It’s All Covered

An end-to-end fabrication company achieves substantial goals with an all-encompassing ERP system

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For the 10th year in a row, Salesforce was named the No. 1 customer relationship management (CRM) provider by International Data Corp. Based on its usability, scalability and highly customizable range of features, it is the go-to CRM software solution for more than 150,000 companies around the globe.

Within those 150,000 companies are millions of users that create Salesforce’s robust community – a community that can be tapped into for a wealth of resources and support. One of those users is Jeff Cash, the president and CEO of Architectural Fabrication Inc. (Arch Fab) out of Fort Worth, Texas. At Fabtech 2023, Cash served as the ultimate collaborator by delivering a rousing presentation about his company’s experience using Rootstock, an ERP solution found within the Salesforce ecosystem.

Architechtural Fabrication Inc. (Arch Fab) designed, manufactured and installed branded walkway covers for Windrose Apartments’ dog park in Plano, Texas. 

Cash’s presentation was framed as a story of digital transformation and highlighted an impressive range of achievements since adopting Salesforce in 2016 and Rootstock in 2020. Not only has his company increased its overall business by 750 percent and its project capacity by 150 percent, but it also found itself on the Inc. 5000 list six years in a row and was included in Engineering News-Record’s prestigious list of specialty contractors the past two years.

“We plan on being a $100 million company by the end of 2031,” Cash told Fabtech attendees. “That will require us to employ 600 people by that date, which means hiring, training and leading more than 400 additional individuals over the next seven years. Our company’s growth will continue to lead and create growth opportunities for those staff, allowing them to grow up and be leaders and ultimately transform our business in the future.”

Out with the old

Achieving the $100 million status by 2031 will be incredibly doable for Cash and his team, but it will still be a major departure from the early days of Arch Fab when the company was originally called Sign & Awnings Services Inc. Established in 1991, Cash says it was primarily a service company that would do anything for a few bucks. “If you needed a picture hung in your bathroom or a deck built in your backyard, they’d do it.”

Thanks to Arch Fab’s investment in a robust ERP system, staff can spend less time on administrative tasks and more time on projects that require their skills and talents.

As the years passed and company ownership changed hands, Arch Fab branched out beyond its initial focus, serving as an end-to-end fabricator of more complex products, such as extruded aluminum sunshades, commercial canopies, and metal and fabric awning systems. In doing so, its customer base grew, increasing the need for more staff, more floor space and more sophisticated systems. According to Cash, the pre-Salesforce days at Arch Fab were plagued with disconnected, outdated systems and processes.

“We were using paper folders for everything,” he says. “If sales was working on a project that needed an estimate or a proposal generated, there was a big folder that went around the office to three or four different people just to generate a proposal. We’d win one out of every three, so a third of those folders would get turned into job folders. By that point, the folder would have endless amounts of paper in it. Whoever’s desk the folder was on, that’s where it sat.

“If Jim wasn’t sitting at his desk when you had a question about the folder, you weren’t going to get any answers,” he adds. “That project wasn’t moving forward.”

In a highly collaborative business like Arch Fab where every department is waiting on the department before them to do their job, the old analog way of doing things just doesn’t cut it. To do a job reliably and effectively – and up to customer expectations – modern systems are a must.

Instead of waiting for Jim to get back to his desk, Arch Fab needed a system like Salesforce where messages can be generated within the system and then sent to his phone while he’s out of the office on a job site. Even better, Jim would benefit from a system where he doesn’t have to remember all of the historical information about a job – where he can instead access all of it within one system.

“There are a lot of cool things that Rootstock and more broadly Salesforce does for our business in terms of managing processes, but, truly, the collaboration piece of it was the perhaps the biggest selling point,” Cash says. “How our teams collaborate and communicate with each other within the system has been the biggest value-add to us in the seven years that we’ve been working on building out these systems.”

In with the new

When Cash joined Arch Fab in 2015, there had only been a couple dozen employees brought on before him, but he knew he wouldn’t be the last. With lofty goals of transforming the business, the company would have to hire more staff that, undoubtedly, would have varying technical backgrounds.

Arch Fab produces sunshades, canopies and awning systems for properties around the country. For the Tanger Outlets project, the largest outlet shopping mall in Texas, the company also produced vending machine enclosures, as seen in the bottom left portion of the image.

