I recently got asked about how to draw another unusual shape in CounterGo. Our customer wanted a mostly-circular island with one flat side that’s bumped-out. Here’s how we got there. I thought it’d be fun to share:
First, draw a square w/ 36″ sides:
On Step 2, add a radius to the corners (by clicking where it says -Std-). I added 18″ radiuses to the corners:
Do that for 3 corners:
On the 4th corner, add a bump-out. I added one that’s 25″ long & 4″ deep:
Do you have a funky-shaped countertop or island you’re trying to draw? Although CounterGo can’t do every possible shape, with a little imagination, you’d be surprised at what’s possible.
As we’re preparing for our in-person training in Houston this month, we’ve been doing an inventory of our help articles and videos. As part of that, we all noticed that the short CounterGo video on our website was a bit outdated.
I re-recorded the video for a couple of reasons.
First, the video we replaced was missing a couple of key features – probably the most obvious is being able to add pictures of slabs while you’re doing a layout. This is a tough balance, because there are some other things that I didn’t show – emailing quotes, showing options for materials. But, it felt like an okay compromise.
Next, the new video adds a little more explanation. This means it could be really handy if you’re a new employee at a company that’s using CounterGo . In just a few minutes, you’ll get a very good overview of how to use it. Of course, there’s lots more in-depth help, but this might be a bite-size chuck to help you get started.
And finally, we want to keep improving our marketing info. This is my first toe into the waters of doing this in a while, and I’m looking forward to making lots of incremental changes and additional videos.
If you’ve got any ideas on what else would make this video great, I’d love to hear.
There’s an easy, informal way to test the health of an industry – by observing its trade shows. Judging from the participation at this year’s StonExpo / Tise, the stone industry is doing quite well.
Moraware stopped getting a booth at large events about three years ago (our sales demo/ discussion actually works a lot better over the phone), but we still like to attend and observe when our travel schedules align. This year, it aligned for Harry, Ted, and myself.
Since we didn’t have a booth, we decided to support MIA + BSI‘s booth – they always have chairs and smart people, so their booth is a great “home base” when you’re visiting a big show like this. We even sponsored an “ice cream social” at their booth this year, which was fun.
As usual, the saw manufacturers all had impressive displays, as did the template tool providers (Laser Products throws a fun after party, so you probably want to stop by their booth next time and ask when/where it is). The granite purveyors themselves seem to focus more on Coverings … if you want to see a sea of material, be sure to attend that show in April.
MIA + BSI also always hosts a member reception, and this year was no exception (we’re one of the sponsors of that reception as well). In fact, they outgrew the room they used the last couple of years. Judging from the size and tone of that reception, our industry is rocking. Everyone we spoke with had a good year last year and is optimistic about the year ahead. It was nice to see.
Trade shows like StoneExpo and Coverings are a great way to gauge the overall health of the industry, connect with other fabricators, and get some useful classroom-style education. If you’re shopping for new equipment, attending a trade show is essential, because you can talk with lots of manufacturers in one place.
That said, don’t overlook regional events from the likes of MIA+BSI and ISFA. These smaller events typically don’t have full exhibit floors (they’re often hosted by a single distributor or manufacturer, in fact). They’re typically attended by 25-50 fabricators, and because they’re more specific to the stone industry, it’s easier to connect with your peers. That’s why we like small, regional events even better than the large trade shows, and we attend them whenever we can. Check out our events page from time to time to see where we’ll be attending next – and be sure to carve out time yourself to connect with your peers.
Your business depends on workers in the field, so communication is essential. To that end, we’d like to highlight another partner product that’s been built to extend the functionality of JobTracker.
Every employee in the field needs to know where to go, what to bring, what to do, and so much more…
Even with well organized work orders and instructions, questions and errors can still happen, and when they do, the field teams have to call into the office – ultimately tying up other staff, slowing down the work, and costing you money. If you have multiple crews out working, the more they have to call in, the larger the consequences…
Enter Job Well Done, a mobile app and management software designed specifically for the stone industry and built to talk directly to your company’s JobTracker system. The primary purpose of Job Well Done is to make job information immediately available in the field on mobile devices. On the management side, all relevant information can be entered into the software – including location, customer name, materials, etc. – accessible at a glance for personnel in the field.
Field staff can open the app, see completed jobs, today’s jobs, and jobs for the future. Within the details of each job, they’ll see a map and location of the job site, any special instructions, all customer information, and so on – the worker can even let customers know when they are on the way!
With separate views for templaters and installers, all relevant information entered by the office is right in your crew’s hands, tailored for the job they need to do. Workers can also upload drawings and photos of completed work (or work in progress), send concerns to management via the app, and see the work any other employees may have done previously.
