‘The right solution at the right price’: A high-tech win for industrial vacuums

October 6, 2020
Featured in Article
Written by
Anh-Tai Vuong
President of DuroVac
Learn how a project spearheaded by DuroVac became a major advantage for vacuum sales reps and customers alike
Artical originally published on
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It all began with a simple idea: take a vacuum expert’s knowledge, accumulated over several years of work in the industry, and make it accessible to all.

That’s how DuroVac’s online selection engine, or OSE, came to be. After three years of development over multiple iterations, the OSE platform provides quotes to prospective vacuum buyers within minutes — a far cry from the industry standard.

DuroVac’s team receives a host of other advantages from the platform, including more accurate data input and access to a broad database, allowing them to better serve customers in the market for industrial vacuum systems. Customers benefit, too, with shorter turnaround times and estimates that closely match their needs.

To get to that point, the OSE had to evolve through several stages, taking seed in the minds of DuroVac veterans and growing in complexity over the years.

Easy access to vacuum expertise

In its most basic form, the online selection engine began as an Excel spreadsheet. It was the first step to sharing key information about the way vacuums are designed, built and configured. Because those computations were highly specific to the customer’s industry, application and facility, they were previously confined to the brains of DuroVac’s foremost vacuum experts.

“We needed to put the brain in the jar, so to speak,” says Anh-Tai Vuong, President at DuroVac. “The former president of DuroVac built up his knowledge base over 25 years, and I’ve had 10. But 10 or more years is not a given to everybody.”

As the company expanded, it became clear that they needed an efficient way to transplant that knowledge to newer employees, who didn’t have years or decades to learn everything they needed. Excel would only take them so far.

Grain size, density, flowability — all these parameters can be turned into a formula.
- Anh-Tai Vuong, President at DuroVac

“We are a configure-to-order type of company,” Vuong explains. “We came up with a concept where all the pieces we needed were designed and engineered in a smart, forward-thinking way, like a piece of IKEA furniture. Each component of the design is tagged with a part number, put in a database and assembled.”

Once all the information is ready, the software assembles it — much like an IKEA bookshelf or, in this case, a custom vacuum — and provides an immediate visual of the result.

That concept transformed into the OSE. It was all about recognizing patterns in DuroVac’s quoting process and finding ways to demonstrate those patterns in a formulaic way.

“Sand, for example, has grain size, density and flowability characteristics,” says Vuong. “Customers indicate how far they want to move the sand, how quickly, how many operators, and so on. All these parameters can be turned into a formula.”

Knowledge that was once limited to DuroVac veterans has been mathematically computed, tied to a quoting engine and is now available to the broader team. The web-based OSE allows multiple simultaneous users to access that all-important vacuum configuration information without having to ask senior staff for guidance.

That’s how they began putting the brain in the jar.

A technological achievement for vacuum builders

The online selection engine runs in parallel with Salesforce, DuroVac’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database. When the OSE receives a lead, it immediately crawls DuroVac’s CRM and provides results based on any relevant information. Users can also input information manually.

Using the OSE interface, a sales rep can input the customer’s name, company, location and other details to see related facilities or machines DuroVac has dealt with in the past. This helps them fine-tune recommendations and build trust with customers. The results are funneled down, helping the reps create relational conversations as they build out quotes.

A custom-configured portable industrial vacuum system.

“The innovation comes in projecting simplicity from the deep theoretical background and validation. That is very difficult to do,” says Arya Sajedi, Partner at Quantum Lead Consulting, a Certified Salesforce Consulting Partner. “The whole project makes it simple for people to give technically sound solutions.”

Sajedi first worked for DuroVac as a U.S. sales manager, where he led the Initial CRM implementation. DuroVac, Quantum Lead and Nexus Innovations, a Microsoft Certified Partner, worked together to migrate the OSE from its initial Excel-based format to a cloud-based version.

“One major shift we made in the project had to do with one of the initial questions involved in vacuum pricing, which is the size of hose,” Sajedi says. The size of vacuum hose is an important metric in understanding other aspects of the vacuum system, including the horsepower, the ability to operate and move the machine, and more. “We would ask the end user what size of hose they would like, but many didn’t know the answer to that question.”

The hose size makes a difference in the time it takes to clean up a mess. If the pile is, for example, four feet tall, the choice between a three and four-inch hose could mean a difference of 10–15 minutes of cleanup time. Sajedi says that is sometimes a negligible difference to the vacuum purchaser.

“If cleanup normally takes you three hours with two workers and a shovel, and the time is reduced to either 15 or 25 minutes with the use of a vacuum, that extra 10 minutes may not matter,” he explains, adding that this will depend on the user.

Now the OSE can estimate the size of a pile, its rough shape, and the number of piles a user can clean up within a given time frame, then use these factors to recommend a hose size.

“DuroVac has a huge advantage in that it speaks to the users in terms of what they need. The end user sees a basic input option for the size of their pile and other metrics, and we are able to convert that into a hose size based on a mathematical formula,” Sajedi says, noting that the end user doesn’t need to understand all the technical aspects to get the best recommendation. “We speak to people in their business’ terms and validate that with strong technical formulas that ensure better selection, better performance and the right fit.”

