Integrating Your Tech Stack for Optimal Performance with Kaleb Mertz

Episode 190 | Challenges: Process Technology

Is your tech stack doing its job? Jim and Jason know how hard it can be to keep all the balls in the air and not become overwhelmed. As the manufacturing industry continues to grow, it is vital that the Metal Working Nation become increasingly efficient - and smarter. Guest speaker, Kaleb Mertz - the integrator and team lead at MakingChips - dives into why and how you need to integrate your tech stack to boost your company’s efficiency and ease the load on you and your employees. Making Chips and making money doesn’t solely rely on the mechanics of the shop floor.

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The transformation of MakingChips 2.0 from a start-up to a thriving growth agency

Makingchips 2.0

MakingChips began with Jim Carr and Jason Zenger sharing their passion for manufacturing with the Metal Working Nation through podcasting. The impact created inspired them to take the podcast a step forward, and MakingChips 2.0 was created. It is now a growth agency that seeks to inspire manufacturers all over the world through podcasting, blog posts, newsletters, and more. All organizations have to start somewhere, however. Kaleb shares the challenges that faced the MakingChips team as a start-up, and what a savvy tech stack helped them accomplish. Knowing that they needed to boost funds before turning a dream into revenue, Kaleb found ways to automate most of the leg work so that minimal time was spent on behind-the-scenes business needs.



The magic of an integrated tech stack in your business

Tech stacks are the technology tools that you use to run your business well. Kaleb explains that a lot of what keeps you up at night probably has to do with the bottom line of your business - are chips and money being made? Are you meeting deadlines? Is your machinery running and up-to-date? Most of the worrying happens over driving profitability. Tech stacks help keep your life and business manageable and streamlined to meet your team’s needs. There’s often no need to manually document and track certain aspects of accounting, marketing, sales, and operations. When you start to dig in a bit you'll quickly see what can be optimized.


Kaleb gives the example of a MakingChips client prospect. A team member can interact with that prospect via email, which is automatically tracked, logged, and easily found by other team members through HubSpot. PandaDoc - another tech stack application - can pull info from HubSpot and create a proposal for the prospective client. The details of the proposal are filled out manually and with a single button click it's sent on to the prospect. The team can see if the prospect has opened the proposal and how long they have dwelled on a specific page, allowing them to know if they need to reach out and offer to answer questions. If that document is digitally signed by all parties, then the information of that deal is logged into Xero - an accounting software. An invoice is automatically created for the prospective client and can be reviewed and sent off.  The new client can pay directly online from the invoice and the funds are documented and deposited into the bank account. No hassle. No wasted time and energy. While Kaleb does require his personal approval of certain steps, the process is automated. Automate what doesn't need to be personalized, and personalize what should be personal.



Don’t be overwhelmed - it’s automated

While it might seem like there are lots of complex systems to choose from to create a good tech stack, the important thing to remember is that it doesn’t all have to be done at once. And you only need to implement and integrate what your business needs to operate at optimum capacity. Once you have chosen which applications to put into place, you can work on integrating them. If applications don’t have a built-in option for integration across the other applications you need, then use something like Zapier - an application that helps you integrate your applications across the board. Once integrated, your processes are automated, and you can relax or work on the projects that truly matter to you and call for your needed attention.

Kaleb shares that while start-ups may take longer to set up, seasoned businesses know their processes and can, therefore, more easily transition into an automated tech stack system. There will always be a better way of doing things, and keeping that in mind while implementing your tech stack will be helpful as your business continues to grow and needs change. If there is a hiccup with one of your applications, don’t panic. Have a backup plan in place with contact info and steps to take in case of an emergency.


Begin creating your optimized tech stack by understanding the needs of your business

Kaleb explains that it all starts with knowing your own business and procedures. If you aren’t sure what your employees and company needs, then ask! Shadow your employees as they go through their workday. What do they use to log, track, and display data? What could you implement to make their lives - and yours - easier?

Kaleb warns against getting carried away. Don’t spend money on applications that won’t help your tech stack do the jobs that your business needs. Map out the process of how your company runs and make choices based off of what you need. The end goal is to make more chips so that you can make more money. Having an integrated tech stack will help you accomplish that goal.




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Here’s The Good Stuff!

  • Jim & Jason share their struggles with being spread too thin.
  • In order for an economy to be fruitful, you need to create things.
  • Guest speaker: Kaleb Mertz - lead and integrator of the MakingChips team.
  • The MakingChips 2.0 story: start-up to growth agency.
  • The myriad of systems that create a tech stack.
  • The efficiency created by an integrated tech stack.
  • Where companies go wrong with their tech stacks.
  • Start building your tech stack by knowing your company and processes.


Tools & Takeaways

  • Zapier
  • PandaDoc
  • Subscribe to The Boring Bar newsletter by texting the word CHIPS to 38470


This Week’s Superstar Guest: Kaleb Mertz


Connect With MakingChips


Subscribe to Making Chips on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, or Spotify

Jim Carr: Hey Jason, I've got a quick question.

Jason Zenger: Yeah, Jim?

Jim Carr: Where are you going to be on a Wednesday? July 10th?

Jason Zenger: Well it's not where I'm going to be. We, Jim and Jason-

Jim Carr: We are-

Jason Zenger: We are going to be at a live event on July 10th-

Jim Carr: Another live event, I love [crosstalk 00:00:15] those.

Jason Zenger: I can't promise we'll be there the whole time, but the live event is from two to eight o'clock on July 10th and it is about co-bots solving the manufacturing labor challenge in the suburbs of Chicago. I'm being kind of, you know, I'm not giving all the [crosstalk 00:00:29] details away.

