By: Paul Van Metre
There are few more potentially challenging things an organization can go through than an ERP implementation, especially when it includes a total digital transformation, moving to a 100% paperless workflow. Challenging experiences tend to bring out the best, or worst, in people. We’ve been through hundreds of implementations at ProShop. Some were so fast and easy it nearly seemed effortless, finishing in a few weeks. Others were major challenges but did eventually make it to the finish line after much time and heartache. Unfortunately, we’re sad to say that a few stalled out mid-process and failed completely. What’s the difference between them? Based on our years of experience, it comes down to the customer's team and their company's Emotional Intelligence. Our team, evolving product, and improving processes are relatively constant; so the primary variable is the customer.
We try very hard to only bring on great fit customers to our ecosystem. We’d rather not sell ProShop to a company unless we can nearly guarantee that they will love it, and it’ll be a great fit for them. We'd rather you keep your money if you’re not a great fit, both from an objective and subjective perspective. Here’s what we mean by that.
The cultural health, or lack thereof, is where we’ve seen the most dramatic differences in results with our clients. Here’s a list of key qualities for an organization to have in order to be successful in implementing an ERP System. If your company is going to be going through an ERP change, or any major organizational change, check to see how you compare to these cultural qualities:
Committed - 100% corporate alignment on the mission! The message is, “We’re doing this and everyone needs to be rowing in the same direction.”
Aligned - Assist employees in understanding the benefits, goals, and purpose for implementing an ERP. Help them understand how their contribution will have a positive impact on the company. Once your team fully embraces the wisdom of this change, naysayers and saboteurs won't be able to drag the team down.
Organized - Have a well defined list of roles. The roles should define everyone’s responsibility and expectations for getting tasks done correctly on an agreed timeline.
Open to Change - Things are gonna change! That’s the whole point. Don’t dig in your heels and refuse to be open minded. Have a positive outlook on change to the point that it’s infectious! Be open to listening to new ideas, workflow processes, etc. Nothing stops an implementation dead in its tracks faster than the phrase “we’ve always done it that way.”
Curious - Even though you’ve been in business for years, you don’t know everything - I promise you that! You are going to learn a lot of new things and being curious instead of closed minded will serve you and the process well.
Humble - Be humble in how you approach interactions and be confident that you have things to learn from others, and vice versa.
Decisive - When things do change, decisions will have to be made. Make them thoughtfully and quickly. You can always change later. Don’t let ‘paralysis by analysis’ stop the progress.
Collaborative - This is a team effort, with everyone on your team, your ERP partner, and others. Come to each interaction with a mindset of open collaboration. Implementation is not a spectator’s sport, it takes teamwork and diving in headfirst into the process.
Kind - When difficult situations arise, bring kindness to your communication. Name a situation that was better served with anger vs kindness...it doesn’t exist.
Non-Confrontational - Goes hand in hand with kindness. Some people seem to seek out confrontation. They have less fun and have more challenges than those who are collaborative and seek harmony in their interactions.
Proactive - If you see something that might cause a problem in the future, speak up. Your perspective matters and actively sharing it and collaborating on solutions is awesome.
Realistic - This is the hard stuff that you and your team are going through. There will be things that won’t be fun about implementing a new ERP System. Having realistic expectations and the understanding that everyone is doing their best is really important. Often the “Ah Ha” moments will come later in the process when you understand better how everything ties together.
Lean Mindset - This one is quite practical. You have tons of waste in your current process - guaranteed! If you have a belief in eliminating waste through lean processes, that will help you make decisions, with all of the above qualities in mind.
I’m a firm believer that everyone always does their best, given their knowledge, the situation, and where they’re at in life. Everyone has past experiences in their life that range from amazing to traumatic. It’s our life experiences and how we’ve incorporated them, grown from them, and evolved from them that defines how we show up as ourselves today. There is no right or wrong way to show up in the world,but there are ways that will be more effective than others. My wife taught me a great question to ask yourself when faced with how to respond to a situation: “What is the most effective way to get the outcome I say I desire?” When you can step back, see the forest through the trees and ask yourself that question, and ask it of your company as well, that will generally serve you well to work through the difficult changes in an organization.
By: The ProShop Team
Design engineering and machining are the cornerstones of companies that manufacture products. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a rift to develop between the two departments. It can feel like an 8-foot brick wall separates the critical functions: engineers throwing designs over the wall to machinists without context and machinists tossing back finished parts without feedback.
The bricks for this wall are laid by a lack of understanding and sometimes respect, between engineers and machinists. Although both are instrumental to innovating new parts, engineers and machinists have different backgrounds and experiences. 68% of engineers have their bachelor’s degree whereas the majority of machinists went the technical training route with only 17% having received an associate’s degree. On the other hand, many engineers, especially younger ones, have little to no hands-on knowledge of machining. These educational differences cause each group to look down on the other. To drive the wedge deeper, the average hourly rate of a design engineer is almost 2.5 times that of a machine operator.1,2 These two groups of highly intelligent, skilled people are working toward the same goal but from completely different angles and for different rewards. This is the basis of misunderstanding and can lead people to feel the need to prove themselves by challenging and even disrespecting the opinions of others.
