Skip to content
Microsoft Industry Blogs

Focus on: Empower employees, optimize operations

 

A two-day delivery guarantee is a distant dream for most of us, but at Clover Imaging Group (CIG), that delivery promise is part of their commitment to world-class customer service. From their office decorations to the design of their conference rooms, Clover keeps their customer-centric vision at the forefront of their business practice. The company specializes in the manufacturing and distribution of imaging products. With nearly 60 locations worldwide, Clover maintains a consistent message of excellent service and superior customer experience throughout their organization.

“All of our processes are built around getting the customer excited about our products, and creating a seamless customer experience,” offers Tim Linsenmeyer, Chief Technology Officer at Clover.

  

Linsenmeyer’s IT team—which includes 65 US-based employees and dozens of others around the world—follows the same customer-focused principle, making the strategic plan to use technology and innovation to cut costs while improving value to their customers.

With the goal of using technology and innovation to reduce operating expenses while improving value to customers, CIG identified the company’s global planning and distribution infrastructure as a significant opportunity for digital transformation. CIG’s vision was to use digital innovation to modernize and streamline their business processes with a digital environment that would empower their employees and optimize their global operation.

Looking for valuable manufacturing analytics

With thousands of customers and roughly 20,000 products available, sales forecasting plays a significant role in Clover’s success. Clover is also not a company that is willing to rest on its laurels. Everyone, from organizational leaders on down, is always looking to evolve their processes and explore new opportunities to push all technologies to their conceivable limit in the moment.

The system that Clover had in place, was accurate and efficient, but it needed to be more accurate and more efficient. They were battling with a lot of the same issues that many companies have – some products are overstocked while others are understocked; representing something of a delicate tightrope act at times. Additionally, Clover was dealing with higher than desirable inventory costs and they wanted to explore new solutions to help to that end.

 

Likewise, their processes were certainly efficient – but as is true with all areas of business, there was certainly room for improvement. One of Clover’s cultural core values has always been to “Embrace and Drive Change,” and it was time for them to press this core value and take the next leap in transforming their current processes.

By identifying the most pressing pain points and operating needs, Clover began searching for a digital solution with three essential goals in mind. Clover’s solution needed to:

  • Enhance the overall customer experience by improving product availability and delivery times.
  • Reduce overall inventory investment by ensuring products are stocked in the correct locations.
  • Provide better insights and accuracy of product forecasting.

After researching potential technology options, Clover found that Microsoft’s Azure technology met all of Clover’s needs and offered capabilities that gave the company an additional competitive edge.

Exploring machine-learning as a tool to enhance manufacturing analytics

Although Azure’s machine learning capabilities excited Clover’s IT team, they had no experience with the technology. Along with Microsoft engineers, Clover’s IT team spent six months building, testing, and integrating the new Azure-based platform. After seeing evidence of the system’s success, Clover collectively decided to move forward with a company-wide digital transformation.

For the business’ cloud migration, Clover’s IT team partnered with Concurrency and Microsoft to develop a project plan. Microsoft experts trained Clover’s IT team on cloud technology, and a team of data scientists from Concurrency visited Clover’s main office in Chicago three days a week to train IT staff on Azure’s machine learning technology.

Clover began with a process that was already excellent by most metrics. What they were left with, however, was something even better.  A system that automatically reassesses data and generates a new packaging and distribution stocking plan every 30 minutes. Through the Azure-based solution, they have become more accurate – and more timely – than ever before.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Tim Linsenmeyer Chief Technology Officer at Clover, enthusiastically. “We can leverage technology that’s so quick and so accurate — that learns from its mistakes and needs minimal support and maintenance. And it’s there 24/7. You can’t compete with it.”

Transforming meaningful data into operational efficiencies

Although the company’s original systems lacked a degree of efficiency, the data maintained provided a wealth of insights once it was analyzed and organized correctly. With Azure’s easy integration with Power BI, Clover associates can access meaningful historical data, accurate KPI reporting, and valuable metrics — all organized into user-friendly dashboards.

“The real benefit to the organization is taking that data — what you learned from that data — and integrating it into the rest of your company,” explains Linsenmeyer.

That data has led to incredible efficiencies in Clover’s inventory, transportation, and distribution sectors. With inventory alone, accurate sales forecasting minimized investments related to overstocking. Data insights have also improved customer product availability and delivery times.

At the company’s distribution centers, Azure’s machine learning and data analysis capabilities help minimize order assembly by determining what products and how much to stock in each warehouse and where best to stock products within the warehouse. Thanks to the technology, processing teams nearly tripled their efficiency.

“Absolutely everything leads back to the customer experience and to that end, we’re incredibly happy with what we’ve seen,” said Valerie Alberico SVP, Account Management and Sales Operations at Clover. “Customers are loving the fact that we’ve increased our fill rates, have seen a significant reduction in backorders and have the shortest lead time ever from our products to our customers because our warehouses are now quite literally stocked with them in mind. All of this has led to significant gains in terms of customer satisfaction across the board, which was always the goal in the first place.”

Relying on the cloud without losing data security

Clover’s transition from an on-prem data center to cloud technology reduced their overall datacenter footprint, eliminating nearly 50 different servers. To increase data security, Clover uses Microsoft’s Enterprise E5 security offerings, in addition to Microsoft’s Advanced Threat Protection Technology. With both of Microsoft’s top security products in place, the business can leverage their new cloud-based digital environment with the reassurance that their data is protected.

“Now we’re much more secure, we’re stable, and with the redundancy, we have significantly minimized technical impacts to the business,” Linsenmeyer adds. “We rarely have any technical issues, and we can attribute it to moving all of that infrastructure to the cloud.”

Building an IT team with a forward-thinking vision

Since the latest digital transformation, Clover’s IT team has experienced an increase in requests from internal business unit leaders hoping to leverage relevant data more effectively and streamline their own internal processes. Clover’s IT staff, preferring a more active approach in supporting these associates, is excited and eager to continue working with the company’s business units to develop these innovative solutions.

Clover has a dynamic culture in which they continually push themselves towards innovative and emerging new technologies. Their passion is reflective of Linsenmeyer’s belief that, “From an IT perspective, everyone who works at Clover is our customer.” His vision is to develop an IT department that regularly provides innovative solutions and ideas that drive Clover forward. With this outlook, Linsenmeyer encourages his team to maintain their customer-centric focus and provide superior IT support to Clover associates all over the world.