Landscape Structures, Inc. Transforms Company Operations Utilizing Host of Microsoft Technologies

landscape structures playground

Landscape Structures, Inc. (LSI)  is an employee-owned, commercial playground design and manufacturing company located in Delano, MN. All design, engineering, and manufacturing work happens in-house, and they work with a global network of independent rep organizations to sell playgrounds worldwide.

LSI is made up of three divisions, 1) Landscape Structures, which  is responsible for the play components that likely come to mind when you think of a city or school playground. 2) Aquatix, which delivers water-focused play features, such as splashpads. 3) SkyWays, which builds tall, huge playground shades to keep kids cool as they play.

Known for for its creative custom designs, LSI and takes pride in their inclusive play components to engage children of all abilities.

With LSI’s business growth and the desire to use technology to connect department processes and reduce manual efforts, they started with an initiative to move their quote-to-order processing off of Lotus Notes. Their main goals were to increase both efficiency and quality by 30% and to set the company up for future growth.

The previous process involved a series of incredibly manual handoffs, including a team keying orders by re-entering every bit of information from each quote line by line into their accounting and operations system, Dynamics AX. Automating this transfer of information helped them reach and exceed the goal of a 30% increase in efficiencies.

That automation also helped them increase order quality, as it cut down on otherwise-unavoidable human error. Once they moved onto Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement and launched their rep-facing portal, order quality and completeness improved by leaps and bounds – very few orders are put now on hold for missing information.

Integration of More Business Functions into Dynamics 365 Platform

LSI has been able to integrate more business functions into the Dynamics 365 platform, which has allowed them to maximize existing revenue streams and build out new ones.

Goals achieved:

  • Increase efficiency by 30%
    • Streamline handoffs
    • Automate manual work
  •  Increase quality by 30%
    • Minimize human error
    • Reduce on-hold orders
  • Enable future growth
    • Integrate additional business functions
    • Build out new revenue sources

Sales Process Using Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement

The flow within Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement starts with an “opportunity” which correlates to a potential playground site. Under each opportunity, reps can create as many design requests as they’d like. Design Request is a custom entity, and it’s just what it sounds like: details of a particular playground design being requested by the rep’s end customer. Each submitted design request automatically creates a quote, plus a set of service activities in another custom entity. These are assigned to the designer or designers who will make the design request come to life.

Once designers are finished designing in their customized CAD-based software, they end up with an XML containing all of the design information – from products and colors, all the way to the specific configurations of each playground component and their locations in relation to everything else in the design. This XML is then uploaded to SharePoint Online and consumed by an Azure Web App built to parse the XML data, and products are automatically imported to the quote. This automated product import process saves the design team hundreds of hours of work each year.

The rep is then notified that their quote is ready for review. If the rep’s end customer isn’t thrilled with the design, they can request a revision, which brings them back to the design request phase and the cycle begins again. Assuming, however, the rep and their end customer are satisfied with the design, they can turn that quote into an order. This maps all of the XML design data directly to the order.

Reps are also able to place orders directly without passing through the presale design process. The automated product import process is in place on the order side as well, so if a rep has a design XML, they too are able to save time and avoid potential keying mistakes.

Each entity in this opportunity-to-order pipeline, with the exception of Play365 Service Activities, is accessible through the partner portal. This gives reps far greater visibility to the progression of each of their projects than they had in the Lotus Notes days.

landscape structures process

SharePoint Online is used to import products to quotes and orders, and also to exchange documents with reps: order acknowledgments, POs, artwork to be used in custom designs, and more.

Use of SharePoint and Azure

Azure is also involved in the hugely important product import process and also includes a real-time, interactive playground render tool.

After an order is placed in Play365, they use Scribe from Tibco to move order data to Dynamics AX. With Stoneridge’s help, they are in the early stages of upgrading to Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain Management for enhanced and simplified order fulfillment, inventory, invoicing, and much more.

To leverage all of this information for business decision makers, we use Power BI to analyze the sales pipeline and keep an eye on all operations.

landscape structures sales process

Visualization Provided by ColorStudio hosted on Azure

A key part of LSI’s process is ColorStudio – a web-based design tool built on the Azure framework that allows Play365 users to view, interact with, and even modify their playground designs in real time. Users can pan and zoom around playground structures to get a closer look at each component, and the buttons in the bottom right allow users to modify the colors of the whole structure, of certain materials, or of each component, one at a time. The warning in the upper right corner and the light pink color peeking out from behind those red-and-blank panels in the viewport visually alert users that some of their components are missing colors – but since users can color these right in ColorStudio, orders no longer need to be put on hold, increasing overall efficiency.

landscape structures playbooster

What’s next for Landscape Structures and the partnership with Stoneridge and Microsoft? LSI aims to enable their business teams to sustain and grow their business and maximize technology investments. But most importantly, they will continue to enhance all children’s lives through play experiences while honoring their differences and the environment around them. After all, at LSI, play is everything.

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