SuiteWorld 2013: NetSuite’s Commitment to Manufacturing


One of the main themes at SuiteWorld 2013 was NetSuite’s commitment to building out its capabilities for manufacturers beyond what they have already done.


Helping Entrepreneurs Succeed

Source: Image by NetSuite

The first ever SuiteWorld in 2011 had 1,200+ attendees; last year there were over 3,000, this year more than 5,000. That is just one indicator of the enthusiasm shown by NetSuite’s clients. In CEO Zach Nelson’s opening keynote, he said the common thread across their customer base was an entrepreneurial spirit, regardless of the size of the company, building on NetSuite’s original mission statement “to help entrepreneurs succeed.”

To help make that point, Zach brought Qualcomm CIO Norm Fjeldheim on stage. Norm started with Qualcomm 25 years ago when they had just 100 employees. They now have 26,000 employees and $19B in revenue. As with most large corporations running NetSuite, Qualcomm has a two-tier model, in this case running Oracle at headquarters (and many divisions), with NetSuite running some of the other divisions. Their first deployment of NetSuite was within their oldest division, which was already running Oracle but needed to do a quick and economical launch in Mexico. They used NetSuite, it went well, and now they are using NetSuite in their incubator, Qualcomm Labs, where they create startups. Having a rapidly deployable, cloud-based solution helps them launch these new divisions with the speed and agility to compete with other startups. As successful startups are spun out of the incubator into standalone divisions, they keep running on NetSuite, integrated to the Oracle backbone.

Zach then talked about NetSuite’s four main ‘buckets of Innovation:’

  • Scaling the Suite — Though initially designed for small companies “the Fortune Five Million,” NetSuite has found that large enterprises want that same deployment agility. NetSuite’s OneWorld now runs divisions of F500 firms such as P&G, Land O’Lakes, CA, Pitney Bowes, and Qualcomm. They also have partnerships with the major system integrators who serve the F500, including Accenture, Deloitte, Wipro, and just announced Capgemini.
Source: Image by NetSuite
  • SuiteCloud — NetSuite’s development platform enables customization: the ability for customers to change how the system operates, in simple and deep ways that upgrade automatically. Customizability is one of NetSuite’s core strengths and central to their strategy. Partners use the same tools to build or integrate their applications. Currently there are 7,200 SDN (SuiteCloud Developer Network) members and 23,000 SuiteApp installations — two per instance of NetSuite. To ensure these apps ‘play well together,’ Zach announced a new program “Built for NetSuite” — a set of standards, best practices, and a verification process to certify apps. Initially about 40 applications are certified. This is an important step in the maturing of NetSuite’s ecosystem.
  • SuiteCommerce — The focus here was omni-channel: all customer interactions through all channels, whether tablet, phone, POS, call center — a single system for both consumer and B2B transactions and interactions. Zach even extended that definition to include ‘M2M commerce’ and the internet-of-things, software, robots, appliances, vehicles, and machines that ‘call in’ to request their own maintenance or services. With their Retail Anywhere acquisition, NetSuite now offers POS on a true SaaS platform. At this point, Zach brought up John Strain, CIO at the iconic multi-channel retailer Williams-Sonoma. They were expanding outside the US, for the first time with company-owned stores (other countries are done through franchise arrangements). Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, West Elm, and Williams-Sonoma stores and their e-commerce sites were all rolled out in Australia on the NetSuite platform. John said they chose NetSuite because of the need for pixel-perfect, email and multi-device e-commerce, back-end integration with procurement, logistics, and financials, but also because of the people — NetSuite’s professional, knowledgeable, experienced team. Time to market and risk mitigation were other key factors- not having to worry about putting up a data center, hardware, and security enabled them to go live in ten months with the full suite (just three months for e-commerce) — pretty impressive given the size and complexity of the rollout.
Source: Image by ChainLink Research
  • Suite for Industries — Zach talked about the industries that NetSuite has historically served. Lots of distributors — that sector grew by 36% year-over-year for NetSuite in 2012. Their second industry to take off was services companies which require billing, project management, resource management, and time and expense management — a very different set of problems. The third growth area was hardware and software companies, where they saw 78% revenue growth. This sector has complex billing requirements, like a mix of time-based/milestone billing, subscription billing, and usage billing, with the ability to correctly recognize revenue. NetSuite will have the single engine that does all that and can create a single invoice, delivered across any channel, encompassing a complex mix of products and services delivered. Fourth is manufacturing. Historically NetSuite has addressed the needs of companies like Jawbone and GoPro that outsource their manufacturing. Now they are seriously going after the needs of the people who do actual complex manufacturing. Manufacturers tend to go global quickly — even smaller manufacturers often need to manage suppliers in Asia and potentially a global distribution chain to the end customer. Zach said this is where a cloud solution helps. They have built out NetSuite for Manufacturers over the last two years to include new functionality in planning, shop floor control, routing, scheduling, operations, and WIP management and a host of new features in the 13.1 release. In the next few releases they will build out the SuiteCommerce vendor portal. They also are able to address complex MES requirements today through partnerships such as IQity.