Jim Carr: You're going to be elusive, Huh?

Jason Zenger: I'm going to be elusive, but email you have to pay to get into this event but Jim and Jason had the connection. So email me if you are in the Chicago land suburbs and are available on July 10th between two and 8:00 PM you can talk with Jim and I and also we're going to have a hall of fame football player from the Chicago Bears Superbowl 1986 team there to give a speech and it's going to be good.

Jim Carr: Yeah, he's going to be on at 7:30 PM so guide your arrival time around then. There's also going to be free food trucks there and craft beers-

Jason Zenger: It's be a good event. Email me

Jim Carr: Bam.

Jason Zenger: Welcome to MakingChips. We believe that manufacturing is challenging, but if you are connected to community of leaders, you can elevate your skills, solve your problems, and grow your business. I'm your host Jason Zenger and I'm joined by my cohost Jim Carr.

Jim Carr: Hey.

Jason Zenger: How you doing Jim?

Jim Carr: I'm doing well. You sound like you're a little nasally over there bud.

Jason Zenger: I am, I know I'm a little sick. It was kind of going around our office and then you know, I was on vacation in an airplane and you know it's just-

Jim Carr: Yeah I know,

Jason Zenger: I think it just got me and I'm just having a hard time breathing.

Jim Carr: Well I heard you sniffling and sneezing and I went over and took a Zicam right away because [crosstalk 00:01:52] I don't want that, anyway.

Jason Zenger: Can you grab one of those for me?

Jim Carr: Have you ever had one of those Zicams? I'm not sure Zicam is not a sponsor but I swear to God they honestly do work.

Jason Zenger: Yeah, yeah-

Jim Carr: As a matter of fact-

Jason Zenger: Give me one of those.

Jim Carr: Yeah, I'll, right after we finished this recording.

Jason Zenger: Okay.

Jim Carr: I'd be happy to help you out there. But yeah, we're here. We're-

Jason Zenger: MXD.

Jim Carr: We are here at MXD today and it always feels good to drive in to Goose Island, Chicago. I get my little city fix because you know, I'm not in the city anymore so I don't get that feel good anymore.

Jason Zenger: So, you're just another boring-

Jim Carr: [crosstalk 00:02:25] I'm just another boring suburbanite living the dream out in the northwest suburbs, but it's okay. We had our time out in the city and I'm good. I've got a new vision in my life and that's what I'm trying to work toward.

Jason Zenger: Yeah. So Jim, this is going to be an episode that's gonna hit very close to home.

Jim Carr: It is-

Jason Zenger: For us, but before we even get there, what is keeping you up at night right now?

Jim Carr: Well, you know, I thought about it for a while because in preparation for this episode, it's keeping it all together. We're juggling a lot with MakingChips, juggling a lot with our respective manufacturing companies. We're doing a lot.

Jason Zenger: And you don't even have any kids at home.

Jim Carr: I don't have any kids at home and it's difficult. I'm very involved in the manufacturing company and I'm very involved in MakingChips and I worry sometimes that it's spreading me a little too thin. My wife sometimes says, so anyway. I managing it, but it's okay, I've got it. But hopefully through this episode I can learn a little bit from our guest who's a very special guest, a very, very special guests about learning how to reduce some stresses by implementing some tech stack things into our businesses. How about you? What's keeping you awake?

Jason Zenger: Thanks for asking. I wasn't sure if you're going to-

Jim Carr: Talk about me.

Jason Zenger: Exactly. So my mine is very similar. What's keeping me up at night? It's a matter of, like you said, spread too thin.

Jim Carr: It's a thing.

Jason Zenger: It's a very real thing. Burnout is a real thing and being spread too thin. And I had gotten to the point in my career where I was only working on the things that I was most passionate about and where I am best and where I'm the right person in the right seat. And then as we took like a big leap and we grew, it kind of spread me out and you know, put me into other areas that I don't necessarily want to do. I'm not necessarily the best person to do that, but I'm just trying to fit some capacity because we're having capacity problems and I have to fill these other roles. So, that's what's keeping me up at night is that I need to get myself back to where I'm best suited, which is leading and managing the company.

Jim Carr: But that's going to spread you too thin again.

Jason Zenger: No, that's what I should be doing and I need to make sure that I'm leading other people to be doing the things that I don't need to be doing.

Jim Carr: Oh. Instead of doing those things.

Jason Zenger: Yes, exactly.

Jim Carr: So, what has happened is through growth and new opportunities [crosstalk 00:04:42]-

Jason Zenger: I've had to take on new responsibilities.

Jim Carr: Right. So you want to give those responsibilities [crosstalk 00:04:48] back.

Jason Zenger: Yep.

Jim Carr: And you want to delegate them down.

Jason Zenger: Yep. Exactly.

Jim Carr: So somebody else is doing them, so you've got more time for yourself. That's tough.

Jason Zenger: It's hard.

Jim Carr: It's tough to give away things to do and you have to find the people that truly know how to do them.

Jason Zenger: Absolutely.

Jim Carr: As well as you.

Jason Zenger: Absolutely.

Jim Carr: And somebody that you can trust.

Jason Zenger: Yes.

Jim Carr: And count on.

Jason Zenger: Absolutely.

Jim Carr: Yeah. That's a tough thing.

Jason Zenger: Yeah. So do you have any manufacturing news first Jim?

