By Katherine Gifford
It’s the digital age; there’s no doubt about that. And while many folks prefer the tried and true analog ways of doing things, software is one of the newest tools of the trade that can take your fabrication operation to the next level of speed, efficiency and accuracy. So, when you finally decide to make the digital leap, where do you start?
Implementing software is like adding a new piece of machinery to your shop. It’s not something you can just plunk down on the shop floor and expect everyone to understand how to use. It takes time, energy and planning to ensure your new software solutions work to their fullest potential.
Before you hit that “schedule a demo” button on any countertop fabrication digital solution, it’s essential to think about how to implement software into your workflow to make the most out of your investment.
Get Everyone on Board
Nobody loves change. Even people who say they like change can be resistant to it. Fear of the unknown can be tricky; we get used to doing things a certain way, and whenever someone comes up to us and says, “Hey, we’re going to do it this way from now on,” we feel tempted to let out a little grumble and perhaps even an eye roll.
But there are no two ways about it: Implementing software is a significant change. There’s probably going to be some resistance, which is why getting everyone on board with the changes before they happen is essential.
Before even deciding on a software solution, talk to your team. Get feedback about the hurdles or roadblocks they face in the current production process. Identify points of frustration or confusion and have everyone weigh in on areas that could use improvement. Document ideas about tools they think would be helpful.
Then source your solutions. Once you’ve identified software you think will work for your business, including those who will be using the software in the demo is essential. That way, they can see what kind of features are and aren’t available and understand how it will impact how they work. They’re often the ones with the best questions, and they’re often the ones who will identify any gaps that need customization or further thought on how to approach.
And it’s good for morale. Asking your team for their opinions about the changes is typically enough to get them on board and engages them in the process. When it feels like a group decision, you’ll be met with less resistance during implementation.
Understand the Resources Available (and Use Them!)
Just about every countertop fabrication software solution provides a scope of resources to help you learn how to use it. This should definitely be something you consider when shopping around for software.
When vetting software providers, be sure to ask what resources are available. A good software solution should provide hands-on onboarding sessions, on-call support teams and a tutorial library you can browse through.
When business is booming, it can be hard to carve out the time for this learning. Understanding the software inside and out is the first step of the implementation process, not something you gradually learn over time. Your software might be able to do something that significantly increases your shop’s efficiency, but if you don’t know about it, you can’t use it!
Take advantage of the available resources to thoroughly understand the software before implementation so that you can use it to its full capacity. New software is an investment, not a one-time cost. By learning the software thoroughly, you can best understand how to implement it in your business process so that it scales with you.
Train for Your Gain
I know, I know. You don’t have time to sit around and learn which buttons to click or menus to browse. You have a business to run! But remember what wise old Abraham Lincoln had to say about the matter: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.”
Taking the time to learn about and train your employees on new software is like sharpening your ax. This onboarding process will make the transition much smoother once you start swinging. With a sharp ax, that tree will come down in just a few hits. You’ll have your operation running more efficiently in no time with fewer speedbumps (and unnecessary expenses) along the way.
Start by learning the new software. Familiarize yourself with the key functionalities. Take the time to understand how everything works and what the options are. You can do this by clicking around, creating tests and mock run-throughs, or learning the ropes from a super user, someone who understands the program inside and out. Getting familiar with a new tool before you actually implement it is never a waste of time.
This goes for everyone at your shop. Anyone who needs to use the software should be given the time to learn it. While it might feel like this hinders production for a while, your shop will come out the other end more efficient once the training and onboarding process is complete.
Know How Your Processes Will Adapt to Growth
It goes without saying that most business owners today have their eye on growth opportunities. But growth doesn’t come easy for companies that aren’t prepared for it. Software solutions are supposed to streamline your processes and boost efficiency, but only if your operations are sustainable.
When implementing software, it’s important to understand your processes and how they’ll adapt as you grow. Are they scalable? If the answer is “no” or even a hesitant “I don’t know,” then it’s time to pause and reevaluate your bigger picture.
But being open to new possibilities is about having a growth mindset. And plenty of new opportunities can reveal themselves when you implement a software solution. For example, your quoting software might have an emailing feature, which streamlines how you engage your customer. Not a giant leap necessarily, but this simplification of a process can free you up to explore and develop other parts of your business.
If you dig a little deeper into your software, you might find a view that shows you all the customers you’ve quoted but need follow-ups. Dashboards and reports provide actionable reminders so that nothing falls through the cracks, and tightening up this process in your business is one of the easiest ways to realize growth.
Software is a Tool, Not a Miracle
Implementing new software isn’t a magical solution that’ll fix all your shop’s problems. It’s a tool that needs to be used correctly and optimized over time.
A hammer is an excellent tool for driving nails compared to your bare hand, but if you swing it incorrectly, you’ll end up hurting your fingers! You have to work on your technique if you want to drive the nail in on the first swing every time, and that’s precisely how you have to think of your software implementation.
No matter how much training or poking around you do in the beginning, the truth is that you won’t be completely efficient with any software right at implementation. Be flexible with your approach and always keep an eye out for ways to improve your processes. Every business is unique. You might use the same software as the company down the street, but what works for their shop might not be the best solution for yours.
Even if you’ve been using software for a long time, there are always new ways to improve your existing processes. There are always seconds to shave off, expensive mistakes to prevent, and a team to more fully support with modern tools that minimize headaches and missed opportunities. You might never reach perfect efficiency, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to try!
Katherine Gifford is a marketing manager for Moraware, one of the industry’s leading digital solutions for fabricators. Curious about whether or not software would benefit your shop? Download Moraware’s free guide to asking the right questions at www.moraware.com/15-Questions to get all the knowledge you need to prepare for investing in the right quoting software. For more information about Moraware, visit www.moraware.com.