You’re busy. Your employees are busy. Manufacturing is busy. Now I’m here asking you do add something else to your plate? Well trust me, this is important...
How well or how poorly your tech stack is designed
will directly influence the bottom line of your business.
There are tons of different tools and technology resources out there that all promise to help you grow your business and make you more successful. In some form every company uses digital tools to run their business, and that’s all your tech stack is: a collection of digital tools used to operate your business and make you more successful.
In episode 190 on the MakingChips podcast I spoke about what “integrating your tech stack” means and how it applies to manufacturing leaders. Let me take a few moments to dig in a little further. It can only result in saving you and your employees more time and money.
The Big Picture
As manufacturers we have a tendency to focus on our manufacturing processes and systems first. If we get fancy with things we may get into shop floor automation or start measuring spindle utilization to try to “become more efficient.”
We constantly look at how we can improve flows, cut costs, and increase efficiency in the shop. But how often do we look at the tasks and processes happening outside the shop.
Don’t get me wrong, integrated systems and automation focused on your shop are extremely important and need to be a core focus. However, expanding your attention to include the outside operations of your shop floor can produced similar advances and impressive savings. Taking a closer look at your tech stack can positively influence your overall business goals.
Why You Should Evaluate Your Tech Stack
First off, non-value-added time sucks the life out of anything you want to accomplish. Many of the issues technology solves CAN be done manually, but SHOULD they be? Have you ever considered what you are really paying your people to do and why? I’m constantly blown away by the rote and repetitive tasks I see some of the employees of our clients doing.
But don’t get me wrong. I understand. These are the tasks employees were trained to do and tasks they’ve done for a long time. However, when you evaluate your tech stack many times it’s only a matter of implementing something extremely simple, and oftentimes cheap or even free, that will allow you to eliminate wasteful or outdated practices and allow your employees to work on more specialized tasks -- things that only they can do.
How To Do It
Let’s say you take the leap and decide there are probably quite a few things that can be done to save you and your employees time and help you grow your business. Where do you start? What do you look for?
Here are some tips for you or one of your designated employees to implement right away:
Map Your Operations
You’ve probably done value stream mapping before for your basic operations. Now it is time to really dig into the details of each person’s role and how they connect to each other. Even better, every employee should walk through what they do on a day-to-day basis, who they interact with, and exactly how each task is done. The ultimate goal will be to find growth opportunities for individuals as well as overall departments.
Understand the Goals
Begin by seeking to understanding the goal of what each employee is working to accomplish. Remember, just because an employee is doing a task doesn’t mean the task is necessary. If you have a clear understanding of what their role is and what they are trying to do, there’s no doubt you’ll find both necessary and unnecessary tasks they are completing to help get them to that goal.
Identify Unnecessary or Repetitive Processes
The most simple and likely most common issue is double entering. Always ask these questions: Does someone have to enter something twice? Is information manually transferred from one system to another?
We have a couple clients that didn’t have an integrated CRM and ERP, which meant every interaction with a contact or company was entered once in the CRM and then, after the sale, information was re-entered into the ERP to initiate the order internally. This became an opportunity for our client to add to their tech stack and change this time wasting process.
Utilize Talent and Technology
Finally, look around to see if there are tasks that seem robotic. You might see someone doing a lot of data entry or “copying and pasting” even though their role should be much more robust than this. I like to say: If it’s a robotic task, then let a robot do it!
Some Final Words
I know you’re busy but I’d ask you to consider giving this a try. Remove your preconceived notions of what your employees’ day-to-day tasks are and maybe even what you pay your employees to do, and take a minute to see where tasks are non-value-added, repetitive, doubling up, or robotic. There’s a high likelihood the implementation of a tool or a set of tools could really change the way you do business.
Finally, reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you think there may be some areas within your company that are in need of improvement. I’d be happy to help by giving you some suggestions on potential solutions, answering questions, or even helping with implementation. Remember, all of us at MakingChips are here to connect with Metalworking Nation!
How We Did It
As mentioned on the podcast, over a couple of months in 2018 we grew from the MakingChips podcast with Jason and Jim into MakingChips 2.0 employing more than 10 employees to date. A good part of our success can be attributed to the strong tech stack we put in place.
This image shows our start-up tech stack. It may look like a crazy amount of technology, but I barely have to touch most of those tools anymore. Once built, they require some general maintenance and updating, but not much more.
We’ve automated ourselves out of the things that don’t need to be personalized, such as the transfer of general information between our CRM system to proposals and invoices. This frees us up to focus on the things that do need personal attention. Every employee benefits in some way from these tools, allowing each of us to do our job better, and allowing MakingChips to grow and thrive.
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