Charlie Merrow

CEO, Merrow Company (Merrow Sewing Machines)

Supernova Award Category: 

Technology Optimization

The Company: 

Merrow Sewing Machine is a 180-year old company that started by selling gunpowder, knitting materials and corsets. Today they build the worlds' best overlock sewing machines. Merrow sewing machines are the connection between the sample room and the factory floor and are designed for the modern industrial sewing room and are available in quantity to industrial markets WW. This has been a successful formula: there are 400 agents in 90 countries with more than 300k Merrow Machines used worldwide.  There are tens of thousands of variations of Merrow machines working all day every day.

Additionally, they are part of a Textile 4.0 movement to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. that leverages the technology of today with IoT and AI capabilities.

The Problem: 

After my brother and I took over the family business 14 years ago, we recognized that our company was having a difficult time operating as a competitive international machine manufacturer. We had strong brand awareness in an industry that commoditizes nearly everything, but we needed to improve our internal systems or we would not survive (Project Runway uses the term “Merrowing”).

Merrow had an existing on-premise ERP system, which we realized was a major roadblock for us to compete aggressively and grow in the future. The bills and materials were written on index cards, customer orders were filed in cabinets and the fax machine was the primary source of orders. The system nearly sunk us – it made almost every process harder, less efficient, and the reporting around it not only didn’t help us at all, it was full of bad data.

The legacy ERP system had to go. We knew other companies often stick it out with old systems as long as they can. People spend and spend on ERP to make it work, in an effort to justify the financial investment.

Fortunately, we were in a position where the person running the company — me — had a technology background. Instead of forcing it, or throwing money at it, and making it passably productive and probably incredibly vulnerable, we changed. We changed fast.

The Solution: 

I determined we could either hire lots of people who do lots of things, or I could get smart about technology. So we looked at numerous ERP vendors and technologies, but I knew the cloud and an ERP solution built on the Salesforce CRM platform, in particular, would provide us with the most flexibility.

Kenandy Cloud ERP on Salesforce resonated with us  – the software could be adjusted and changed at any time, without a programmer! The user intuitiveness and ability for any employee to access instant data on POs, shipments, inventory, floor production – at any point and with any device, was a game-changer for us.

Kenandy was built from the ground up on Salesforce as opposed to being a legacy platform that was tweaked to fit onto Salesforce. Kenandy also has a Business Objects-based architecture. Translation to our non-technical users – the architecture would create a flexible, user-friendly experience and help employees move at much more rapid pace.

The Results: 

After the company implemented Kenandy, the entire fundamental pace of the business was radically changed. Rather than being constricted by the limitations and unwieldy requirements of our prior on-premise ERP system, we used Kenandy to seamlessly leverage information and resources that enabled us to grow and prosper.

Kenandy allows us to focus on business challenges that enable us to grow and make money rather than on the problems of dealing with software. For the first years of running the company, it was hard to focus on anything other than daily operations. Now, since we’ve implemented Kenandy, we’ve spent the last few years focused on growth. It’s a very different use of our resources, of our people.

For a small business, Merrow is a complicated one. We are continually building custom sewing machines for a variety of customers and applications. The high levels of complexity and costs of customization were had become economically challenging with our old inflexible ERP system.

We have built out multiple new business segments – repair, rental, customized machines, a clothing line, acquied 3 companies  and started work, through a grant with MIT, to strategically explore the “Technical Textiles 4.0” of the future.  We’ve been able to improve performance with a small staff, which simply wasn’t possible with our prior ERP systems.  This has proven to be a real game changer for Merrow


Since implementation of the Kenandy platform, Merrow has seen their top line revenues grow 2x in 3 years with 25% of the growth coming from their new lines of business.

We went from trying to figure out how many sewing machines we had sold last month to being efficient and confident enough in what we were doing that we flipped over to being a start-up incubator in addition to running the core business.

After implementing Kenandy, we have been able to innovate in amazing new ways, and our new business lines and revenue performance is proof of the innovation. One of the most recent new lines of business is centered around the invention of the world’s first branded stitch—the ActiveSeam—which is revolutionizing the manufacture of textiles and clothing of all shapes and sizes, including the multi-billion-dollar active wear industry.

ActiveSeam is not only a brand new stitch, it’s also an entirely new business model for the textile world, requiring customers to license its use. Well-known customers are signing up in droves, customizing the stitch to suit their own brands, requiring Merrow to have better-than-ever ERP functionality—seamless order tracking, robust reporting, and tight inventory control, for example.  Our recent acquisition strategy is taking the textile industry to the forefront of IoT data layer application services and the ability to efficiently produce technical sewn products made in the U.S.


The Technology: 

Kenandy’s Cloud ERP on Salesforce empowers business innovation. Kenandy has redefined enterprise resource planning by allowing customers to map their ERP to their existing business processes and is dedicated to giving companies the freedom to innovate products, services, operations and relationships with cloud ERP that is flexible and ready for growth. Unlike traditional ERP systems, Kenandy provides an end-to-end cloud ERP in 150 Business Ready Objects™. Now you can, with Kenandy

Disruptive Factor: 

From a manufacturing perspective, people will probably recognize that when you build a big manufacturing facility and your business declines, any company is going to do whatever it takes to keep their  centers running. When we were struggling we tried to fill up machine hours. The focus had drifted from building great sewing machines to trying to make anything we could - getting any contract work we could. That approach clearly wasn’t sustainable or healthy.

There was an inflection point, and it had to do with Chinese manufacturing. Chinese machines came into the market and they were what catalyzed change. We were either going to get sunk by cheap Chinese manufacturing, or adjust our business model to add a lot more value to customers — and run more efficiently.

After we implemented Kenandy, our aspiration was to double the company’s size. We made the decision to spin up some of the ideas that had been considered, and we finally had the technical infrastructure to do it. We had executable ideas, and we had the skill set in house to build a technical front-end for these businesses. We doubled our revenue by building things that can grow very fast Probably the best example of that is WoolPRO, the apparel line. That’s turned into a terrific success Our business evolution has taken years and transformed the company from an old sewing machine manufacturer to an incubator for Textiles 4.0

Shining Moment: 

Salesforce recently asked Merrow to present our success with the Kenandy Cloud ERP at its manufacturing summit in Chicago. This was an exciting opportunity for us to be asked to discuss our technology & business strategies and processes to peers within the industry looking for new ways to operate and succeed in their own companies

Additionally, initiatives have been started in collaboration with RISD, UMass, & MIT to develop next generation soft goods in managed workspaces

About Merrow Company (Merrow Sewing Machines)

Merrow has evolved from a mill, to the largest manufacturer of overlock machines in the world, to a brand of stitching and the best place on earth to understand, develop and produce new sewn products.