Jim Carr: I do. As a matter of fact, we talk about this all the time about manufacturers and everyone's crying and wincing over in the corner about they can't find people. Right. But the fact is, and it's funny, Nick Goellner, one of our partners sent us this article as a thought to use as a manufacturing news article.

Jim Carr: And as I was previewing it and decided to use it, I thought, man, there's some pretty steep metrics here. And it just starts out, this is from Industry Week. It says 89% of small manufacturers can't fill job openings. We know everyone knows the Metal Working Nation knows. But what I didn't know is this, and it goes on to say an overwhelming majority, 98.6% of American manufacturing companies. So nearly nearly 100% of American manufacturing companies are small businesses. And 75% of those businesses have fewer than 20 employees. Have fewer than 20 employees.

Jason Zenger: Yeah.

Jim Carr: Think about that [crosstalk 00:06:17]-

Jason Zenger: That's pretty staggering.

Jim Carr: Think about all the manufacturing companies from coast to coast, north to south, east to west, all of those manufacturing companies across this entire country, 75% have less than 20 employees. I had no idea. I knew it was big, but I didn't think it was that big.

Jason Zenger: Yeah, I would be interesting in seeing what the percentage of people that are employed at small versus large manufacturing companies with that-

Jim Carr: [crosstalk 00:06:45] Oh it's huge. It's absolutely huge.

Jason Zenger: Well, it's going to be less than 98% obviously.

Jim Carr: Right, right, right of course.

Jason Zenger: But I mean I would be interested in see what that statistic looks like. It also says that those small manufacturing businesses generated 11.6% of the US economic output, so so that's interesting as well. I know used to be a lot higher and we were-

Jim Carr: Right wasn't it-

Jason Zenger: More towards service-

Jim Carr: Wasn't it pushing more towards 20 it was at [crosstalk 00:07:09] one time?

Jason Zenger: Yeah, it was closer to 20 or maybe even above 20 and so it has definitely has dipped down, but it's still a very sizable percentage of our US economy.

Jim Carr: And it does say, and we know and I'm sure the Metal Working Nation that's listening to this right now, we're not telling you anything new, but shifting skillsets due to advancing technologies, misperceptions of the manufacturing jobs. Everyone still thinks it's grandpa's doom and gloom, dirty, dingy, manufacture... Why are we still living in the past like this? You know it's been decades. Why can't we peel this, this perception away? It drives me nuts.

Jim Carr: And then of course the other big thing is retirement of the baby boomers. What do you know? I'm a baby boomer.

Jason Zenger: Yup. You are.

Jim Carr: I'm not retired yet, but let me tell you, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm thinking about it. I really, truly am thinking about what does retirement look like for me and when is that retirement date going to happen?

Jason Zenger: Yeah you're-

Jim Carr: I don't know.

Jason Zenger: Your boom is definitely starting to fade.

Jim Carr: It is [crosstalk 00:08:13] definitely, well, I'm hitting my apex right around now, but-

Jason Zenger: I don't think are, I think you've already hit it Jim.

Jim Carr: You think so?

Jason Zenger: Yeah, I think so.

Jim Carr: Okay, Okay.

Jason Zenger: I think you're starting to fade.

Jim Carr: I doing pretty well, so. But it just drives me nuts when I hear all these things, especially about the misperception of the industry and these young millennials and even younger, I guess now I don't even know what that new demographic is called.

Jason Zenger: Gen Z.

Jim Carr: Gen Z, whatever it is.

Jason Zenger: Yeah.

Jim Carr: The manufacturing business. We drive this economy. We don't have to tell. We've been beating this drum for five years now. If there was no manufacturing in this economy, we would be a very poor country. But we're not-

Jason Zenger: [crosstalk 00:08:53] need to create, in order for an economy to be fruitful, you need to be able to create something. And, and that's where like so many of these other countries out there that only rely on their natural resources or tourism or other things, they're just, you know-

Jim Carr: Like Cuba.

Jason Zenger: You're not as strong.

Jim Carr: Like Cuba.

Jason Zenger: Yeah. Well, yeah, there, there are so many examples of those things. Yeah.

Jim Carr: But, Anyway, let's get back to this. So what can you and I do, and I know we're a small little manufacturing podcast, but what can we do to change this perception about our industry [crosstalk 00:09:22] that we know, love-

Jason Zenger: We're doing it. I mean we're talking about how fun and exciting manufacturing is and I think that there's so many companies that are doing that same thing. I mean with like robotics and AI and electronics and sensors and all that kind of stuff, I think it's starting to make manufacturing exciting. So before used to be kids wanted to, they wanted to be a programmer so they could build websites. Well now I think that they see that the manufacturing economy is interesting and they can hold a physical product that they help create as opposed to just saying, hey, go to this website for whatever I created.

Jason Zenger: I think that that's starting to drive some of the excitement with the newer generations.

Jim Carr: So why don't we move on to our guest.

Jason Zenger: And I will introduce him. His name is Kaleb Mertz and he is of course a part of the MakingChips team. He is our in Eos terms, our integrator, which means he integrates all of the functional areas of the business and bring them all together in order to create the output that we want to create on MakingChips-

Jim Carr: And does a very good job [crosstalk 00:10:25] of it I might add-

Jason Zenger: He does a very good job of it. And his official title is MakingChips Team Lead. And so Kaleb, I know that they've heard your voice on MakingChips before, but welcome to the show.

Kaleb Mertz: Thank you very much. It's really good to be here. I get to see a lot from the outside and now it's fun to be here on the inside too.

Jason Zenger: Yeah, absolutely.

