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Stay on top of your Jobs – at a custom glance!

Although the Calendar is very useful for looking at the individual Activities you have scheduled on a give day or week, Job Views allow you to step back and take in the important details regarding the status of a Job as a whole.

What are the important details? The answer to that question changes throughout the day depending on what you need to accomplish at any given moment.

For example, maybe you need to know which Jobs don’t have the Template scheduled. You can make a custom Job View that shows you. Or perhaps you need to see which Jobs are ready to Install – and you want to call those customers to confirm the schedule. A different Job View can give you everything you need at-a-glance to make those calls.

To learn more about using custom Job Views to help you work more efficiently and to answer questions about your Jobs, check out this new Training video!

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MIA+BSI Illinois Stone Summit

Last week, I attended MIA+BSI‘s Illinois Stone Summit at Universal Granite and Marble in Chicago.

These events are SO valuable for fabricators. There’s an education segment as well as structured discussion time, and they always have a great speaker to lead things. Tony Malisani spoke at this event, and he was engaging and inspiring as always.

It was inspiring to see fabricators sharing knowledge with each other. There was a nice mix of experienced and new shops in Chicago, so the questions were particularly focused and interesting.

How often do you have the opportunity to get in a room with 30 people who do what you do? The takeaway is to make sure you take advantage of events like this, so go to stoneindustryeducation.com to sign up for a Stone Summit near you!

I also took some pictures and video during the day and shared them to Facebook. If you’d like to see things like that show up in your feed, be sure to Like our Facebook page.

Collecting & Communicating Information with Job Forms

In Part 1 of our training on Job Forms, we focus on how to think through your forms with an eye toward communication and reporting. The key to getting good reports out of JobTracker is putting well-structured information into JobTracker. Proper forms are essential!

In this training video you will learn to:

  • Understand what types of forms you need to support your business functions
  • Create forms to collect information or to use as a checklist
  • Understand the advantages of different types of Data Input options
  • Pull information from other parts of JobTracker, including Activities and Forms, and arrange on page for printing

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A simple computer for running JobTracker and CounterGo

In February of this year, we taught our first-ever live training event in Houston.

One challenge of putting on an event like this is technology … making sure everyone has an adequate laptop to work on – heck, just getting everyone connected to WiFi – we wanted to keep things as simple as possible for ourselves as well as for our attendees.

To make sure everyone was on the same page, we decided to build the cost of a Chromebook into our course. A Chromebook is essentially a Chrome browser in a laptop shell. They’re super simple machines, and they’re priced accordingly. Chromebooks are perfect for running JobTracker and CounterGo, since all you need is a web browser.

We looked at several different devices and found one that met our budget and was a snappy performer: this Lenovo (the price varies a bit, but it’s less than $150 on Amazon as I write this). It has 4GB of RAM, which is impressive for this price point, and it has a solid keyboard and touchpad. It even has a swiveling camera, so you could use it to take before and after pictures to upload into JobTracker or CounterGo. However, you’ll have to connect it to your cellphone’s WiFi sharing or to a dedicated device from your cellular provider if you want to use it in the field (I’ve never seen an LTE-connected Chromebook).

Class participants really liked these machines – in fact, I was surprised at just how much they liked them. When I mentioned that to Kathleen, she came up with a theory: many people hate choosing computers, so having one chosen for them feels good … I think she has a point!

As a gadget geek, I happen to enjoy shopping for computer stuff, but many people don’t. Once in a while, I’ll highlight a machine that’s a good fit for our customers. It’s tricky, since new devices come on the market every day, and in general, today’s machine is better than yesterday’s. Also, we can’t support hardware, so you should still check with a local IT professional if you have any questions about what computers are the right fit for your situation.

But if you just want a cheap, small device that can connect to WiFi and let you run JobTracker and CounterGo, this one could be a good fit 🙂 Enjoy!

Good to Great with Moraware: Surfaces

Connecticut-based Surfaces transformed the way they do business with the help of CounterGo and JobTracker.

