Blog: Stone Fabrication Software and Business Articles

Material Handling Overview

Have you been thinking about improving the way you manage slab inventory but don’t know where to start? We created a new material handling training video that will help.

One of the challenges of addressing sink, slab & remnant inventory is that inventory means different things to different people in different contexts.

This Material Handling Overview covers the different types of inventory and will help you figure out what’s the best approach for your business situation. The overview also includes a video showing how JobTracker Inventory Edition works, so you can determine if it might be a fit for your fabrication business.

Training: Material Handling Overview

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Identifying Value Added Activities

Having trouble finding good help these days?

Ed Young (WeReduceChaos.com) recognizes that pretty much everyone is struggling with this issue. In a growing economy, growth in jobs outstrips the supply of good labor.

In addition to getting more creative in finding and attracting new employees, an often overlooked solution is getting more value from existing staff.

Think about the term value added. Truly value added activities are those which transform a material into a product that a customer is willing to pay for – a good example is the saw operator. Value added time for that job is ONLY the time that the blade is cutting material. Everything else – everything – is non-value-added.

You’re paying for the good labor you already have, plus spending money and time chasing new talent. How much of that time & money is being wasted on non-value-added activities?

As soon as you finish this article, take a few minutes to watch your saw operator. Which activities are value added and which are not? How much of your saw operator’s day is spent on non-value-added activities? Next figure out how can you reduce or eliminate those non-value-added activities. Would it make sense to have a low-wage helper moving product around in your shop to allow your highly skilled and higher paid operators spend more time on value added activities? What can you do to speed up loading and unloading the saw table? Download their handy VA/NVA analysis tool to quantify the impact of making those changes.

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Work more efficiently – with Calendar & Activity Packets

Chances are, somebody in your company set up a Calendar View when you first got started with JobTracker, and that’s what you use. No questions asked. Or perhaps you’ve used JobTracker for years, and people have added more and more information to that one view – so now each “box” is so big you can only see a few on your screen at any one time.

Maybe it’s working well enough – but life could be so much easier!

Check out this training video to learn how you can work more efficiently by eliminating distractions and highlight important details needed for the task at hand.

You will learn to:

  • Create a variety of different calendars by changing Display Type, Colors or Activities
  • Show Subtotals on your Calendar (for square feet, # slabs, $, etc.)
  • Filter your calendar by a Custom Job Field, Form Field or Activity Status
  • Map Activities and group by Assignee
  • Customize Activity Packets and include attached files

 

Save

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Training Echoes: The JobTracker Tune-Up

It seems most JobTracker customers feel they’re only scratching the surface of possibilities for how they can implement the software most effectively into their business operations. And for the functions they do use – they may or may not be optimized for most efficient operation.

That was the primary motivation for Sharon Eller of Creative Surface Interiors, a solid surface-only fabrication shop located in Hyattsville, MD, to attend the Moraware Advanced Training Conference in Houston last February. “I always felt like we were not using JobTracker to its fullest potential,” she says. “Plus, I wanted to meet everybody from Moraware and talk with other fabricators.”

It didn’t take Eller long to realize that she had come to the right place. “I had questions about phasing and inventory and they helped me straighten out some of the issues I had created for myself when setting up the inventory” Eller explains. “I also think we have our forms set up screwy. They work for us but I think that they are pretty limited. Kathleen (of Moraware) explained how you could see total square footage for the entire day and I thought, ‘that is really cool. How come we can’t do that?’”

Knowledge Is Power
Creative Surface Interiors has been using JobTracker for about 10 years. Given the fast-paced, deadline-driven atmosphere of the typical fabrication shop, chances were very good that the company had not kept pace with innovations in the software, nor were they aware of features that could be implemented quickly to streamline the operation. “We were kind of flying by the seat of our pants when it comes to Moraware,” Eller concedes. “When setting up JobTracker I found that some things weren’t necessarily intuitive. At the conference I learned that, behind the scenes, some of the features of JobTracker didn’t necessarily work the way I had envisioned. It was revealing to see what could be done with a little tweaking.”

This “view from 30,000 feet” has given Eller perspective on her goals moving forward. “First on the list was inventory,” she explains. “It was plain that our inventory had been set up a little screwy. After the conference, I had a GoTo meeting with Patrick, who went into my computer and helped adjust our settings so they were working better.”

Getting a solid working knowledge of phases and forms is next up on the list for CSI. “In talking with some of the other fabricators, it was wild to see how they are using forms,” she says. “The companies who stood out are the ones who are heavy into residential. It was interesting to see how they had set things up to track jobs all the way through the process. Even though we are a commercial shop, it is nice to know what the possibilities are. You can do so much with this software.”

Learning From Other Fabricators
Eller says that taking the time to get away from the day-to-day pressures of her business to focus on how CSI could adjust its operations for more efficiency was an important component of the conference. Another big reason for attending was the opportunity to see what other fabricators are doing. “We met some guys from England that only do solid surface,” she says. “It was amazing to hear what their world is like. They are still doing a lot of residential. They said that just about every job they do is coved splash, and this is in centuries-old buildings. It’s a completely different system than what we use. I always think it is a valuable thing to expand your horizons and to see how other people do things.

