If you’re not using scheduling software, what are you currently using to organize your fabrication schedule? A magnetic board, a whiteboard, maybe a color-coded Google Calendar?
Second question: how much time do you spend each and every day on scheduling? An hour, a couple of hours, maybe even half the day or more?
It’s no secret doing scheduling this way is a pain. But even so, can fabricators make it work instead of investing in a scheduling software?
Let’s explore it!
Using a Whiteboard or Magnetic Board for Countertop Scheduling
You can use a physical board like a whiteboard or magnetic board for scheduling. We talk to hundreds of fab shops that have used this method at one time or another. You can purchase a large whiteboard that’s either plain for your own customizing or one that’s already set up like a calendar.
Get some dry erase markers, and start deciding how you want to color-code different activities. Perhaps all red activities are installs, and maybe all green activities are templates.
There are a few things to keep in mind when using a physical calendar for scheduling purposes.
1. It doesn’t go where you go.
If you use a whiteboard for scheduling, you can’t see it unless you’re standing right in front of it. What if you’re not at the office and a customer calls about the current status of their job?
You won’t have a good answer for them unless you have a photographic memory, and even that is problematic. What if an adjustment was made to the whiteboard since you saw it last?
One of the largest problems with fabricators using whiteboards is they don’t have access to it when they’re at home or out in the field.
2. There’s no “Undo.”
The cleaning crew arrives and accidentally cleans everything on your whiteboard. What now? With a whiteboard, there’s no way to hit “Undo” and get all of that information back.
There’s also no way to reference what was on the whiteboard last month, or even last year.
You might think the chances of someone erasing everything is slim, especially since that whiteboard is literally your lifeline, but it has happened. Teri Wright of Wright’s Woodworking explained their cleaning gal cleaned off the bottom two rows of their scheduling whiteboard, and they had no idea what the next two weeks were supposed to be.
Bottom line: life happens.
While a whiteboard can work for scheduling, it’s obviously not ideal and won’t work long for a growing fabrication shop.
Using Google Calendar for Countertop Scheduling
In a pinch, you can use Google Calendar to schedule the various tasks in your shop. You can create a color-coded system and make sure everyone is synced up on the same calendar.
In several ways, Google Calendar is a step up from a physical whiteboard. At least your information is accessible “in the cloud,” and you don’t have to be physically in the office to look at it. Your various jobs and activities can also be referenced later in time if needed, though it might be clunky and somewhat of a hassle to do so.
Google Calendar really isn’t built for some of the more complex things you may want to do, like tracking your activities this month compared to this month last year. Again, it’s possible – it’s just not ideal.
When you use Google Calendar, it’s not your single source of truth. It’s really not a great place to keep and store customer information, so you’ll probably use a combination of tools. We often see shops using Google Calendar, file folders, and spreadsheets.
Again, using Google Calendar or Outlook for scheduling is doable – it’s just not efficient, and at some point, you’re going to outgrow it. Keeping up with it simply gets too chaotic.
You also don’t have any features that are specifically useful for what you’re doing, like reporting, automatic scheduling, and mapping.
Kristian Tharaldson, Operations Manager at Great Northern Granite in Minnesota, explains:
“I came on in 2012, and everything was done on paper. It was a corkboard calendar with little pieces of paper with the job address and the material going to that address. We then moved everything to Google Calendar and tried to color-code everything. Then, we realized Moraware was a better version of that. When we switched to Moraware is when everything changed in the company.”
Using Moraware’s Scheduling Software Instead
Systemize, our fabrication scheduling software, is created specifically for fabricators so there are a lot of features that are uniquely beneficial to our industry.
For example, auto-scheduling allows you to assign a date to an activity based on the date of another one. For example, fabrication can automatically be scheduled 5 workdays after templating. It keeps activities from falling through the cracks.
Another feature that’s incredibly useful is reporting, something you just can’t do with a physical whiteboard and something that’s very difficult to do with Google Calendar or Outlook.
For example, when you have to go back out to a job site, what’s the cause? Was it a service call? A remake? Did someone forget the backsplash? Which individual is installing the most square feet? Who’s installing the least?
Questions like these can be answered by taking a look at the data you compile over time in Systemize.
Yet another feature is mapping. You can make sure your crew isn’t crossing paths over town all day, which wastes time and money.
But wait – there’s more! Cue the eyeroll, we know. But Systemize also has a ton of other features like Forms, which field workers can access from anywhere. It also reduces paperwork.
Essentially, Moraware is a one-stop-shop for fabrication as opposed to just a calendar or a whiteboard. The emphasis is on creating a seamless process that is organized and productive, reducing costly mistakes and bottlenecks in an already low-margin business.
Going From Whiteboards and Google Cal to Moraware
Transitioning from a whiteboard to scheduling software can be difficult. Even though you’re going to save yourself from mistakes, you’ll save time, and you can see it wherever you go, it’s still hard to change what you’ve been doing forever. You get into a routine.
You can do what Wright did and literally chop the whiteboard in half and put it in the dumpster: “If I didn’t cut it in half, they would have got that sucker back out of the dumpster and tried to use it again!”
You can also mimic the physical presence of the whiteboard by investing in a few display monitors. You can do this by way of four LCD screens, as seen here:
Or, you could do it with a few flat-screen TVs, as seen here:
Also, you can create some terminals out in your shop like Precision Countertops does – they display Moraware and SPEEDLabel side-by-side:
You can read more about our gadget suggestions here: Gadget Zoo: Showing Moraware on Your Wall
And if you’re used to using Google Calendar, Outlook, or iCal, switching to Moraware probably isn’t going to be that difficult for you. It’s the same concept, you just unlock a whole host of other benefits.
For those used to looking at a monthly calendar format, starting out with the Calendar View in Systemize can help with the transition.
Using a whiteboard or online calendar isn’t the end of the world when it comes to fabrication scheduling – it’s just going to hold you back. When your shop is growing, the last thing you want to do is rely on your memory when it comes to important activities, dates, and times. And the chaos of keeping up with a physical or even digital calendar not suited for our industry is problematic. It just makes you crazy!
Two hundred Moraware users told us how this software changed their lives, and one of the most popular answers revolved around better scheduling and less confusion.
Here’s just a small sampling of how Moraware beats that whiteboard or Google Calendar setup every time:
“Every morning, we used to huddle around the magnetic schedule board and spend hours debating how the template, fabrication, and installation will all come together. Now that the shop made the transition to all electronic scheduling, we have time to focus on the real work of the business.”
“We are now able to see important information when on the phone with our customers instead of having to put them on hold and go to the whiteboard to see the schedule.”
“Our sales team is able to see exactly where the production process is, any ongoing communication from customers, and install/service dates. Our production doesn’t miss a step and communication is fluid. This program allows us to embrace the enjoyment of our work and takes the worry out of processes.”
That’s what it’s all about right? Less worry and stress makes way for more organization and enjoyment.
Cheers to that.