an ever-changing customer demand, Hassman has been behind Pella Corporation’s internal digital transformation, which has seen it drive positive customer experience and business growth at every step.
With a growing number of Pella window stores across the United States, Hassman explains the importance of housing a customer-direct business model, which has seen it gain an edge over competitors. “We're one of the very few companies that has a direct sales network,” he says. “Between our vast network of direct sales showrooms, the Pella Certified Contractor Program to help consumers with installation to our own customer service teams within the corporate office and within our sales location, we can support the customer, every step of the way. That's a key differentiator, for Pella.”
Evaluating the distinct stages of customer interaction throughout the industry, the subject of reliability continued to be a theme. Thus, Pella has transformed its processes to continuously develop trust with its customers, which is now supported through the implementation of enhanced data analytics. This has further allowed the business to better understand customer needs and requirements.
“Throughout the building industry, when you start thinking about the experiences that a lot of people have with contractors, with delivery, with building materials, reliability plays in all of those touchpoints,” comments Hassman.
“Thus, through our data analytics, we adjusted our own customer processes for more communication on when we're going to arrive, when the product's going to be there and to step up and troubleshoot any issues. That is really what customer experience has become for us.”
Gaining deep insights
Adopting a new ERP system, Pella has been able to centralize its core systems and integrate its data technologies, enabling it to remain competitive, create a seamless service and retain its position within the window and door market. By working at Pella for nearly 20 years, Hassman has witnessed how the industry has deepened its focus from building relationships, to investing in digital technologies to drive long term savings and allow for increased efficiencies.
“There is a dependency on data, on ease of ordering, information being fed,” observes Hassman. “The whole service experience from a digital perspective is where the construction industry lags.”
Pella has developed a ‘built-to-order’ environment, overhauling its traditional systems which became unable to support the changes within its service delivery. Pella’s longstanding partnership with Oracle has seen the company counteract such complexities and transform its IT infrastructure to guarantee increased flexibility and scalability for future growth. This has also filtered into a complete transformation of several of Pella’s departments; from manufacturing, order processing and finance to its CRM and customer service systems.
The implementation of a continuous improvement culture (CI) at Pella in the early 90’s, mixed with the data analytics and customer feedback provides a multitude of strategic advantages and feeds into Pella’s overall brand strength. “It allows us to be more agile and react to the industry needs, and provide a deeper and more service focused experience,” reflects Hassman.
Pella’s partnership with Munich-based B2B SaaS startup Celonis will also help enhance its CI capabilities. The use of process mining within the project will enable Pella to get even more out of its data and provide key insights as to how the business can be improved long-term.
“Celonis extracts our data, which includes time stamps, system flows, work flows and all the data that comes within the applications and creates an accurate view of how processes occur within our systems,” explains Hassman.
“For example, it maps out exactly how a purchase order is created, how requisitions created it, and how a purchase order is then evolved from the requisition. It also details how it's released, how it's received and how it's paid.
“It creates an encompassing view of our efficiencies. When we deviate from a process, it shows what's causing that. It's a ‘lean systems’ view of where we have inefficiencies in our process and it allows us to quickly get to those points.
“It’s very exciting because it's a complete circle. We started with CI, which mapped out our process and we then moved to this integrated system. Now, this integrated system is feeding the data back as part of the CI, allowing us to develop even more efficiencies.”
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Setting a precedent
Pella adheres to the highest possible standards across its manufacturing operations, even testing many products beyond their required industry caliber. Nonetheless, this has presented a number of challenges for the business. From a windows perspective, the minimal standards within the building industry vary from region to region across the US, creating a number of complexities for manufacturers.
“Window and door styles are different across the US,” notes Hassman. “We have to balance between business priorities and building codes and industry trends, almost daily.”
“It is something we’re always trying to determine, from a sustainability and compliance standpoint, where can we expand and grow and what steps do we need to implement to do it,” he continues. Additionally, desired styles and materials used in the manufacturing of Pella’s products tend to differ depending on region, especially within new homes and buildings.
“Historical designs are coming back,” observes Hassman. “While there is also a contemporary style trend where customers want a minimal frame and large expanses of glass.”
Despite such challenges and slow growth within the window and door industry, Hassman expresses confidence in increased innovation and energy initiatives within the sector. “Aluminum will be a preferred material in some parts of the country, and in other regions, vinyl will be preferred, as well as a love for the versatility and timelessness of wood,” he concludes. “The sizes of windows continue to grow. People are really looking at the window as a wall in many areas, highlighting where the industry is headed.”