“I also appreciated being to put a face with a name and to have a little more sense of who is behind Moraware. It was really fun to see the different personalities. Cool group of people.”

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Baltimore Stone Summit

Last week, I attended another MIA+BSI “stone summit” event at the MS International outside of Baltimore. As I’ve mentioned before, I love these regional events, because they get a bunch of fabricators in a room together and just let ’em talk.

As a bonus, I arrived early enough that I was able to drop in on a couple of fabricators. I’ll share separate posts about each of those visits soon, because both were quite interesting.

The MIA folks have settled into a groove with these events – get a very experienced fabricator as a speaker in the morning and then break into groups for guided discussion after lunch. GK Naquin was the speaker today, and he kept everybody on their toes (I always enjoy his sense of humor).

It’s impossible to boil down an entire day’s worth of learning into a couple of paragraphs, but GK made a few specific points that I particularly liked. I even posted these on Facebook during the event (which reminds me, you should probably Like our page). My favorites:

  • Upselling your customer into material that they like is good for them (because they’re happier) and good for you (because you’ll make more money). Even with sales that originate from big box stores – don’t be afraid to continue selling to the customer!
  • You have to set boundaries – if you don’t, you’ll waste time and lose money. For example, do you require farm sinks to be installed before you measure? If not, you really should – there’s no way to get the measure right if you don’t. If you don’t make sure that’s done before you go out to measure, you’ve just wasted a trip and lost money. Always notice issues like that and always work to improve your processes to account for them.

The after-lunch discussions were really interesting as well. We divided into groups of owners, sellers, and the guys/gals who do the actual fabricating. I listened to some of the owner conversation. A couple of topics surprised me a bit:

  • Marketing is moving more and more to social media, Facebook in particular.
  • Making sure you get paid is always a concern. One fabricator mentioned that their company routinely placed a lien on each customer’s house until the work was paid in full. That was a novel approach to many.

Again, for more details – go to these types of events when they happen near you! Just visit www.stoneindustryeducation.com for the schedule.

As a super extra fun bonus, I managed to invite myself to a Baltimore Orioles baseball game at Camden Yards! That outing was organized by Buddy Ontra from Ontra Stone. Buddy’s an MIA board member and a big baseball fan, so if there’s baseball worth seeing near an MIA event, you might check to see if Buddy wants to go (and btw, he knows a lot about fabricating, too). I had never been to Camden Yards before, and I loved it – easily one of the top 3 ballparks in baseball – it was absolutely beautiful night to see a game (and the Orioles beat the Yankees 10-4).

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Training Echoes: Creative Stoneworks Edition

When Stephanie Stremler of Creative Stoneworks in Bellingham, WA, returned from our JobTracker Training event, she quickly had the realization that she hadn’t built enough time into her schedule to take full advantage of the opportunity. “I arranged to get to Houston on time and leave right after the session,” she explains. “Having little kids at home and other responsibilities, I felt like I needed to get back as soon as possible. I wish now that I had taken more dedicated time to apply what I had learned to my business while still in the moment.”

Not that anyone could blame her. Stremler had been to inaugural sessions of other professional trainings before and come away disappointed. “I was thinking, well this is their first time, I’m not really expecting to get a lot out of it. But, I was blown away by how well done it was,” she says.

Going Digital
Creative Stoneworks integrated CounterGo estimating software into its business roughly four years ago, right after they made the decision to go fully digital. Last year, the company added JobTracker to replace “our antiquated way of scheduling with a paper calendar and white board.” When Stremler learned of Moraware Advanced Training she viewed it as a great opportunity to take the business to another level. “I could tell JobTracker had a lot of potential and that we were just scratching the surface of what it could do for us,” Stremler says. “I was excited at the prospect of having some dedicated time to learn just what the software could do to save us more time and money.”

Stremler says the training was structured so that she could attend sessions on top-of-the-mind subjects first and still catch up on other topics later when those classes were repeated. “Reporting was huge for me,” she explains. “It was really great to learn how to analyze what type of stone we are using, where it is coming from and the dollar amount. And the forms. We had some activities in our business that were still being tracked by hand on paper. Having the time and the help to get those things put into JobTracker so that everything is in one place was a big priority.”

Creative Stoneworks

Bonus Time
One might say the Moraware Advanced Training was less of a seminar and more of an experience. That is because the activities didn’t stop just because class was over for the day. Students and staff enjoyed an evening of competitive bowling (complete with customized bowling shirts) one night after class, and a few hours of informal time with the Moraware staff and/or third-party vendors the next.

“I talked to Data Bridge about bridging areas we have been struggling with,” explains Stremler. “As a result, we have added the inventory module and are using Data Bridge to get to our SlabSmith. It was super beneficial to have all the vendors together in one place.”

And, of course, there was the chance to network. “I knew that one of the biggest benefits of going to the class would be having the chance to talk to other people and see what their shops were doing. It is fascinating to see how different everyone’s business is, but there are the little things that make us similar and successful.

“Building a relationship with all the people who work with Moraware was very important, too. Now I know who is the guru for this and who is the guru for that. I genuinely feel that if I ever need any help I could just call them and they would be more than willing to sit down with me. I really appreciate that.”

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