The factory of the 21st century will only dimly resemble manufacturing operations of the past. It’s already happening: Automation, robots, and the Internet of Things are making factories far more efficient and capable of preventing equipment breakdowns before they cause an expensive halt in production.

But modern-day manufacturers need something else to remain competitive: A CRM for manufacturers. Indeed, a manufacturing CRM provides the makers of everything from chemicals to durable goods with the visibility, quality, trust, and customer service essential to profit amidst the inevitable turbulence of the marketplace.

Powering accurate forecasting

Why? One big reason is because a powerful manufacturing CRM acts a bit like a crystal ball to help predict everything from demand for products to future revenue and profits. For example, the predictive power of a manufacturer’s CRM means that a factory can have the right amount of products on hand to meet customer demand both faster than competitors and without having to contend with excess inventory. This is possible because a manufacturing CRM allows for forecasting based on real numbers instead of best guesses.

Having that foundation in real numbers is important not just for inventory management. When there’s a bi-directional flow of information from operations and sales, sales forecasting can be done with far more confidence. A sophisticated manufacturing CRM also serves as a single source of truth for a company. Because information about production can be gathered from disparate sources and analyzed, process errors that harm product quality can be pinpointed and addressed quickly.

Building customer loyalty

Improved quality and far more granular forecasting are big reasons why manufacturers need a CRM. But an even more compelling rationale for manufacturers to embrace the use of a powerful CRM is because it is an unrivaled tool for earning and keeping a customer’s loyalty over the long-term.

In large part, that is because a CRM for manufacturers provides the kind of data that is critical to forge personalized and responsive relationships with customers. For example, the right CRM tracks everything from warranties to repair information to service issues and calls. By accessing and proactively responding to this information—which can be augmented with alerts and reports about the activities of top customers—manufacturers can ensure that customers are receiving the kind of service and attention they deserve. Ready access to this kind of customer information can also lower the expense of servicing customers because the right information can trigger actions that address potential problems before they ever arise.

Servicing valuable customers consistently and at the lowest possible price is critical to establishing a long-term relationship: Any successful manufacturer knows that one-time sales are a rarity. That makes having the tools to handle multiple transactions over the course of years or decades even more important.

A manufacturing CRM is also an essential tool for winning more business. Information about a customer’s purchase history and behavior can be delivered to sales and marketing teams so they can craft offers that meet the specific needs of customers.

Done right, a CRM also improves internal cohesiveness. With a history of communication and transactions with customers available for all to see, siloes of information are broken down. This improves the customer experience because it means that manufacturers are able to engage with them consistently and with the same context and message. That’s important because even though much about manufacturing is changing, the need to delight customers will always remain constant.