Therefore, Arch Fab would need to employ an intuitive CRM system that would be easy to use for a wide range of individuals. It would also need to be highly customizable and scalable and offer features beyond a traditional CRM, such as sales automation, customer service and analytics. Given Salesforce’s all-in-one approach, it was implemented in 2016 to streamline the company’s overall operations.

“We based our growth plans around this grand vision of having all of our business processes wrapped within a singular web-based platform,” Cash says. “When we were evaluating CRM solutions and project management modules back then, we made the decision to partner with Salesforce because we saw the potential of scaling our business and wrapping as many of our processes around it as possible.”

Since then, Arch Fab’s increase in projects has gone off the charts. Instead of chasing manilla folders, development managers and sales staff are chasing bigger and more complex projects. In fact, not long after adopting Salesforce, the company was awarded the largest contract in Arch Fab’s history. Tanger Outlets, the biggest outlet shopping center in Texas, was completed in 2018.

So, as the number of fabricated components required for each job rose and the number of individuals producing, managing and installing those components rose, so did the potential for bottlenecks. Cash and his team knew that an ERP system would be in order soon.

Roots of the operation

As the scope and size of Arch Fab’s projects were growing, so, too, was the company’s attrition rate. In 2019, Cash says the company expected to lose 40 percent of its people annually, which meant that an enormous amount of resources were being directed at hiring and training – to the tune of $15,000 to $20,000 per employee.

“We would interview and search for the most skilled and experienced individuals and offer them as much money as we could,” Cash explains. “But, we discovered that by having robust systems that served our employees, instead of the other way around, we could shift our focus from skill set and experience to mindset and values. That allowed us to select individuals that were a better fit for our company culture and our core values, which is the equivalent of just selecting great team players.”

Sticking with the goal to have one singular platform, the choice of Rootstock as the company’s ERP was simple. For one, it’s the only manufacturing ERP available within the Salesforce ecosystem, and two, it offers everything Arch Fab needed from a manufacturing, distribution and supply chain management standpoint. With its six built-in modules, employees are now provided with a guided path through approximately 85 percent of the company’s processes.

“That allows our employees to spend most of their time on the challenging, rewarding things – the problems that need to be solved,” Cash says. “And they get to do that without the headache of all the administrative stuff that goes along with it. Think of all of those forms at the doctor’s office. You get 10 different forms that all have to be filled out individually even though they all require a lot of the same information.

“Nobody’s contributing value there,” he explains. “It’s not worth anyone’s time.”

With Rootstock, a project manager can optimize the process of filling out all of those forms. By putting the data in one spot in Rootstock one time, work order or purchase order forms, which require the same information, are auto-populated. Out on the shop floor, Rootstock is making life easier, too.

At every work center, Arch Fab has developed “job boxes” that feature monitors as well as storage for tools and other necessities. The monitors allow staff to access their work assignments for the day and the 3-D models associated with the products that they’re building to get clarity about how things are supposed to come together. As Cash notes, staff aren’t just welding mitered corners together; there are complex angles and other details that go into each part.

“Now that we have Rootstock and are able to shift our hiring focus, our attrition rate last year was less than 10 percent,” Cash says. “We’ve also seen other improvements since our ERP implementation. As a big example, our project managers used to manage about $4 million in their project portfolios. But now, our best PMs are managing $12 million in their project portfolios and contributing a lot more value to our business. They get paid more, and the company does better. It’s a win for everybody.”

And that includes customers. Since adopting Salesforce and Rootstock, quality and turnaround have improved as has the overall customer experience. And it’s about to get better. Thanks to the robust data tracking available through Rootstock, Arch Fab will be launching its Shade Tracker in early 2024, which will allow customers to get real-time status updates of their projects via automated messages.

Watch the video to learn about the cutting-edge wood grain powder coating Arch Fab provided for various features on Presidium Revelstoke, a luxury apartment building in Fort Worth, Texas.

“The inspiration for the Shade Tracker came from a leadership development program that I run here at Arch Fab as CEO,” Cash says. “Every year, we identify emerging leaders within our business and ask them to apply for the program. For an entire year, we work on a special project together. This year, we had five emerging leaders working with a primary focus on the customer experience – how to go beyond customer satisfaction to really wow our customers.

“I don’t think we could have offered the Shade Tracker to our customers two years ago,” he concludes. “It has taken us a lot of dedication to systemize our processes and fold them into one central platform to be able to offer a solution like this to our customers. We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished.”

Architectural Fabrication Inc.

Rootstock Software

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