The Platform Chronicles: 10 Questions with Mark Hessinger, Vice President, Global Customer Services, 3D Systems
On creating customer loyalty and generating profitable, business growth using the Salesforce Platform
Welcome to The Platform Chronicles, a publication designed to introduce readers to some of the most innovative Salesforce customers and partners.
This issue introduces Mark Hessinger and his plans to optimize the service and operations experience for 3D Systems global customers. Chuck Hull, the company’s Co-founder and CTO, invented stereolithography in 1986.
Over dinner, we discussed some of the more unique use cases for 3D Systems. My favorite story was the role that 3D played in helping to separate conjoined twins. Two-dimensional images like CT scans were converted into complex 3D models that were printed. These virtual models allowed the surgeons to practice the operation before the 27-hour surgery. Amazing!
10 Questions for Mark
Mark brings a very varied background to 3D Systems. Over the course of a 35+ year career, he has developed expertise in customer service, customer experience, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, logistics, ERP implementations, quality, knowledge management, and computer-aided design. He’s also had full P&L responsibilities all along the way.
3D Systems is at the center of the red-hot “additive manufacturing” market. Additive manufacturing is a process that adds successive layers of material to create an object, often referred to as 3D printing. 3D Systems’ solutions address a variety of advanced applications for prototyping through production in markets such as aerospace, automotive, medical, dental and consumer goods. The additive manufacturing process marks a sharp contrast to “subtractive manufacturing” which involves removing sections of a part or product by machining or cutting it.
Fun fact: One of Mark’s first jobs out of college was as a field engineer at Sperry Systems where he provided tech support for the U.S. Navy during the overhaul of the navigation systems for ballistic missiles on Poseidon-Trident class FBM submarines.
The following is a lightly-edited transcript of our ten questions for Mark.
Mark, delivering a great customer experience is top of mind for both customers and their vendors. How do you see that mission evolving at 3D Systems?
It’s a continuous journey. We’ve shifted our view of customer service/customer experience, moving from a “break-fix” philosophy to offering more proactive services, more value-add.
We’re now tracking more metrics that matter to customers — we have a “menu” of metrics. Here’s one example: we’ve gone from tracking the classic MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) and MTTR (Mean Time To Repair) to the number of production hours lost. That number means a lot more to customers than percentages.
(Note: 3D Systems supports a wide range of printing materials, including plastic, elastomer, composite, wax, bio-compatibles, and metals. Metal materials include aluminum, maraging steel, various grades of titanium, and nickel and cobalt chrome alloys. The full-color printing is pretty amazing as is the wide range of products produced from dental products to aerospace and automotive.)
How has 3D Systems’ customer service evolved?
We work with customers via our call centers and field service teams. We also have contracts where we monitor the printers and provide preventive maintenance services.
We have always had consulting services on the front end, now it’s more formalized. We had lots of pockets of expertise inside our company. Now, we’re putting it together for a fuller line of professional services.
One of our cooler offerings is our full range of on-demand manufacturing services, including fast-turn prototyping, low-volume manufacturing, appearance models, and advanced prototyping.
Is there a challenge finding talent to add to your team?
Additive manufacturing is very hot. The talent coming out of the U.S. military is very good. We’ve complemented the new talent with a new head of training and a director of knowledge management.
Can you tell us how you are using Salesforce? Can you tell us something about your architecture?
Let me set the scenario for you. We currently have about 2,800 employees. A lot of these have come from the many acquisitions that we’ve done over the years.
We’re working to migrate everyone over to the Salesforce domain. The goal is to have data about every 3D printer asset stored in Salesforce where it can be accessed by sales, marketing, service, and engineering. The only exception, for now, is printers sold via channels. We have data on thousands and thousands of printers in Salesforce.
Why Salesforce? We needed one common platform with one version of the data — one version of the truth. Before Salesforce we had a lot of this data stored on spreadsheets.
Today, we have hundreds of Salesforce licenses. Salesforce Service Cloud was the first part of the solution. We’ve been using it for three-and-a-half years.
Salesforce now has 5,000 applications on AppExchange. Are you using any partner apps?
After implementing Service Cloud, we added ServiceMax for field service. We later added PTC’s ThingWorx that uses IoT (Internet of Things) to manage operational data on our printers. This is help for our new SLA (Service Level Agreement) offerings as they can help us provide preventive maintenance by monitoring printer temperatures or determine whether laser power is out of range. We now have data on uptime and utilization.
Net-net, Salesforce is our front end and Oracle ERP is our back end.
All of this is helping us to improve the customer experience by delivering products more aligned with customer needs. We used to have a build-to-stock operating strategy. More and more, we’re moving to build-to-order.
What about AI?
I was just getting to that. When we looked at Salesforce Einstein for customer service a few years ago, it looked like you were heading towards chatbots. We were going in a different direction towards deeper insights. So, we started a project with Aquant.io, a small Israeli company headed by former Click Software execs.
We started by sending data from Salesforce Service Cloud cases to Aquant.io for insights. They provided guides to resolution — should we upgrade the software or replace the part — and showed the costs of all options.
We’ve told Aquant.io that they need to be on the Salesforce AppExchange. We want that extra ‘seal of approval.’
Has your service team built any custom apps using the Salesforce platform?
We are working with Barkawi (a supply chain services firm) on defining and digitizing our service processes. We have deployed a couple of apps — automated case creation and automated work orders, integrating Salesforce Platform and Thingworx. We’re looking at some new ideas with them as we continue to expand our digital footprint.
What’s your strategy for integrating everything?
We started this project before Salesforce bought MuleSoft. We’re using Dell Boomi today.
What’s next on your customer service agenda?
We have a lot under discussion. Printer diagnostics are a big discussion. We’re looking for common diagnostic tools that can be used across our portfolio.
We’re very interested in the service supply chain — from uptime and support to getting the right parts and people to the customer at the right time. Last summer we had an intern look at answering the question of “How long did it take to get a part to a customer?” The answer varied based on whether the data came from ERP, CRM, or one of our logistics partners. We want to be able to reserve inventory in Salesforce. We want to be alerted when, say, a part is not available in Germany, and should be sourced from the U.S.
We’re looking at expanding professional services — there’s a lot more that we can do to support customers. Our goal is to provide the best customer experience possible, so we’ll continue to iterate and evolve based on customer needs and feedback.
While there’s global interest in 3D printing, it’s not a complete global market — yet. Areas like South America are just starting to develop. There are some metal customers, but they are going to require more services.
Last question: What would you like Salesforce to do with its platform to make life easier for you and your customers?
We’re looking into using VR (Virtual Reality) for training and AR (Augmented Reality) for service. There are lots of companies with AR capabilities, but we would like to have a partner that fits into our ecosystem and is integrated into our architecture and plans
About 3D Systems: More than 30 years ago, 3D Systems brought the innovation of 3D printing to the manufacturing industry. Today, as the leading additive manufacturing solutions company, it empowers manufacturers to create products and business models never before possible through transformed workflows. This is achieved with the Company’s best-of-breed digital manufacturing ecosystem — comprised of plastic and metal 3D printers, print materials, on-demand manufacturing services and a portfolio of end-to-end manufacturing software. Each solution is powered by the expertise of the company’s application engineers who collaborate with customers to transform manufacturing environments. 3D Systems’ solutions address a variety of advanced applications for prototyping through production in markets such as aerospace, automotive, medical, dental and consumer goods. More information on the company is available at www.3dsystems.com.