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Discover how innovation can help you find your flow
Innovate NI's Innovation Accreditation Programme helps Northern Irish businesses bring new ideas to market through the four-step Innovation Framework. New products, services, or internal business processes have the power to transform your business and the market it serves. Embarking on an innovation journey has helped many companies create value from their ideas – like Rich Dale's idea which led to the creation of successful NI manufacturing software company Flowlens.
Flowlens is an all in one cloud-based materials requirements planning (MRP) software and customer relationship management (CRM) system for small to medium-sized equipment manufacturers. It began when Rich – an expert in cloud business systems – realised that manual processes and paperwork slowed manufacturing firms' growth.
Rich knew that many industrial equipment and device manufacturers faced similar issues with manual administrative processes – multiple spreadsheets, emails and paper caused confusion and wasted valuable time. For Rich, the solution was a flexible, combined cloud MRP software and CRM solution to boost efficiency, but such a system was not available on the market.
So, he sat down with potential clients and colleagues to generate ideas to address these challenges – he wanted to create a product that could unlock his clients' full potential, free valuable management resources, and create maximum customer value.
These conversations revealed a strong demand for a system that combined customer relationship management, after-sales service, and material requirements planning into a single platform. So Rich decided to create a product suite that has been specifically tailored for SME equipment and device manufacturers, which could:
1. Handle customer requirements from quote, order & production to after-sales care plus management reporting and dashboards
2. Eliminate manual and duplicated process steps
3. Enable smart purchasing across multiple projects
4. Maintain long term contact with the customer and the equipment/plant.
5. Offer a single place for all the business’s key data and reporting
Development & testing
The product development team drew on these insights to begin a phased development process. They created a prototype software as a service (SaaS) platform aimed at SME equipment manufacturers.
They developed and tested this prototype and sought customer feedback, implementing learnings and improving their prototype until they were satisfied that the software could fulfil Rich’s ambitious objectives.
The end result was Flowlens – business management software for small manufacturing companies which reduces unnecessary costs and inefficiencies by eliminating manual processes and providing trustworthy management reports.
In 2014, Rich and the team launched Flowlens and the business now has customers and reseller partnerships across the UK, Ireland, and Australia.
Flowlens is not a one-off purchase, instead customers purchase the product on a subscription basis (SaaS) monthly or annual subscription which includes access to the system, servicing and maintenance, plus a wraparound consultation and training service.
This model promotes personalised interactions between the business and the customer, providing a positive customer experience, helping to transform clients into advocates. As a result, word-of-mouth and targeted sectoral marketing generates significant numbers of enquiries each month – high interest for a specialised platform.
Turning ideas into value
Because Flowlens has created value from their idea for a sustained period of time, Innovate NI's Innovation Accreditation Programme has recognised the company as a Platinum Level Innovator, the highest innovation accolade available in its programme.