If you have owned or managed a job shop for very long, you likely know how difficult it can be to remain competitive in a struggling economy. In situations like this, it is important to leverage what you can to make your business more effective. One area that many job shops can improve on is how they use their job shop management system.
Learning how to leverage your shop management software will help you improve so many aspects of your business, from the initial quote all the way to when the cash is in your hand. A quality, integrated manufacturing solution does not have to be a significant expense. When you leverage such a system, however, you can greatly improve your return on investment.
3 ways to leverage and optimize your job shop management system
Optimizing your usage of shop management software can provide tangible benefits to your company and your staff. Software systems are amazing tools, but with the right approach, they can become even more effective. What follows are three tried and true ways to maximize the effectiveness of your job shop software system.
#1 - Invest in training
Training your staff in the use of your manufacturing software is one of the easiest ways to increase your return on investment. This is best accomplished by bringing in professional trainers who are industry experts in the software you are using. These trainers should also have a solid understanding of your busines and the industry you are in. This understanding will allow them to apply specific training techniques appropriate to the situations you and your employees will face.
Of course, there are multiple training approaches available to you, and you can use what you think is necessary to achieve your particular goals. Your software vendor should have several different options available to facilitate a deeper grasp of the software used in your business. Some of these may include:
On-Demand Video Training
This is appropriate to establish a base line understanding of the manufacturing software. Obviously there are limitations to the one sided approach of video training, but it is certainly a convenient and inexpensive option, and can be used to establish a good general understanding of the software and its applications.
Your vendor should have video training tools available for use in your business. Whether they will come in the form of hard copies, such as DVDs, or in the form of an online download or streaming service, will depend on your vendor.
Instructor-led Web Training
While can be a fairly generic training approach, it can accomplish more than video instruction alone. You and your employees can interact with the trainer via a broadband connection. This allows for a slightly more personalized approach, with real-time question and answer sessions.
Difficulties with the job shop software can be addressed more easily using this method. Look for software classes with a good Instructor to attendees ratio, like 1:12 to ensure that questions can be addressed and answered. This is a very good option also to help you maintain low travel expenses and time away from the office or shop.
For those who learn better in a group setting, rather than one-on-one, classroom training is ideal. It is also best for situations where you have a large number of employees who must learn the basics of the software system you are using. Classroom training provides a high level of communication and feedback with the instructor and provides real-world scenario exercises which mirror on-the-job tasks. Classroom training is also suited for new users who have not developed a basic understanding of the product or the software metaphors used in the shop management application.
Consulting can help take your business to the next level. Consulting provides the most in-depth understanding of your ERP software solution for you and your staff. Having a consultant come on site to understand your specific business processes and train individuals in their actual work environment will achieve better results than any other type of training. This is especially true if your vendor provides a consultant who is intimately familiar with your industry and your business.
A quality consultant will be capable of coming to your business and developing the best practice approach for implementing specific functionality unique to your business. This will also allow those being trained to ask questions specific to their situations and the work they are trying to accomplish.
If necessary, consultants can remain at your business for an extended period of time. This ongoing, thorough approach allows employees ample time to ask any questions that may come up while using the software. Employees may not uncover a difficulty with the system immediately, and having access to a consultant can allow them to explore the system and its functionality in the presence of someone who can help them with an increased level of understanding.
Consultants can also return when necessary to update employees on new features and benefits of your manufacturing industry software.
High quality consulting is an incredibly powerful way to leverage your software system. For staff new to the system, it can provide a much needed knowledge base to work from, and improve both the quality and efficiency of their work. Ongoing and recurring consulting engagements will keep your staff informed of functions that they may have forgotten, as well as teach them how to better utilize the system. There may also be functions they are not even aware of as well, which ongoing consulting can expose them to.
#2 - Maintain open channels of communication
With your staff
A business is only as strong as the people who make it up. Your internal stakeholders, otherwise known as your employees, are a valuable resource. Their experience on the floor, in the day-to-day operations of your business, puts them directly into contact with your manufacturing software system each and every day. This exposure may generate ideas for improvement, for better utilization, or just an understanding of what works and what does not. Some of these ideas may be simple subtleties, while other may be critical to the future of your business.
By creating an internal communications policy, a way of recognizing employee ideas and discussing them in relation to the business, you can take advantage of this valuable resource. Create a system where these ideas can be documented and screened for usefulness, preferably with your software business partner.
It is also important to regularly communicate with each employee the “what’s in it for me,” or “WIIFM.” It is common for some employees to experience a rocky transition to the use of a manufacturing shop management software system, especially if they are unaware of why it is being implemented in the first place. Take the time to communicate the benefits of this implementation, both for the employee and the company. Make certain to allow time for constructive “venting sessions” during this period as well. Change can be difficult and frustrating, and allowing this to be expressed, and working on ways to better it, will improve the situation for everyone in the long run.
With your software vendor
Your software partner is an expert in the use of their product, and it is quite possible that they already know of a solution, or several, that can help you address your issue. They have likely dealt with similar situations with businesses much like yours, and may have a ready-made solution.
If your request is beyond a “how to,” such as a need for a product enhancement, they should be able to tell you where the software development is in relation to your need. It may already be in the works, or planned for a time in the near future. They can also tell you whether what you desire is possible. Software solutions do have certain limitations, so it is important to stay realistic in your expectations.
#3 - Investigate ways to extend your efficiency with other integrations
It may be the case that no single solution provides 100% of the features and functionality you require. Fortunately, your software vendor may have ideas on how to integrate other “best of breed” solutions with the one you are already using. Most manufacturing software solutions designed today are made to be easily integrated with other products through a standard toolset. There may be another software solution to meet your needs that will integrate painlessly with what you are already using. If so, your software business partner will know about it.
This ease of integration is important for the future of your business. As you expand, and your needs do as well, your software vendor can help you expand the software solutions you use to meet those needs. Because of the ease of integration, neither you nor your employees should experience too many difficulties in adopting new systems that fit with the expansion of your business. Best of all, the use of common toolsets will typically result in a familiarity with whatever extra system is put into place.
Low cost, powerful leverage
Implementing the tips above will give you a way to increase your return on investment with minimal cost. The software solution you use is likely already a powerful tool, designed to vastly improve both the efficiency and the profitability of your job shop business. Software can sometimes appear complicated though, and for some its use can at first be quite intimidating.
By implementing a comprehensive training program and keeping open the channels of communication, you can ease much of the difficulties surrounding the use of a powerful software program. You will also greatly improve the skill of its users, which in turn will improve the efficiency of your business.
Consider adopting these ideas in your job shop to leverage your manufacturing shop management software solution. The results will speak for themselves.