Jim Carr: Yeah. So Caleb tell the the Metal Working Nation that doesn't know what happens behind the scenes at MakingChips and especially MakingChips 2.0 because we have grown from-

Jason Zenger: Just Jason-

Jim Carr: Jim and Jason from a weekly podcast-

Jason Zenger: Now we have a team.

Jim Carr: To a team of seven people that also has marketing services. We're marketing agency. So I want you to share with the Metal Working Nation a little bit-

Jason Zenger: Jim I think the term nowadays is growth agency.

Jim Carr: Okay.

Jason Zenger: We're a growth agency for manufacturing leaders, I think is-

Jim Carr: [crosstalk 00:11:13] whatever you want to call it. We do have those services available to anyone that wants to, but nonetheless tell the Metal Working Nation a little bit about what you do on a daily basis so they can get an idea on how you're going to help them integrate their tech stack.

Kaleb Mertz: Yeah. Well basically it started when we went off on MakingChips 2.0 back in 2018. At the end of 2018, we had a lot of vision for where things should go for this new version of MakingChips going from two guys on a podcast-

Jim Carr: Working part time. Yeah.

Kaleb Mertz: Exactly. With full time jobs, running companies to having a full team that we're getting close to actually almost close to 10 people now.

Jason Zenger: Wow. And the expectations were high.

Kaleb Mertz: Exactly.

Jason Zenger: So like as a little bit of an analogy, it went from Jim and Jason managing our checking account, basically through a, logging into the bank account to, we need to actually review financials on a monthly basis. So, I mean, things had to change and they had to change rapidly and so you integrated a lot of software into the company in order to help automate those things.

Kaleb Mertz: Yeah, definitely. Exactly. So back in December when the new MakingChips 2.0 was founded at the time, there were just a lot of things that needed to be learned about starting this new agency, especially on the side of business logistics. And a lot of that had to be done just of us internally. We couldn't hire people right away. We had no revenue right away. Of course, the struggles of a startup. And because of that I had to find other solutions. It couldn't just be me sitting there all day manually doing work. We had to find fairly cheap solutions to be able to automate the things that we shouldn't be spending our time doing.

Jason Zenger: Absolutely. So Kaleb, what's a tech stack?

Jim Carr: What is a tech stack?

Kaleb Mertz: Yeah, so a tech stack, a lot of it's known in programming, like if you just Google search it, you'll see a lot of definitions on the programming side of things of different programming languages and frameworks integrated together. But the way we use it in the agency space and beyond that, even just for every company, is simply that they're the technology tools that you use to run your business well and make it more successful.

Jim Carr: ERP, accounting software.

Jason Zenger: Well Yeah I mean-

Kaleb Mertz: Accounting, payroll, finance, analytics.

Jason Zenger: Every company, unless you're doing pen and paper for everything, every company has a [crosstalk 00:13:26]

Jim Carr: Are you doing paper anymore?

Jason Zenger: No.

Jim Carr: No, If you're still doing pen and paper, you're going to be out of business soon-

Jason Zenger: There's nobody out there that's, that's just doing [crosstalk 00:13:33] ... Well I probably shouldn't say nobody.

Jim Carr: Never say never, always remember to [crosstalk 00:13:36] never say always and never.

Jason Zenger: 99.999% of companies out there have a tech stack-

Jim Carr: In some capacity-

Jason Zenger: And it's just a matter of do you have the right tech stack and you know, so that's what we're going to talk about today.

Kaleb Mertz: Yeah, exactly. We'll talk about that. But it's a matter of is it robust enough?

Jason Zenger: Yeah. So why? Why should we care about what our tech stack is?

Kaleb Mertz: Yeah. Perfect. Here's the main thing. You as manufacturing leaders in this industry, you talked about what keeps you up at night and a lot of that in the end has to do with a certain dollar amount you're looking at, right? No matter what that is, whether it's shipping on time or operations, whatever it might be. In the end it's that bottom line and basically the whole theory behind what I have to say here and what I've been doing over the past couple of months is to have an impact on that bottom line to make sure you-

Jim Carr: [crosstalk 00:14:22] So it should be driving your profitability .

Kaleb Mertz: Exactly. that you don't have people doing things that they shouldn't be doing and basically it's the theory of you can do anything manually, but a lot of times you don't want to.

Jason Zenger: Right, I mean it's the same reason why you probably, why you buy a robot or a collaborative robot in your shop. It's because you want to drive more money to the bottom line. In the same reason you implement technology, your tech stack or change your tech stack is because you want to drive money to your bottom line.

Jim Carr: Let's say we didn't know other, let's say I'm one of the people that are listening to this show right now. What? What are the types of tech solutions that a small manufacturing company could immediately start to implement and integrate? So we know like accounting software, QuickBooks online, I don't think MakingChips is using QuickBooks online, Carr does. And how do all those things integrate with each other? Like why don't you tell the Metal Working Nation, what happens when we get a new marketing client or when we get a new media client and the sponsorship works, so we identify a prospect that prospect goes into-

Kaleb Mertz: So let me jump right into there. So it starts by, we identify a prospect and usually there's some sort of back and forth by email, let's say. So, we're emailing back and forth. We use Gmail and that may be different for other companies, but that doesn't matter. That integrates directly with our CRM system. HubSpot-

Jason Zenger: Exactly.

Kaleb Mertz: So, every time you're interacting with a new potential prospect, everything is being recorded in HubSpot. That's what we utilize as our CRM and marketing automation system.