As you can imagine, this wall creates a litany of problems for the parent company, the biggest of which is that it significantly drives up costs. When information doesn’t flow between design engineers and machinists both groups develop a blindspot. Engineers don’t see how their designs impact fixturing, tooling, tool wear, order of operations, or inspection, all of which add cost. Machinists don’t see the purpose of tight tolerances or challenging features causing frustration and resentment. A poor relationship between departments can lead to a toxic work culture that increases employee turnover, another significant cost. In order to succeed the wall must come down.
The first step to taking down the wall is establishing good relationships. Luckily, despite their professional differences, engineers and machinists usually share hobbies and interests outside of work. A great way for the company to catalyze interaction is to host events that fall into those shared interests. For example, organizing an employee car/truck/motorcycle/boat show over lunch or right after work is a fun way to break the ice and get everyone talking. Learning to appreciate the individual will lead to a better understanding of their role and responsibilities.
The buck is passed to the engineers because the work starts when they design a part. Engineers must involve machinists in the design process early and often in order to visualize their blindspot. Engineers should explain the objective of the project/product and share sketches prior to ordering prototype parts. Engineers are usually doing project-specific work whereas machinists have seen a variety of parts across the company’s entire portfolio. When the engineer shares the bigger picture with the machinist, the machinist may identify cost savings opportunities like reusing a component from another product or leveraging an existing program, fixture, or proven process.
This is also a good time for engineers to solicit feedback from machinists regarding opportunities to make changes that make manufacturing easier and cheaper while preserving design intent. Designing features that align with standard tool sizes or loosening tolerances are examples. This is called design for manufacturing, or DFM. Too often engineers hear “We can’t make this part” or “We can’t hold that tolerance” without further explanation. Collaborative DFM allows machinists to fully engage with the engineer, providing collaborative and constructive feedback on the manufacturability of the part and building rapport. Engineers, in turn, should be open to this important feedback rather than defensive.
This type of communication early in the project life sets the tone that both parties respect the opinion and value the expertise of the other. That big brick wall is on its way down! As the project continues in its life cycle, engineers and machinists should continue to work together in this way to optimize the design and drive down costs. Engineers are data-driven creatures, so quantifying the cost savings of the DFM effort is a huge benefit. An enterprise resource planning (ERP) system can help machinists accurately estimate set up, run, and post-processing times and analyze the data for various design iterations. Over time, the ERP system becomes a database to reference when you start a new project, making informed decisions for new parts based on similar parts.
Once you’ve deconstructed the wall, look to hire individuals who will continue the culture of open communication and positive relationships. If the wall is particularly high or hard to break down, consider hiring a manufacturing engineer and/or a design transfer engineer to operate as a buffer and facilitate communication between design and manufacturing. Continue encouraging departmental alignment with regular opportunities to touch base or socialize--maybe the car show becomes an annual event! Developing healthy and productive working relationships will allow the team to balance design intent and manufacturing costs to produce the highest value of quality products.
By: Paul Van Metre
In a recent blog post, I wrote about what to do when you have rejected parts from a customer. From the customer's perspective, it’s all in the response and how you handle the situation and provide them with confidence that it won’t happen again. Internally, this is just as important. If you’re quick to assign blame and point fingers to an individual when a failure happens, then you’re missing out on an amazing opportunity to build up your team, rather than tearing them down. Whether a failure gets to the customer or not, the learning opportunity is the same, it’s the process that needs improving and is the only way that long-term improvement will take place! That responsibility for process improvement lands squarely on the shoulders of the leadership of the company. The buck stops at the top always!
With relatively few exceptions, employees are there at work to do a great job and try their best every day. To achieve those great results, employees should be following the company processes and systems that have been put in place to ensure the results are as repeatable as possible. If the results are not good enough, then one of the following might be the problem.
Let’s use the example of preparing all the quality documentation for a shipment. Many clients need a formal FAI like an AS9102 report, any-and-all related certifications that have come with materials and special processes, and possibly a balloon-tagged copy of the drawing. If a client receives a shipment without all the necessary paperwork, then it’s likely because the employee who prepared the document package either wasn’t certain exactly what paperwork was required by this specific client, or when they went to gather the documentation, it wasn’t readily available. In either case, it’s the process that needs to be made more robust, or better training is needed (which is also a failure in the process). Lack of clarity in what an employee needs to do is a failure of the systems of the organization - in this case, possibly the employee didn’t know what paperwork to send. When there is abundant clarity but the result is still not up to standard, then that is the failure of the system as well - in this case, possibly the employee knew what paperwork to send but it wasn’t available to them.
Most companies are rife with tribal knowledge. This is information that is necessary for managing the company, the jobs, client requirements, and more that is not captured in a systematic and scalable manner. The fact that this information resides in people’s heads, sticky notes, personal documents or spreadsheets, will lead to certain failures on a frequent and ongoing basis. How often have you had failures because an employee is covering for someone on vacation or sick leave? If you’re like most shops, it happens all the time. These failures of tribal knowledge could fall under all 3 of the categories above. Often these failures can be attributed to bad tools, like software, which aren’t well suited to the task at hand and lack features to be able to capture all the relevant information and share it with the right people at the right time. If you research a recent failure in your company and get to the root cause, it will often lead to discovering that the software and systems you’re using lack the ability to properly handle your needs.