In this video, Jim Wiltshire outlines their end-to-end process and how Moraware’s software helps Surfaces deliver a consistently high level of quality for their customers. Jim describes their use of Shop Settings in detail – if you’ve been thinking of using JobTracker in your production process, it’s a must watch.

We introduced this video at our 2017 Houston Training event. Learn more about that fun event here.

Thank you to Jim and everybody at Surfaces for sharing their experiences with us!

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Get Savvy with Shop Settings

JobTracker customers often ask “How can we find out more quickly when activities are completed?” Many are surprised and happy to learn that we have a feature called Shop Settings, which allows Shop Users to view the activities assigned to them that day, in prioritized order.

Optimized for touchscreen devices, Shop Users can see what’s up next for them, click Start and then Complete, when the activity is finished. This captures the actual starting time and duration of the activity. In addition to providing real-time activity status to all JobTracker users, it also results in more accurate activity durations, which improves reporting.

One of the cool things about my job – I get to hear from customers who start using Shop Users and how that feature makes life better. I commonly hear:
– “I didn’t realize how often I was interrupted with texts and calls asking me the status of jobs. Now I just say – go look at the calendar, it knows more than I do.”
– “I don’t know how we lived without Shop Users before – it makes our shop folks so much more efficient.”

Example: Shop User View on tablet

You’re probably thinking – that’s awesome. I wonder how much it costs??
It’s free and already included in your JobTracker system, you just need to set it up.
For real?? Yes, my friend.

But before I tell you how to turn it on, these are some bad reasons for considering Shop Users

  • employee time tracking
  • the employee needs to see all of the job details
  • your company doesn’t have a dedicated shop manager
  • employee needs to update details on the job
  • activities that need to regularly be paused/resumed (not supported)

With those caveats covered, watch Shop Users in real-life at Surfaces in Connecticut.

For the full story on Surfaces, read the article about them going From Good to Great.

If none of those bad reasons apply and you’re feeling inspired by how Surfaces is benefiting from Shop Users, then you are granted access to the secret realm:
How to Setup Shop Users

Enjoy!

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Stone Industry Education in StoneTalk 37 with Aaron Dahnke

Sorry the show went dark for a while … we were focused on putting on a great show with our first live, in-person training in Houston.

But now we’re back! In StoneTalk Episode 37, Patrick digs into stone industry education opportunities with Aaron Dahnke of MIA+BSI. Our conversation was recorded at the end of 2016 … so a short reference to this year’s StonExpo refers to an event that has already past. This show has a wealth of useful information, so I hope you listen! And if you’re not already a member of MIA+BSI, be sure to join.

Listen to this episode or read the transcript to discover:

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast in iTunes… and please let us know what you think! You can leave comments for this show on the StoneTalk Facebook page or on this site.

If you have stories or insights that you’d like to share with other fabricators, please reach out to Patrick.

Download mp3 directly

Working with Forms & Phases

Job Phases are a powerful tool for organizing large jobs that have multiple dates for Activities like Fabrication or Installation. Job Phases enable accurate scheduling, material allocation, and reporting for large jobs. But if you don’t understand how Phases and Forms work together, you can make costly mistakes.

In this video on Part 2 of JobTracker Forms Training, you will learn to:

  • Customize and format forms for communicating clearly on screen and in print
  • Import a Job Form
  • Separate a Job into Phases
  • Ensure that Job Forms are assigned to correct Phases

And here’s a PDF of the presentation!

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Interested in Reporting? Then you’re interested in Forms!

Yes, we get many calls from people who want to “start using the Reporting feature in JobTracker.” That’s great! Taking a closer look at your data can help you make good business decisions. But that’s also the catch. You can’t take a look at data that you aren’t capturing effectively.

That’s where Forms come in! Although there isn’t one “right way” to set up your forms, there a few principles that are essential to successful reporting. These principles and more were covered in Part 1 of our Forms webinar. Don’t worry if you missed it. We recorded it so you can tune in any time – and here is a PDF of the presentation if you want to take notes.

A few participants asked if they could have copies of the forms we used in the training. You bet! Here’s a help article with both forms and the instructions for downloading and importing.