Jason Zenger: Yeah, so like as an example, Jim, if you or Kaleb or Nick or anybody else emails a client that gets put into the HubSpot CRM, which that allows them me to be able to go in there and look and say, okay, I want to see all of the communications with this client and I can see it all there as opposed to call you and be like, "Hey Jim, did you talk to so and so about this? Because I'm really, you know, I had this idea" and I can just not wasting your time. I can just log in and look at those notes myself. Is that, does that make sense Kaleb?

Kaleb Mertz: Yeah, exactly. And it goes even beyond that. So you can go in and look at that. You might have different people like in our case working on the same, what we call a deal on the same prospect, but even further than that, what happens when that actually becomes a sale? Right? It gets closer. You want to send a proposal? Okay. They're actually really interested. So it's time for a proposal. So we use a software called Panda doc, which creates that proposal, makes it look really good. We send that to them through their panda doc. PandaDoc.

Jim Carr: PandaDoc?

Kaleb Mertz: Yeah. It pulls in all the information from HubSpot too.

Jim Carr: No kidding.

Kaleb Mertz: You're not entering any data about that person, it already has everything from HubSpot.

Jim Carr: So, it pulls out the contact name, the name of the company, the address, the zip code, the terms of the contract, everything. It pulls it right through?

Kaleb Mertz: Pulls it right through and-

Jim Carr: I had no idea.

Kaleb Mertz: It'll even place it within anywhere you've chosen to place it within that contract.

Jim Carr: No kidding.

Kaleb Mertz: So to keep going from there, and this is just an example, so I think it's great that we're talking about this. So that person, that, that company receives this proposal, they move on to sign it. We can see before they even sign it though, we can see what they looked at, how long they looked at, what pages. If they sat really long on one page, they might be confused. We can reach out if we need to, but let's say they sign that, PandaDoc integrates directly into our accounting software, Zero.

Kaleb Mertz: So, they sign it, it goes to Zero, our accounting software, and automatically creates an invoice with all their information in it; their email, their address, their contact info creates that invoice for the exact amount-

Jim Carr: All automated?

Kaleb Mertz: Automated. I don't touch anything.

Jim Carr: Wow.

Kaleb Mertz: It creates the invoice for that-

Jim Carr: Did you know that Jason? [crosstalk 00:18:07]

Jason Zenger: I did not know this. I did not know this.

Kaleb Mertz: Yeah. And then for security reasons, I still approve it so it could be sent to them right away, but we always want to review it and we want to make these invoices personal obviously.

Jim Carr: So what does it do? Ping you with an email and says that this is, it's just about ready to send an invoice to John Doe and then you have to just sign off on it by-

Kaleb Mertz: Exactly. I just say-

Jim Carr: Authorizing?

Kaleb Mertz: Approve and it sends automatically. In that invoice that the customer receives there's links directly in there that they can pay from. They click those links, they can pay the amount that that's due for that contract. And then that goes straight into our accounting software and into our bank directly and it's right away tracked.

Kaleb Mertz: So in our accounting software we already know they paid. We don't have to go and manually and say, hey, they paid. It happens by itself.

Jim Carr: Well first of all, how many different technologies are we utilizing at MakingChips? A. That's the first question. How many different peripherals and then B is 100%... Well obviously not 100% of all those peripherals are totally integrated, but I think more importantly is how long did it take to set it all up?

Kaleb Mertz: Yeah, that's a great point. I actually have in front of me here a little flowchart of all of the software and our tech stats.

Jim Carr: That's crazy there's like 20 of them on that sheet.

Kaleb Mertz: Yeah, it looks like a lot [crosstalk 00:19:26] and we'll actually be posting this up. I'm going to be writing an original article that'll go on MakingChips and you can check it out and take a look at what this looks like and when you look at it, it's pretty crazy and it might deter you.

Kaleb Mertz: But the reason that it doesn't deter me is because I barely touch any of these. Like you're saying, it's one set up, but once in a while I'll have to go in on one of these and approve something or make sure it follows the workflow. But, I've set this up and now it functions pretty much by itself.

Jim Carr: It looks every-

Jason Zenger: The foundation is HubSpot though.

Jim Carr: Or that's where it starts-

Kaleb Mertz: It is for a lot of us. Yeah. For a lot of of what's going on here, it does because a lot of the prospects come in through that location. But to answer your question on how long this took, it did take a couple of months to get everything in place the way it needed to be to run a business. But here's the thing, we were starting in business pretty much from scratch. so , this was brand new with new employees, we didn't have employees before.

Kaleb Mertz: So there's a lot of systems that needed to be in place. You already know most of the business owners, unless they're starting a brand new company, know the procedures that they're already taking. They already know the processes that they're currently doing. And if you lay that out and flow that out, you'd very easily be able to make this a lot quicker of an integration.

Jim Carr: So did you count how many different applications we're using at one time or any particular day?

Kaleb Mertz: Currently we actually use 15 applications just on the side of accounting, finance-

Jim Carr: Wow-

Kaleb Mertz: and operations and HR. So-

Jim Carr: That seems like a lot.

Kaleb Mertz: It does, it does.

Jim Carr: It does seem like a lot.

Kaleb Mertz: 15 different things. And then besides that we actually go out and more on the marketing side. We have almost 15 or 20 again.

Jason Zenger: Well like as an example, Jim, so like I probably know a little bit more about what Kaleb's doing with this. So for the payroll, when he enters the payroll and it gets processed, it flows directly into our accounting software. So he doesn't have to go in there and make a journal entry and enter what the payroll records are, which I think you probably end up having to do-

Jim Carr: No, we do it through QuickBooks-

Jason Zenger: Oh okay-

Jim Carr: [crosstalk 00:21:24] We do our payroll right through QuickBooks -

Jason Zenger: You do your payroll in [inaudible 00:21:26] at MakingChips, we have two separate systems for payroll. We have-

Jim Carr: What do we use?