Upon completion of a job, the customer can also digitally sign off on the job, notifying management in real time. This digital signature is one of the major advantages Job Well Done offers. Other advantages include:
Instead of hassling with printing paper forms, filling them out by hand, transporting them back to the office, and having to re-input information into JobTracker and/or scan documents, Job Well Done digitizes everything. Forms can be filled out on a tablet, computer, or mobile device, and are automatically sent to JobTracker.
This simplification saves money and time, reducing pages printed and time spent manually entering information.
Customers can also fill out digital surveys and provide instant feedback.
When everything is digitized and centrally located online, anyone in the organization can find the information they need – and do so with ease. Completed jobs can be reviewed to see before & after photos, notes about the work, issues encountered, etc. – all packaged together within JobTracker.
This coordinated data from Job Well Done allows for highly efficient communication between your business and customers, with plans, estimates, measurements, and so on all available from a mobile device. Project managers, builders, general managers, customer service personnel, and other members of your company also have the same luxury – everything is organized and available through the software, reducing miscommunication and improving accountability.
The software is customizable to meet the exact needs of your business, easy to use for any one remotely familiar with a smartphone, and does so much to coordinate your office and field staff into a well-oiled machine!
Check out this introductory video for a more detailed look:
As more and more customer and business communication becomes digital, online, and mobile, these kinds of solutions become more valuable. Customers are increasingly learning to expect instant access and online communication – which means that Job Well Done adds a new layer to your customer service.
If your shop has become digital to any degree, most likely your vocabulary includes the word “metrics.” Metrics are used to measure performance and to help managers make decisions that affect the smooth operation of the company. Unless you have been introduced to the concept of Synchronous Flow, however, chances are you haven’t yet incorporated “throughput” into your digital management lexicon.
“Throughput is a measure of value added,” explains Ed Hill, founder of Synchronous Solutions, a consulting firm that focuses on helping business owners enhance opportunities for growth through increased operations velocity. “Throughput is what is accomplished in an organization by creating value.”
Let’s say, for example, a fabricator sells a countertop for $5,000. Of that sales price, $2,000 goes for materials, which means $3,000 worth of throughput is generated by that sale. In other words, the $2,000 investment in raw slabs is converted into $5,000 by the shop and installation crew, thereby creating $3,000 worth of value. Hill contends that measuring throughput is a more accurate reflection of the health of the operation than measuring sales, square feet or the number of slabs sold.
“Throughput is highly reflective of the labor content of the work itself,” he says. “It is also directly related to the financial performance of the company. A given number of sales won’t necessarily produce any profit. Nor will a given number of square feet. But if a company can determine and achieve a given number of throughput dollars, it is relatively certain that company will make money.”
The Throughput Formula
The formula for calculating throughput is: Sales Dollars – Investment (materials, freight, outsourcing, commissions) = Throughput. Once throughput has been determined, profit can be calculated, i.e., Throughput – Operating Expenses = Profit. Thus, break-even is achieved when throughput and output expenses are equal.
“It is important to note that the concept is focused on increasing throughput, not decreasing cost” Hill explains. “The opportunity to increase throughput, or to become more productive in the operation, is unlimited. But the opportunity to decrease cost is quite limited. So we don’t focus on decreasing costs, we focus on increasing throughput.”
Another term relevant to this discussion is “throughput ratio,” which is reflective of how well a company buys materials and minimizes waste. “In the countertop industry, a throughput ratio for solid surface around 60 is good,” says Hill. “For granite it goes up to the 70 percent range. Engineered stone/quartz is typically somewhere between the two. So, we manage that ratio, and therefore know what a good starting point is in terms of making a profit.”
Using Throughput To Make Operating Decisions
Thus, in a dynamic budgeting environment, Projected Sales for the coming month, plus Throughput generated from those sales and a provision for how much Profit the company budgets for in that month, equals the Maximum Operating Expense the company can endure for that month. “We separate from that figure those expenses which are fixed, which are not controllable,” explains Hill, “and that leaves a really clear line-item budget that allows the owner to make decisions about where and when to spend money in order to maximize the performance of the company.”
The International Surface Event is huge – in fact, it’s so big that it can be hard to connect with all the people you want to see. We hope to connect with YOU at 2p Wednesday, along with the great folks from MIA+BSI. You can satisfy that afternoon ice cream craving while saying hello to Ted, Harry, and Patrick from Moraware.
The MIA+BSI booth is a great meeting place – there’s always something interesting to see and someone interesting to talk with. Getting involved with MIA+BSI will make you a better fabricator. They host a variety of live and recorded educational events, publish two magazines, and they’re just good people to know. Listen to our StoneTalk interview with Jim Hieb to learn more MIA+BSI – and then please share some ice cream with us at the MIA+BSI booth at 2p on January 18.
Another amazing year has gone by! As 2016 comes to a close, I’d like to tell you a little about what we did in the past 12 months.