And register now for Part 2 of our Forms training, Working with Forms & Phases!

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Gadget Zoo: Showing Moraware on Your Wall

In a previous post about our Houston training, I mentioned that I like gadgets. In fact, I even showed a brief segment during the training that we called Gadget Zoo, because it’s kinda like a kid’s petting zoo but for gadgets (and for grownups).

I’ll share some of the same gadgets here. If you find it useful, I’ll make Gadget Zoo an ongoing, occasional segment on this blog, so let me know if this is helpful.

Showing JobTracker on your wall

The main scenario I want to highlight today is replacing your whiteboard with a JobTracker calendar on a wall-mounted TV. For the high-level understanding of this – along with a couple of customer examples – read this article. Here, I’m going to geek out on the actual devices.

TV

The TV is easy: buy based on size and budget. If you have room and funds for a 55″ TV or bigger, get one. If you only have room for a 24″ monitor – or if you don’t want to spend as much money – that’s fine, too. You don’t need to get the fanciest model (and you certainly don’t need any “smart” features, because you’re going to plug a computer into it instead). Just make sure it has an HDMI port, as all new TVs do.

You’ll also want to get decent wall-mounting hardware. That’s not really a gadget, so I won’t go into detail about it here … just don’t cheap out on the mounting hardware, because falling screens are never fun.

4K is the new buzzword for high-end TVs. 1080p was the last one … 4K has more pixels (the dots that make up the picture) than 1080p, so in theory, it has a smoother picture with fewer jagged edges. Which should you choose? Frankly, it’s not going to make a huge difference on a smaller TV, but it might on a bigger one, especially if people get up close to it. Bottom line, if the price difference isn’t too much, go for the 4K. If you want to keep things as cheap as possible, feel great about 1080p. This is an area where technology is marching past what people really need – the last generation (1080p) was pretty awesome.

Computer

Once you have a TV or monitor, you need a computer to run JobTracker. If you have an old one lying around – and it still works fine – then go ahead and re-purpose it. But it’s almost always easier just to buy a cheap, new PC – and you might as well make it tiny while you’re at it.

If you’re used to Windows computers, then the simplest solution is to get a Windows “stick” PC. These are tiny, low-powered PCs that plug right into the HDMI port on your TV or monitor. Here’s one I’ve tested that works great for running JobTracker. It connects to your WiFi and acts like any other Windows computer.

I recommend getting this keyboard with it, too – you’ll probably keep the keyboard in a drawer most of the time and only pull it out when you need to reboot or change the view for some reason.

This one is very similar, but it adds the ability to plug in a network cable. If it’s easy to run a network cable to the location, you might as well spend the additional $40 and use it, since wired networks are slightly more reliable – but don’t worry about that too much. WiFi works just fine in most cases.

A quick note on how these things are powered – they come with a USB cable to draw power, and you might be able to power it directly from your TV (many TV’s have little USB ports next to the HDMI ports for just this purpose). In one of my tests, the stick PC kept shutting down, because it couldn’t get enough power from the TV. I plugged it into the wall with the wall adapter, and it worked just fine, so be aware.

You might decide you like the simplicity of these stick PCs so much that you want to use them elsewhere in the office (not just on walls), since they take up no extra space and reduce cord clutter. If you want to use a stick PC for that purpose, you should spend a little more and get this one that has a bit more RAM.

Just about any new PC will work to run JobTracker on your wall – I highlight these stick PCs because they’re cheap, simple, and small.

It doesn’t even have to be Windows … you could use a Chromebox like this one. That works just like the Chromebooks I wrote about previously (just not as a laptop).

Once you get a computer running, just open the view that you want in JobTracker – and be sure to set it to Auto Refresh:

You’ll need to login periodically, so keep the keyboard nearby – perhaps in a drawer while you’re not using it (again, be sure to label the keyboards if you have more than one).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this “Gadget Zoo,” and I hope it helps you replace your whiteboard with JobTracker.

If you have a nice setup using JobTracker on the wall, please share some pictures with us!

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