Jason Zenger: We use Gusto for our payroll and then we-

Jim Carr: Oh Gusto-

Jason Zenger: Use then we use Zero for our accounting and so those two things get integrated with each other so Kaleb doesn't have to do anything.

Kaleb Mertz: Exactly, and it goes even beyond that. We also have our 401k which goes through, it's called Guideline.

Jason Zenger: Yeah, that's an integrated also.

Kaleb Mertz: That's integrated also. It's also directly with that and so that's all synced together. So that 15 pieces, that's just accounting, finance, HR and operations may seem daunting, but that's what was necessary to make it easy on us internally and also to have a better user experience because part of what I was talking about with that workflow that we were looking at with sending out an invoice and what that looks like, that's very user friendly. We got feedback actually two weeks ago from one of our current sponsors and they said, "Hey, this was like the easiest thing ever."

Jim Carr: No kidding.

Kaleb Mertz: Because it had, yeah, it was awesome because we were quick because we automated what needed to be automated and we made personal. What should be personal.

Jason Zenger: Jim, what is it you like about Xometry?

Jim Carr: Well, you know it's funny, I have been using Xometry to manufacture some of my overload parts and you know, they're really great with their online technology, how you can just drag and drop a cad file in, get an instant price. But it's way more than that. They have really nice intelligent manufacturing centric people on their phone lines up until 9:00 PM eastern standard time that you can call and get answers to your manufacturing solutions.

Jason Zenger: Yeah. So it's not just online, but go online to

Jason Zenger: One last question on like the finance and accounting side. So, I guess expense reporting has been a pain point for us and tell us what, what kind of solution we have in place for that.

Kaleb Mertz: Yeah, definitely. So we've had this for us and then also for a couple of other companies actually that we work alongside with in the traditional sense, and this may be different at every company, but in some form you might have some outside salespeople or might not even be outside sales people, but especially with outside sales people, the expense reporting is often very difficult to be on because you have to be reminding them, hey, turn this in, turn this in. And half the time it's some sort of Excel document that has certain-

Jim Carr: That's what my sales manager uses, yeah.

Kaleb Mertz: Which has certain fields and they have to fill out those fields what they were for so that the accounting knows what accounts they go to and how they're spent. But even before that they have to be approved usually by someone. If it's a bigger company that might go through them more than one person even.

Kaleb Mertz: Currently, we're actually in the process of doing this for a client of ours where we have an expense reporting app-

Jim Carr: One of MakingChips, marketing clients, we're helping them integrate this as a solution?

Kaleb Mertz: Yes. So they've struggled with a lot of process on their end and it gets confusing really quick and there's just a lot of admin work there. What happens now is, and this is in processes, is about to be completed with this new version, is that these outside sales reps can simply take a picture of their receipts or whatever it might be, and they have a choice of a dropdown in this app of what account it's supposed to go to. Any fields that they need to fill out, they can automatically fill out. And from there if they click submit, it goes to whoever needs to approve it. So it can go through multiple approvers or one approver, that just depends on the company obviously.

Jim Carr: Cool.

Kaleb Mertz: And once that individual approves it, it goes to accounting and traditional sense accounting has to copy and paste from that Excel file and now it actually goes directly into their accounting software and they can go in and say, yes, yes, yes, yes. And just basically mark a check mark next to everything to make sure that it goes indirectly so that they're not copying and pasting data from an Excel file.

Jim Carr: In what software solution is that called?

Kaleb Mertz: That is Sage accounting.

Jim Carr: Sage?

Kaleb Mertz: They use yeah.

Jim Carr: My office manager Linda, just I think yesterday as a matter of fact, said that QuickBooks just introduced the same thing and you send your receipt to receipts@quickbooksonline or something like that. And it automated... I actually mentioned to her the other day, I'm like, I need to see a demo wall, but because once I understand how how the process works, then we can go ahead and integrate it. But it seems pretty easy.

Kaleb Mertz: Exactly. And I mean at MakingChips we're lucky because Zero, it's similar to QuickBooks also has that kind of a thing. They have a native app that you can take a picture of it and select which account it goes to and then accounting just has to approve it.

Jim Carr: Perfect.

Jason Zenger: Do you think a lot of manufacturing companies out there are wasting a lot of time because they're not integrating-

Jim Carr: Oh my God-

Jason Zenger: Tech stack with each other?

Kaleb Mertz: Yeah, I think so. I think a lot of, it doesn't matter who it is in general, believe that they're doing things the most efficiently as they can. It's kind of a natural human response. And I've always, this may sound odd, but I've kind of always had the opposite thought process. I've always thought I can always do this better. There's always a way I can do this better. And I know a lot of manufacturers have that thought process in regards to their shop or their operations or whatever it might be. But I don't think that often comes across their mind in regards to maybe these kinds of more minute things that actually add up and in the long run.

Jason Zenger: So why do you think that people believe that it's so difficult to do that integration? You think it's just because the whole integration side of things has changed and gotten so much better recently?

Kaleb Mertz: Yeah, I think the past, I mean the amount of change that has happened the past 10 20 years is quite a shift. But on top of the technology side, it really is the thought process side. Kind of like what I was just saying is really digging in and understanding how your employees do what they do. So what are they doing, what are the actual processes?

