I'm a shop of 5 full time and me. Is there a
a software recommendation for taking a job from site measurement to final cabinet job delivery? I have a person who takes site measurements and a person who enters the design into our software for output to the shop. I don't have a cohesive way of collecting and distributing all the data. I'm interested in a step to take, that gets us away from paper and allows everyone access to the information they need. We use a CNC machine and finish our own cabinetry. We are primarily a Face Frame shop but are moving more toward frameless. Also mostly residential.
Out of curiousity, what is your engineering software now? The best system is the simplest one that handles all the requirements...For you that may mean something like evernote in the cloud, or a master spreadsheet.
I would sit down in and think for a few minutes about what exactly you want to track, and where you need this information. Likely it's a lot more then you realize at first glance.
Another thing worth mentioning is opportunity cost. Let's assume that you make a great product, and have excellent customer service, at a price your market is willing to pay. Putting GOOD systems in place today that can scale with your company with your company will pay huge dividends in the future.
I would suggest you take a hard look at a database driven system. In fact, if you're at all comfortable with computers, it will pay off in the long run to create your own database driven application. FileMaker for macs, or Access for Pc's make it pretty easy for almost anyone to create a suitable program for their business. Templates abound for Access (and likely FileMaker, I just don't use Macs), and it's completely user definable.
The cost of something like this is simply time...but you'll get exactly what you want.
At this time we put job site measurements on paper, these we input to cabinet design software. Prior to job site measurements we meet with a potential customer to determine the particulars for that customer (wood species, door style, finish type etc). After all this is collected it has to be disseminated to the production floor and go through the shop. The Access approach your talking about would be good for pulling all this together? I'm looking for something to get from the initial meeting with a customer all the way to a final checklist after install and do it better than I'm doing it now. Right now it's a lot of paper and not so much in the computer for everyone concerned to easily access. I've tried three ring binders with all the information but I'd like something better.
OK, I see that is all your interested in tracking....what about job specific materials and the related PO's, Time tracking, and estimated vs Actual project times after the fact, email correspondence, etc.
If that is all you need to track, the simplest would be to use something like evernote to keep it all organized, or Bluebeam (a PDF software)...
I like Bluebeam because it is super simple, and you can just pull all the information together as 1 master PDF per project. But, it's not a database.
Can you search within the Bluebeam software?
Also, let's say one of our team is on a job site taking measurements for a job. How would he use Bluebeam? Would he have a laptop or tablet and input the information? Then let's say I have the shop drawings for the assembly of cabinets that I created in the design software. These drawings are saved to the Bluebeam also? So Bluebeam is just a place to put everything in a folder?
Gary talks about opportunity cost. In your search ERP software will appear to be the solution. But the opportunity cost is big, and your likely hood of success is small.
I went to a NASFM meeting about estimating. I was on a break having a smoke and another shop owner told me he went to this same seminar 5 years earlier and everyone was abuzz with buying ERP software. Then 5 years later no one was talking about it and they were all back to spread sheets.
I wish I had this piece of information before I had bought the ERP software I had bought. As the opportunity cost was high and was not worth it.
I do remember one guy said was worth it but he worked for a very large company with thousands of employees.
I would think more along the lines of a simple Lean type solution.
Bluebeam is available on an Ipad, or a tablet. If you subscribe to Bluebeam Studio (which is free in it's basic form), you can interact with others on the same PDF. So, you can have people onsite marking up drawings, while someone is at the office, looking at the same set.
An easy way to think of it is that bluebeam can be the glue that holds all this information in one place...you can add photos, shop drawings, emails, even scanned notes into one file that describes everything about that project. Or several files, it's really up to you.
I can appreciate your situation! The responses here are good. Developing a scaleble system is the right answer, not something you will likely do in an hour or two, or a simple reply from one of us here, though hopefully we stimulate your thinkng. As we have grown from a couple man shop to about 10 of us now, we are continuing to refine our system of these very processes you mention.
Lot's of pieces to the puzzle as you know, but i would avoid ERP as Pat mentioned, at least at our small sizes.
We use a blend of Business Partner software for Estimating, which also generates reports needed for ordering special items, finishes, materials specified for the job, and other details. This coupled with KCD shop & install drawings and CNC code (through Cad-code, not one button) gives us most of the shop/install info we need to keep track of.
We have not found a PC solution yet that communicates the big picture things well (Visually). We use a 4x8 magnetic marker board to track big picture job status and communicate key milestones to different 'departments', while allowing me to manage the business. Watching some lean flow videos has been helpful in identifying how this board should be laid out, and what info to keep on it.
Paul Akers 2 second lean stuff has been helpful to keep us looking for strong visual controls and not get wrapped up in 'cool' techno stuff that does not really fit.
FWIW, my employees have come up with some of our best solutions as I have tried to encourage them in identifying problems (things that bug them) and making improvements!
Here's a Trello example of a manufacturing process from A to Z. What I like about Trello is that the free version is quite robust and the pay version is inexpensive. Everyone on the team access it on computer, tablet or phone and you can set parameters who can can what. You can upload any documents you want for team reference. What I like most is everyone is on the same page and knows the status of the project.
if you're looking at Trello or Evernote, look at MS OneNote as well. I liked it better than Evernote when I compared both, but that's been a couple of years ago. Trello was intriguing, but we have Onenote going well and didn't think it was worth the time to really investigate and/or change over.
We also use MS Access. It seems to me that you will need some Visual Basic to get it really the way you want it. I think it takes a good bit of effort to get it where you want it. I haven't done much to ours for a few years; it's time I go back in and clean things up and get it to better match where we want it. But it is a very powerful program. My $0.02 and I hope I didn't overcharge!
Thanks for all the good ideas. So basically anyone that has to input data (job site measurements, info from meeting with a customer etc) inputs to one of these platforms and then anyone with access to the job file can see the information. So I would need to buy tablets or lap tops for the access points. For you guys who use these are you completely away from paper? Also as an owner are you free from questions? Is it possible to get all the information in and then send the job on it's way? And everyone involved has all the needed information. The assembler the finisher the installer. Anyway this is what I'm working on.
You truly need to stop and refocus your shop procedures. The floor needs only the production information - so whatever is coming to the router or saw is what needs to be cut.
Our office can look @ all the info, but with so many revisions, our facilty shreds the old drawings and keeps only the final to production set. Period. This has cut down a lot of BS
Our procedure for any work is this
Reqeuest for Quote,
Quote turns in to Work Order and drawings are generated. Once approved, a Bill of Materials is generated. We buy from that. From that point forward all changes are accounted for on different "Work Orders," because in reality, it is added work
I am with Pat on an ERP and we are installing E2 Shoptech currently. It gives us fences and triggers and will tell us Mrs Jones Kitchen cannot go htrough a process on a certain day, install, assembly, finish, etc because we already have that time allotted for Mr Smith.
A lot of the chaos came to a screaching hault with set in stone procedures that we decided to put in place and I am taking weekends off, well @ least Sundays and now a lot of Saturdays too.
We use a combo of Trello and Dropbox. Currently tracking 40 some projects.
On projects with detailed specs or drawings we put them on dropbox in pdf format and link them in Trello so everyone can get at them. We have Trello notifications set "on" for all members, so everyone gets an alert that something has changed.
As others have said, it forced us to standardize our workflow - which has been great. Where something doesn't fit, we use the Trello labels to indicate the weirdness - such as "out at sub" or "waiting special materials", etc.
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