We added a couple more folks to the Moraware team. If you’ve called or emailed us, you may have had a conversation with Eric. He’s the latest addition on the sales and support side of our business. Loren is hidden away in our development caves, but he’s been making a huge contribution both in writing code and helping manage our infrastructure.
What’s been instrumental in hiring great people are our company values. Everyone at Moraware fits that mold, and both Eric and Loren are great additions to an already strong team.
What we’ve been working on
Although many folks wonder “what’s new?“, there’s an enormous amount of work just keeping things running smoothly at Moraware. I believe we’ve succeeded in improving the things that folks only notice when they’re broken:
Helping new customers get running, keeping our software bug-free, making sure our infrastructure is humming, advising on the best ways to use our software, and enabling our partners to add more value on top of our platform.
Although there’s not one big dramatic new feature, between our development updates and better support and documentation, I think we’re poised to help more folks in the countertop fabrication industry succeed in an increasingly digital world.
Thank you to all of our customers, both old and new! We’re always trying to improve our customers’ businesses, so here are a couple of indicators that our software is helping.
One of the features of CounterGo is emailing countertop quotes directly to homeowners, dealers, and builders. In 2016, our users emailed over 400,000 quotes. That’s around a billion dollars worth of quotes, which is pretty darn cool. And, that only represents a portion of the drawings and quotes that are being made in CounterGo.
Last year, I was excited that over a million JobTracker jobs were created in 2015. That’s true again, and there are a couple hundred thousand more jobs than last year.
I’m also really stoked that our customer base keeps growing. This year was our fastest growth so far, and 7 of our top ten months ever, in terms of new customers, were in 2016.
Plans for 2017
We’re really excited for our live, in-person JobTracker training in February of 2017. It sold out within weeks of our first announcement, and the whole team is working on making sure that it’ll be successful for everyone who’s attending.
Even for most of our customers – who won’t be there in person – focusing on this advanced training is forcing us to think about how we help folks in new ways. That’s going to lead to benefits for everyone for a long time.
On the development side of things, we’ve been working on a big project that I hope we’ll unveil in 2017. In general, we don’t talk about new features until they’re done (or very, very close to done), but it’s feeling like it’s starting to come together.
Thank you again to our customers, the Moraware team, our partners… I hope you have a fun, successful, and exciting 2017!
If you missed our free JobTracker webinar this week, you have another chance to tune in. Whenever you choose! We recorded the training so you can watch it any time. Bookmark the page and share it with new employees!
The training was designed to introduce new employees to JobTracker, so we cover a range of topics:
Navigating through the software;
Creating and updating jobs;
Tracking countertop details in forms;
Printing forms and packets;
Working with Calendar views and Job views;
Finding more help.
Consider joining us for our next webinar, and let us know if there is a topic that you would like us to cover. To stay informed about Moraware training, subscribe to our newsletter!
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Nobody really wants to go out and compare the slabs they have in their yard to the serial numbers they have in their inventory system … but if you don’t do this regularly, your inventory system will get out-of-sync.
An inaccurate inventory system is useless – so whether you use a spreadsheet or JobTracker Inventory Edition, make sure that you reconcile on a regular basis. It takes some time and effort, but it’s not actually that difficult. Here’s a new guide that shows you how to reconcile methodically.
Last week, I attended ISFA’s 2016 Annual Meeting and Conference in Cancun.
Moraware is a strong advocate for ISFA events. We believe fabricators should attend them whenever possible. Most events are regional – keep an eye on their calendar to see when one is happening near you.
This year, the annual meeting and conference was held at a beautiful resort in Cancun. Many fabricators brought their spouses along, and my wife Paula came with me as well. It was a nice way to mix business with fun.
There was real business, too, including presentations from fabricators on several interesting topics. I was particularly intrigued to see the “international” in ISFA – members of ISFA China attended and shared some impressive slides of their work.
As usual, the biggest value from such an event is meeting with your peers. The presentations fostered further conversations on issues ranging from craft (“how’d they DO that?”) and business (“how to avoid being stiffed”) and safety (“you can replace equipment – you can’t replace a life”).
I’ll follow up soon with some StoneTalk interviews of fabricators who attended to give you more detail.
This year’s event was extra special for Moraware, because we received an award – “Associate of the Year” for 2016. This award recognizes our contributions to the industry beyond our software, including our blog and podcast. We work hard to make content that’s interesting and useful to people in our industry, whether or not you’re our customer. We do this because we believe that our success depends on fabricators being successful. We’re extremely thankful and quite proud that ISFA recognized us for these efforts. We’ll continue to work hard to bring you useful information.
Again, the key is learning from your peers. That’s what makes StoneTalk useful, and that’s what makes events like the ISFA Annual Meeting and Conference useful. Whenever and however you get a chance to exchange ideas with other people in your industry, you should probably take advantage of the opportunity.
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