Kaleb Mertz: And sometimes if, to be honest, and you might not be doing this as the manufacturing leader yourself, someone else may be doing this if it's larger company, maybe a manager. But if you sit down for a few minutes and just have them walk through something that they do on a daily basis, you'll probably find pretty quickly how much manual work might be in there. And if you can think of a way that, okay, this is being transferred from here to here, it's probably possible to do it in most instances.

Jim Carr: If you can find that application, that software, to actually automate that process.

Kaleb Mertz: Well, what's great is there's also tools out there now that integrate two pieces of software together, and that's their only job. So there's a website called and if you go on there, you can see the-

Jason Zenger: Z-A-P-I-E-R.

Kaleb Mertz: Yep, correct. If you go on there, you can find a lot of different web applications and software systems and basically say, okay, if this happens in this software, then I want it to send this piece of data to this software and it's like [crosstalk 00:28:01] 10 bucks a month for that or something.

Jim Carr: Zapier is the conduit for integration between applications, is that right?

Kaleb Mertz: Yeah, so we chose our applications mostly integrate natively, [crosstalk 00:28:13] which is awesome, but if they don't, there's still other-

Jim Carr: [crosstalk 00:28:16] you can use Zapier to create the link for you.

Kaleb Mertz: Exactly.

Jim Carr: Oh my God.

Kaleb Mertz: And there's other tools like that out there,

Jim Carr: But what if something goes down that's going to be a problem because we've got all these different applications and we're linking them together. Some that aren't natively linked together and some that you have to use Zapier to help link. What if there's a roadblock?

Kaleb Mertz: That's a great point.

Jason Zenger: That's a pain point man-

Kaleb Mertz: [crosstalk 00:28:39] of course, something can easily go down and something can happen. And this is what I'd suggest in that case is, again, this does take a little bit to set up right, but wasn't set up, it automates itself. And at that point you're saving yourself a lot of money in the end on a lot of admin work being done that doesn't need to be done by whoever it is. It might be by you as a leader or by your employees. But that time spent, if once in awhile something does happen, you should have a contact that knows that either set this up or knows how those integrations work because that can always be rerouted.

Kaleb Mertz: If a connection does have an issue or something happens, you can always, to put it in simplest terms, export from one piece of software and import into the other.

Jason Zenger: You should always have the expectation that it's not going to work perfectly all the time and that should never be the reason to hold you back from trying to do some of these integrations.

Jim Carr: It's pretty scary though.

Jason Zenger: It is, but you know, Jim do your machine tools work perfectly all the time?

Jim Carr: No.

Jason Zenger: No mistakes happen and you know, machines run down-

Jim Carr: It's mostly mistake are-

Jason Zenger: Code changes in software and that cause integration issues. But I think just like with machining, if you have some kind of quality control over the integrations and you're checking on those things, then you're gonna find where it breaks down and then fix the problem. But I think in the long run you need to be able to do these integrations in order to provide that efficiency.

Jason Zenger: Kaleb, what does a manufacturing leader need to do now in order to get their company moving in the right direction of automating through some of these technology stack integrations?

Kaleb Mertz: Start by really mapping out your current processes.

Jason Zenger: Okay.

Kaleb Mertz: That's important because you don't want to just jump into a piece of technology before you really know its capabilities.

Jason Zenger: Just because it sounds fun-

Kaleb Mertz: [crosstalk 00:30:23] Exactly, because I'll be honest, I've run into that a lot. I love this kind of stuff. So I'm like, Oh wow-

Jason Zenger: Yeah you do-

Kaleb Mertz: We should get this piece of software it's only $5 a month, but then-

Jason Zenger: 5, 10, 25, 16 [inaudible 00:30:36]

Kaleb Mertz: Exactly it adds up quick. So you want to be careful of that too. You don't want to get too overexcited and jump right into it. So really map out those processes and then from there you can see what works for you. And a lot of that is-

Jason Zenger: When you say map out the process you mean like go around and talk to people, say you know, how do you do this and see how long it takes them to know each one of those things-

Jim Carr: No, I think what you mean is map out what you need to get done, map out the process of how your company runs and then based on that, then you're going to make a choice on an application to select.

Kaleb Mertz: Exactly. It's both of those, I mean if you're running a smaller machine shop for example, you might have a really good understanding of your processes, but still on the individual level what one of your employees might be doing, they might have this side spreadsheet that they use to move something from something else and you don't really know because that's just how they've done it. And why should they tell you that they have this spreadsheet on the side? Right.

Jason Zenger: So Caleb, you, you mentioned the beginning of this episode that you were actually going to write an article on and you're going to give us a visual representation of what our tech stack looks like in order to inspire the manufacturer leaders out there about how they can bring this kind of automation to their companies. Correct. How does, how do we get access to that article?

Kaleb Mertz: Yeah. If you go to, that's T-E-C-H-S-T-A-C-K-

Jason Zenger: All one word?

Kaleb Mertz: Yup. All one word. You'll find the article there. That's a short link to go there, but just a side note here, probably the best way to get access to it is making sure to subscribe to our blog The Boring Bar and that's simply because that will be sent out along with that in there and so you'll get access to it right from there.

Jim Carr: And share what the Metal Working Nation, what we just set up with regards to texts.

Kaleb Mertz: Yeah, perfect. So we just made it a lot easier for you to subscribe to making chips. If you text-

Jason Zenger: So wait, pause everybody get out their cell phone type this number in your texting.

Kaleb Mertz: Text chips to 38470.

Jason Zenger: 38470 and then they'll get an automated response, it says what Kaleb?

Kaleb Mertz: Then it will ask for your email so we can send you that boring bar newsletter.