They recently added a functionality where the OSE user can click to immediately get a price range, a process that takes under a minute to complete. This helps DuroVac qualify the lead more specifically and steer the conversation intelligently.

“It’s innovative and cutting edge. It puts automatic tools in the hands of both the DuroVac team and the end user,” Sajedi adds.

A ‘democratization’ of vacuum expertise

The OSE democratizes high-end expertise from some of DuroVac’s most seasoned sales reps, making it accessible to team members at all levels — and conferring a host of benefits to the vacuum buyer.

“That’s why DuroVac’s recommendation will be so much more robust than its competitors,” Sajedi explains. “No one else does this. Because competitors only give rough, back-of-the-envelope estimates, they often overprice their products.”

The OSE simplifies calculations and improves accuracy.

Without a system like the OSE, a vacuum sales rep makes recommendations case by case, based on a rough estimate of what the client needs. Because other vacuum companies aren’t able to make precise calculations, they tend to overcompensate by offering machines that are too large or powerful for the user’s actual needs.

The OSE allows reps to make more precise calculations, more accurate recommendations and, ultimately, a system that gives the buyer better value for their dollar.

“You’re getting the right size and the right solution at the right price,” Sajedi says.

Another benefit of the OSE is sheer quoting speed and faster delivery timeframes for vacuum orders.

“The industry benchmark to get a quote is somewhere between a week and a month,” says Vuong. “We can, on average, do the same within half an hour.”

The speed of quoting can quickly bridge a trust gap between sales reps and a customer. According the Lead Response Management (LRM) study, the difference between a 5-minute and a 30-minute response time makes you 100 times less likely to get in touch with a lead. DuroVac has already seen the correlation between response timeliness and close rates, so the speed of the OSE was a key goal in the development process.

In many cases, the OSE tool can produce a quote in a matter of minutes.

“Go make a coffee, walk around, check on your laundry — by the time you get back, your quote will be there,” Vuong says.

The importance of project management

Sajedi was involved with the OSE project from day one. With a background in chemical engineering and experience in programming, he supported the OSE programmers in deciphering terminology, fluid mechanics and all the computations in between.

“Finding a developer who understands fluid mechanics — that’s a challenge on its own,” he explains. “I often had to act as translator.”

In the interest of bridging several sides of a highly technical project, DuroVac assigned a lead project manager to the OSE: Maude Lapointe-Rioux. She joined the project in February 2020, when the OSE was implementing the Pardot-integrated aspect of its service.

“When I first started the project, we had all these brains together,” Lapointe-Rioux says. “Some had a major understanding of the industry, while others had the technical knowledge to run the OSE. But all the information was stuck in their heads, and nobody was coordinating. There was no liaison.”

You’re getting the right size and the right solution at the right price.
- Arya Sajedi, Partner at Quantum Lead Consulting

Lapointe-Rioux became a crucial link in the effort to ensure all those minds were communicating properly. Her team held short meetings once or twice per week to help everyone coordinate and collaborate better. After gaining familiarity with the OSE and its objectives, she worked to bring a greater sense of synergy to the project. Part of that involved assessing the project’s trajectory from start to finish.

“That’s how we realized the importance of good project management, not only in terms of liaising and coordinating everyone, but also being part of the evaluation phase,” Lapointe-Rioux explains. “We need to be there from the beginning, at the scoping stage, to define the roles, the objective, the budget, the timeframe. Then we can prepare a plan and make sure everyone follows it.”

In the evaluation phase, the DuroVac team needed to understand the OSE from a user standpoint and ensure reps were getting properly acquainted with the engine. Lapointe-Rioux planned training sessions and post-launch follow-up meetings to see whether the team properly understood the engine, liked using it or encountered any frustrations with it.

“We rescued the project well,” she says. Establishing a clear understanding of the OSE, its objectives and the team’s needs made it possible for Lapointe-Rioux to successfully course-correct. “The meetings were a major factor in making everything more manageable.”

Customers and RSMs alike benefit from the OSE's speed.

What’s next for the OSE?

The OSE has already improved DuroVac’s operations, benefiting the sales team and customers alike, and the team plans to continue improving it in the future. The next phase will involve providing access to more people.

“The end vision is to take the core logic and expand it beyond the internal DuroVac team to the larger DuroVac family: the resellers, the reps,” Sajedi says. “In the next phase, we will put this tool in their hands so they can make quick, precise recommendations from their phones onsite.”

For a regional sales manager in the field, that kind of technology could be transformational; it allows them to generate an accurate quote right in front of a customer by answering a few questions, entering data and taking pictures.

“You’re going to get a more precise estimate, you’re going to win more cases and people are going to have more confidence in your solution,” Sajedi explains. “It’s a game-changer for the RSMs.”

In the next development phase, DuroVac would like to further improve the response time and ensure the OSE’s logic is even more secure.

“We are aiming to do regular bug fixes and updates,” says Vuong. “Then we plan to do major overhauls that will add even more functionality to the OSE.”

Until then, the OSE consistently provides customers and reps with accurate quotes that shave significant time off several parts of the process. Thanks to these major strides, the entire DuroVac sales team has completely turned around in a matter of two years, and the company maintains a course of steady growth. It’s all evidence that the OSE works.

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