One of the key points made was the blurring of lines between a distributor, manufacturer, service provider, and retailer. This is something we have also observed. A platform that can support all those different types of capabilities at once will be increasingly valued in the market — as manufacturers increasingly blur the line between hardware, software, and value-add services; wholesale distributors provide light manufacturing and other services; retailers continue to expand in private label manufacturing and value-add services like installation; and everyone expands in e-commerce.

To emphasize their commitment to manufacturing, Zach announced a strategic partnership with Autodesk, the 3D Design, Engineering, and Entertainment company. Autodesk’s SVP for Manufacturing, Robert “Buzz” Kross, took the stage to announce the integration of Autodesk’s cloud-based PLM 360 with NetSuite. PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) manages everything from conceptual work (involving marketing, artists, and designers); to the engineering/design, simulation technology to virtually test product design, assembly, and “manufacturability” before you build a single prototype; transition into manufacturing; and the product lifecycle after launch, including change management, corrective actions, and so forth. Buzz also said Fusion 360, the first cloud-based 3D CAD system, will launch in June, with big benefits for scalability and team-based design. Here’s a video of Buzz and Zach’s talk.

Then Gavin Davidson (NetSuite solution consultant) and Brian Roepke (Autodesk Director of Cloud PLM) gave a fascinating demo, starting with the website of “AutoSuite Grills” a fictitious manufacturer of home lifestyle products. The cool part was the integration of the website and the ERP system with the PLM and design system — including holding a crowd-sourced competition to leverage innovation from their customers, who came up with three different designs, which customers voted on. They picked a winner and were able to immediately create photorealistic renderings that could be sent to their e-store to start taking orders even before manufacturing began, and running a simulation to fix hotspots in the grill and get an even cooking temperature. They submitted RFQs through PLM 360, awarded the bid, and released it for production into NetSuite. They showed change management tied into NetSuite to see on-hand inventory, cost impact, and make effectivity date decisions. You can see a video of this demo here.

Warranty and After Sales Service

I also attended a talk by Vanita Wells, VP, Customer Operations at Lytro (a NetSuite customer that makes a really cool and novel camera — you have to see it to believe it). Lytro customized NetSuite to make warranty and returns work the way they needed it to. Vanita walked through several different types of returns workflows that they had built or customized, including integration with their Zendesk support system and extensions to NetSuite’s data model. Out-of-the-box NetSuite handled some scenarios without modification, such as a return for credit within the 30-day window. But others, such as return with defect for replacement, issuing a warranty, or dead-on-arrival required some customizations. An important part of this was warranty entitlement management, which is one of the places they extended the NetSuite data model for customers. Lytro uses a third party to do the actual fulfillment of replacement cameras and the third party also had to be integrated into the workflow. Finally there was the billing piece – in some cases a charge, in other scenarios shipping a brand new replacement unit, but without a charge. This session highlighted how customers can pretty straightforwardly extend and customize the solution to meet their needs.

SUITElabs Live! – Prototyping Warranty and After Sales Service

Source: Image by ChainLink Research
Source: Image by ChainLink Research

This was a first at SuiteWorld. There are many ways NetSuite already collects feedback from users including customer advisory boards; NetSuite’s ability to see which functionality is most heavily used on the platform; and observing where and how customers find the need to extend the platform through customization (as Lytro did).

Source: Image by ChainLink Research

NetSuite determined that warranty management was an area they should try to further build out in the product. They decided to do a rapid-prototyping, interactive customer lab right there at SuiteWorld. NetSuite put several of their developers in a room, white-boarded some workflows, and had customers come in and comment on the workflows, as well as the work-in-progress prototyping. I thought this showed NetSuite’s innovative spirit and willingness to try new and different ways to get feedback and try to rapidly move the product forward.

Evan’s Keynote

Never a dull moment when Evan Goldberg is on stage. He entered through a big cloud of dry ice fog — wearing a batman suit. As the CTO, Evan was understandably proud of how the number of defects in their suite has gone down every quarter since 2011, while the number of customers and users has gone up every quarter during the same period. Uptime was 99.98% uptime over last 12 months.

UI Overhaul

Evan showed off advances in the mobile UI, viewing KPIs, drilling down on them, changing the time period, calendar, tasks, searched and found an estimate, quickly changed the quantity, created a sales order from it with a click of button, switched to the role of a manager viewing sales orders (in Spanish), approved it. All on a mobile device, very quickly, smoothly, and intuitively.

