Mueller Inc.: Gaining a cognitive edge over the competition

Mueller is an industrial products company with a big sales territory. We’ve become one of the leading steel building and roofing manufacturers in the United States. I attribute our success and growth to our customer outcome focus and our people – all 750 of them.

As the data guy at Mueller, I want to give our sales and manufacturing staff the information and tools they need to succeed. I’m always looking for ways to get more value from our data.

Data everywhere

Every customer interaction and every business process in our company generates some kind of data. We have manufacturing data. We have ERP data. We have customer data. We have financial data. We have revenue data. We have product data. You get the idea. About 80 percent of it is unstructured, such as customer queries and call center notes.

When I was introduced to IBM Watson early in 2015, I saw that it had evolved beyond simply being a Jeopardy game show champion to something that is highly applicable to my business. It can analyze and pull insights from unstructured data like no other system can.

We decided early on that Watson and cognitive computing could help provide the answer to our question: How can we extract more insight from our massive amounts of data and translate that value into exceptional customer service?

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Letting cognitive technology do the heavy lifting

I see so much potential in using Watson and cognitive to do some of the heavy lifting at Mueller. For example, it could help customers find products more easily by answering simple inquiries. It could make selling more efficient by freeing our sales force to concentrate on the things that humans are good at, such as sitting down with customers to plan and manage projects.

We could train Watson to make certain manufacturing decisions, leaving the critical decisions to our highly trained staff. Our business is built on our people, and we never want to take away the human touch.

I want to make peoples’ lives and jobs and our business outcomes better. I think Watson can help us with that goal.

Using cognitive technology and Watson to gain a competitive edge

We’re a leader in our industry. We believe we’re the best at what we do, and we’re never going to stop learning or becoming better at what we do.

When we started talking about using cognitive technology, it wasn’t “if” we would do it. It was “when.” I think cognitive can help us keep learning and growing. It gives us that much more of a strategic edge against our competition.