Our podcast is back! After a half-year break, Martin felt it was time to "revive" the podcast again, last but not least because many Business Central manufacturing enthusiasts reached out and encouraged him to continue with it. So, in episode 30, he was happy to talk to Jeff Brickler, solution architect at an ISV called CADtalk in Cincinnati, USA.
CADtalk isn’t exclusively made for Business Central. Instead, they have their background with other ERP systems and decided to bring their software to Business Central last year when Jeff and Martin met for the first time at Directions North America. Hence, he was excited to discuss with Jeff his lessons learned with manufacturers running different kinds of ERP systems.
Jeff's background is quite outstanding because he hasn't been an IT/manufacturing person for his entire career. He started as a Latin teacher in high school with a master's degree in Classics. He joined CADtalk eight years ago and has worked closely with manufacturing customers as a support specialist, consulting and services manager, and solution architect since then.
Jeff's background as a Latin teacher led Martin to his first question about what made him move from school to manufacturing and from the language to the ever-changing IT sector. Jeff related that what he loved when learning Latin was the challenge of it and the nature of trying to get better at it. He loved teaching because he enjoyed the interaction with the kids. What made him move in the end was the feeling that while, in a school setting, you have pretty much freedom in your classroom, outside of it, you don't have as much freedom to try new ideas and things that would expand your skillset and your abilities. Over time he started to feel like he could not grow anymore as a professional intellectually in that position. And so, when his brother, who is the owner of CADtalk, was hiring, he dared to jump in at the deep end and seized the chance. Of course, it was helpful that he had gotten a degree in Information Technology before he went into teaching. While starting on the help desk at CADtalk, over time, he figured that if he could master Latin and ancient Greek, he could also figure out manufacturing, and that's what he did - he figured it out.
Dwelling on the fact that Jeff has been working with manufacturing companies for quite some time, Martin wanted to know more about Jeff's experience with these companies: what makes them unique and what is the intellectual challenge of working with them. Jeff described that, although the customers he deals with are very different, they all have some things in common: they are all quite "down-to-earth," meaning that they work hard to make good products and are also very cost conscious. What is more, he also meets a lot of engineers who are very detail-oriented and ask a lot of questions, so the challenge here lies in offering or showing them products that are really going to work and provide value.
When asked about what he thought was the most important skill needed for working in such an environment and whether his teaching experience helped him in his new job, Jeff said there's not much difference between doing a demonstration for a software product and teaching. As he put it, a lot of teaching is really about trying to give a good overview of what you're about to teach or what the subject matter is, and then frame it in a way that makes it interesting to the audience, and then listening to that audience to know what's interesting to them. So what you need in both jobs is patience, not getting frustrated, and an ability to explain in multiple ways. Because sometimes, the way he thinks of something may not be the same as the way the customer thinks of it, meaning that we might have a different vocabulary or how we structure it in our mind might be different.
The two then talked about the similarities between the users of Business Central and those of other ERP systems and came to the conclusion that, independent of their size (the Business Central companies are usually a bit smaller than the others), they share the same challenges. They all design and produce complex products with a relatively small lot size that require engineering. In Business Central, they have also to manage the BOM.
Regarding whether CADtalk's Business Central customers use the manufacturing or the jobs module, Jeff stated that their customers mainly use the standard manufacturing module because that helps them keep a standard BOM. In his opinion, even when customers have lot sizes of one, it is always preferable to create a standard BOM instead of just creating a job for that one-off. A BOM makes updates more manageable in case of engineering changes which would be quite difficult with the Jobs module.
Talking about the impact of having so many ISV solutions for Business Central, Jeff outlined that this makes working with customers a little bit challenging in the sense that at CADtalk, they need to keep being aware and up-to-date about the products on the market. Customers would very much appreciate them knowing the ecosystem and preferably having some kind of relationship with the other vendors so that they are always aware of how all the different products or software interactions work together.
The last minutes of the podcast was dedicated to talking about the company CADtalk and introducing their solution. Jeff related how his brother was inspired by thousands of CAD drawings that had to be manually entered into ERP systems whenever a new part was designed, or an existing part was modified. He knew there had to be a better way to keep bills of material and items in sync between CAD and ERP, and he developed CADtalk. The software takes data from CAD systems and not just imports it to Business Central but intelligently turns it into everything Business Central would need for the BOM. Currently, the company is working on bringing its product to AppSource, which Martin definitively recommended.
Jeff and Martin ended their talk by expressing their hope to meet at Directions EMEA in Lyon later that year and continue their discussion.
You can tune in below 👇 or anywhere you get your podcasts.
📢 What to listen for
[1:55] Reasons for moving from teaching Latin to the IT sector
[5:45] What makes manufacturing companies unique
[7:45] The differences between teaching and selling
[11:29] The differences between and similarities of Business Central customers
[17:12] Manufacturing or Jobs module - what do Business Central customers use?
[19:48] The impact of having so many ISV solutions on the Business Central market
[23:47] About CADtalk