New Features from Sprint of Dreams

He also showed electronic post-it notes that could be ‘stuck’ anywhere in the application. These were one of the winners in NetSuite’s “Sprint of Dreams,” where product teams compete and have two days to build something customers want. Another winner was drag and drop — he showed the ability to drag a receipt onto an expense report, to big applause. My Worklist — a new more visual dashboard bringing together key tasks. The ability to approve requisitions right from the list. All this will be available next year in their UI overhaul.

OneWorld — Multi-book Accounting

OneWorld has been deployed in over 150 countries, translated into 19 languages, supports over 60 payment formats, and tax/compliance for 54 countries. It has improved intercompany transaction and revenue recognition. Next will be multi-book accounting to support different statutory accounting requirements in different geographies, different base currencies in each book, and rules to support different ways of accounting for item sales.

IDE Enhancements

Evan showed off improvements to their already strong IDE, such as a built-in debugger, enhanced support for distributed global teams, enhanced security, and unified search.

Customer and Partner Awards

Evan gave out “YourSuite” awards for some great customer SuiteCloud implementations — to Cologix for a portal they created, to Delbros trailer chassis leasing for their fleet management application, and to Headland Machinery for their field service application. Partner awards went to TribeHR and deem@work, both of whom showed impressive demos of what they built.


Source: Image by LightCMS

NetSuite acquired content management solution provider LightCMS, a big step forward in making it easier to manage NetSuite e-commerce sites. Evan showed off LightCMS’s edit-in-place tools, how easy it is to change colors, fonts, add a carousel image with drag and drop of images on the page, image editing directly in LightCMS, quickly designing forms by dragging and dropping elements from a palette, then instantly adding the form to the site. To me it looked easy and intuitive with a clean and simple interface.

Industry Support — SRM and SCM Tools Coming

Then Evan talked about the support for different types of industries — product oriented companies that need to manage inventory and manufacturing operations. For these types of customers, NetSuite is working on more intelligent order management, enhanced manufacturing, and advanced procurement tools including Supplier Relationship Management. Evan went on to talk about supply chain collaboration, specifically, using their SuiteCommerce capabilities not just with customers, but also with suppliers, extending CRM capabilities to create SRM capabilities, and implementing SuiteSocial between companies. And supply chain intelligence: shared data and analytics, joint demand and supply planning, alerting when there is a pending out-of-stock event, and common compliance tracking, for example. Also, supply chain automation, such as automated replenishment even if the partner is not using NetSuite.


Evan ended with a sort of skit, to demonstrate a great example of how a third party has customized NetSuite for a very specific industry. In this case the application is VinSuite, from eWinery, which allows wineries to run their whole business on a single platform. To provide visual context, NetSuite set up some wine barrels and a counter on one part of the stage, and living room furniture on another part of the stage, to portray the winery and Evan’s home, respectively. Evan pretended to be at the winery tasting some wine. Throughout he was using these corny parodies on wine tasting descriptions — like he said after taking a sip, “Wow, so delicate, but with broad shoulders and overtones of Russian ballet.” or, “I find it has a hint of gladiator, but wants to be emperor.” It really was pretty funny. The winery owner (on stage) took the order on a NetSuite-powered tablet functioning as their POS. He was able to review customer information and order, add a promotion, put in the shipping, take the credit card information, have the customer sign on the tablet right there. That whole process took about a minute.

Source: Image by mattnagy0 from Pixabay

Next the winery owner created an email promotional campaign to try and clear out his 40 cases of 2011 chardonnay. He was able to very quickly narrow down his target list, filtering on customers who had ordered that SKU, above a certain lifetime value, who were active members of his wine club.

Then Evan was sitting at ‘home’ (with his wife, Cindy Goldberg onstage) and received that email. He was able to instantly place the order, but realized he wanted to change it. Cindy called the winery owner, who could see by lookup nearly instantly that this was Evan’s spouse, found the order, quickly added a second order by duplicating the first order and was done in about 60 seconds. Great demo. Then the punch line: the UPS driver (CEO Zach Nelson dressed in a UPS uniform) delivered the wine. Cindy quipped, “Those UPS guys are so handsome.”

A Commitment to Manufacturing

SuiteWorld marked an important public commitment by NetSuite to extend the investment that they have already made in building up manufacturing capabilities. When combined with complementary solution providers such as IQity, NetSuite already can handle some pretty sophisticated manufacturing scenarios today. With the planned addition of better sourcing, supplier management, and supply chain management, as well as the further building out of their own manufacturing capabilities over the coming months and years, expect NetSuite to become even more of a real force to be reckoned with in manufacturing, as they already are in distribution, services, and software industries.

To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.

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