Jason Zenger: Perfect. Again, text the word chips, C-H-I-P-S to 3-

Kaleb Mertz: 38470

Jason Zenger: Cool, I did it this morning. It was really awesome. Great. Well thank you Kaleb. And if anybody needs to get ahold of you, they can just email you or contact you over Linkedin.

Jim Carr: I have one more question.

Jason Zenger: Go ahead Jim.

Jim Carr: Okay, so I'm that guy out in Nebraska that's running a five man machine shop and I'm still doing everything by paper. I'm just creating the scenario.

Jim Carr: What is the number one application that you think that he can go out tomorrow at a very low cost and start utilizing other than Gmail in his business to make his life just a little bit easier than it was yesterday? One thing. I know there's a lot.

Kaleb Mertz: You're not going to like my answer.

Jim Carr: Okay.

Kaleb Mertz: But, I think that's really hard to say, because-

Jim Carr: No, no [crosstalk 00:33:32] I want it.

Kaleb Mertz: It really depends on the person-

Jason Zenger: Jim asks all the dumb questions.

Jim Carr: No, [crosstalk 00:33:36] there's, I know there's people out there that aren't using hardly anything-

Kaleb Mertz: No your totally right.

Jim Carr: And I don't want people to be daunted by this process. I think it's something that you need to take incrementally and you add on to it as you go and you have to make good choices along the way. And that's what MakingChips is all about. We're here to equip and inspire a manufacturing leader.

Jim Carr: So let's help them, let's give them some granular information to help them make their life easier to starting tomorrow.

Kaleb Mertz: Yeah. So it really does depend on the application and what your processes look like. Like I said before, but we personally, we do build a lot on HubSpot ourselves. So, we are HubSpot partners. So, if you're interested in just some info, feel free to reach out to us. We'd love to help with that. And I think it really is, well, I'll say first and foremost, we were talking about this yesterday actually in the office is being a good Googler.

Jim Carr: Being a good Googler. Okay, what does that mean?

Kaleb Mertz: Use your free resources that you have in front of me. To be honest, most of the things I've learned have been from just researching things. If I have someone in the office come up to me and they say, Kaleb, I don't think this is possible. If I know it's possible, I'll try and help out. But if I don't know, I'll ask, did you Google it? And if they say no, say go Google it. And half the time there is some sort of solution to it.

Kaleb Mertz: So it sounds odd, but it almost is a skill to be able to search and find solutions for it. That's how I came across all of these different technologies and how I knew they were integrated because I did the research on it. So part of that is research, but also as a manufacturing leader, you're obviously busy and you might not be spending that time doing research on individual technologies.

Jason Zenger: And I would say five years ago, Jim, like these integrations were not as prevalent-

Jim Carr: Yeah I'm sure they weren't [crosstalk 00:35:14]-

Jason Zenger: And now it's where people are going because there's less and less people that are available to do some of these tasks. So we have to find out how to automate our processes in order to do things more efficiently.

Jim Carr: Yeah interesting.

Jason Zenger: I mean it's what you and I are doing with our new ERP systems and it's just a future direction of business and if you're not doing this, you're really going to get left behind or you're not going to be competitive because you're gonna have to employ too many people to do it. You might as well go either go pen and paper or go full integration. Yeah, go ahead.

Kaleb Mertz: To kind of sum this up, what I really wanted to inspire in Metal Working Nation through this is to think about where you're at. We focus a lot on the shop floor on the automation behind that and the data behind that. We track apart how that flows through the shop. Todd Hockenberry did an episode on marketing automation a little bit ago. That's episode 186 you should definitely check that out because that's definitely part of this. But outside of what's happening on the shop floor, are there things you can do to really affect your bottom line and I think it's just a matter of asking the question and trying to dig in a little bit and I know there's things in every shop that can be done in a different way.

Jason Zenger: Interesting. Thank you Caleb. I appreciate that. That was really insightful for me being a partner in this business. I didn't even know half of what you were doing and now I do, but I didn't realize that there was a tool to integrate between the applications. Very interesting.

Jim Carr: I think that's all we got for today. But you know what is really interesting, Jason, you know we say, if you're not MakingChips, you're not making money, but at the end of the day, this is not even related to MakingChips, metal chips out in the shop-

Jason Zenger: [crosstalk 00:36:54] but it's still going to help you make money.

Jim Carr: That's what I mean. That's what it's just-

Jason Zenger: That's a good thought.

Jim Carr: Integration, process, just pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, learning a little bit more, asking questions. Those are the things that are really going to push you to the next level and make you more profitable to make you more money. Bam.

Speaker 4: Metal Working Nation. Listen Up. Manufacturing is challenging. You need to think differently. The day to day whirlwind of urgencies, the pressure to grow, customer demands, workforce development, new machine tools and robots. The list goes on and on. It is possible to stay ahead of the game of manufacturing but you can't do it alone. We're here to give you access to exclusive content from other leaders as well as videos, blogs, show notes, and more resources designed to equip and inspire you on MakingChips.

Jim Carr: Hey, Jay-Z, I got a question for you.

Jason Zenger: Yeah.

Jim Carr: What is the future look like for ERP systems?

Jason Zenger: Well, you know, I think it's all going to be browser, cloud based ERP system. Your data is going to be stored in the "cloud." I'm using quote marks. Nobody can see that and people are going to be able to enter those transactions and look at that information from anywhere.

Jim Carr: I know in pro shop, ERP is great, on Sunday mornings I grabbed my pot of coffee. I sit down, I do everything I can right from home using that cloud-based system.

Jason Zenger: So go to for more information.


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