Remember that most employees care deeply about doing a great job. They try their best given the tools, processes, and systems they’ve been offered by the company. They don’t intend to make mistakes or cause failures. So when they inevitably do happen, take a deep breath, talk through the details and be curious about getting to the root cause of the system or process failure. Doing this with grace, understanding, humility, and kindness will ensure that you can turn those mistakes into stronger connections with your team, and improvements in the process. That’s a formula for long-term success!
Most manufacturers who use an ERP system, are using one with a strong foundation in accounting, but that often lacks the features and capabilities to successfully manage the manufacturing process well enough. If the system relies on paper travelers, that alone is a prime indication that it’ll be insufficient to manage all the requirements that can result in failures of the process with quality, customer flowdowns, inspection requirements, etc. In the example above with the AS9102 report, all the proper documentation requirements are configured at the customer profile in ProShop, and then automatically flowed down to all client work orders. So preparing a perfect document package is as simple as clicking a single button and every relevant FAI (for multi-level BOMs), all certs, a copy of the balloon tagged drawing, and a perfectly formatted Certificate of Conformance will be generated automatically. This is just one example of how we develop rock-solid workflows and processes that dramatically reduce the chance of failures in the process.
When a shop is fully implemented with ProShop, the typical stressful rush of reactive fire-fighting which often leads to mistakes is replaced with calm, stress-free, proactive workflows, with all the important details and information at everyone’s fingertips. If that sounds appealing to you, book a demo with our team today!
By: ProShop Team Memeber
If a company is still thinking of the people who make the wheels turn in the institution as a resource, then it is no surprise that most times you end up with lukewarm water. Certainly, people are a resource of sorts, they make the decisions, complete tasks, and pour their creativity and expertise into your organization. Unfortunately, when a company only sees people as a resource like inventory, this removes the human ingenuity element from the equation and leads an institution into the murky and tepid waters of a swamp infested with pests. People are not just resources, they bring resources, they are complex beings that have a myriad of unique potentials which benefit those they work for across many situations. Limiting the scope of organizational perception to humans as a resource results all too often in a predicament similar to trying to herd cats. Those employees you want flit, dodge, and evade capture, while the ones you could take, or leave are all too happy to fill your halls and advance themselves ultimately leading to a lack of genius and creative spark necessary for the growth of your organization. If a company wants to attract the best talent, then consider pitching resources as a theme and adding culture to your vernacular.
No employee ever said, “I want to work for ABC Company because Human Resources hands out apples on Fridays!”
There are three simple (but at the same time subtle) things that every human being, from the simplest to the most complex, needs to fulfill their own psychological needs. When these three concepts are found a person is balanced, determined, and motivated. Imagine a culture where all the talented individuals no matter how simple their task had a powerhouse of well-being and stability in their lives. The successful possibilities are endless. A company that wants to be successful must have human beings full of these three things to build teams that reach their highest potential together.
Richard Ryan and Edward Deci brought to the table the concept of Self-Determination Theory. In their research across global populations, they have uncovered the three absolute needs of every person required for those persons to be the most productive self-propelled individuals to grace a company. A human being who feels connected, competent, and autonomous has the ingredients to build a culture and a world well there is no limit to the potentials that can be discovered. They have psychological well-being (Ryan & Deci 2006).
An employee who cannot find psychological health is not productive, has limited vision, lacks creativity, and will stagnate. Organizations who can look at their own mission statements with an eye for humanity, and honestly analyze the culture they present to the potential recruits have a chance of incorporating these concepts into their overall vision which will spill over into the mass of humanity attracting the best applicants. A company cannot shift the perception of job seekers until they shift their own perception about themselves as an organization.
The more authentic the people of the company are the more attractive the company will be to those with similar mindsets. The US Department of Labor reports that companies are describing a lack of soft skills in potential employees. It is the astute business that also realizes the culture they promote becomes the soft skills of the organization itself and with this knowledge can create a fertile field for recruitment, or the company can return to how they have always done it and produce that tepid swamp of human resources.
Reference: (2006, 2021), Ryan R. & Deci E. Center for Self-Determination Theory. Retrieved 25 July 2021 from, https://selfdeterminationtheory.org/theory/
By: Paul Van Metre
Your company tries SO hard to make everything perfect, but occasionally, something slips through the cracks, and you send some parts to a customer that get rejected. It’s not a fun situation, and it can be like a gut punch, depending on how expensive the mistake is. How you handle it from the customer’s perspective can make all the difference and even potentially turn a bad situation into a positive experience. Customers know that mistakes will happen, but how a vendor responds to them can put your relationship on the chopping block, or solidify your position in the partner category.
By responding to a mistake positively, it’s possible to take a negative situation and squeeze some good out of it. The key is owning the mistake and doing whatever it takes to make it right and letting your customer know what you’re doing at every step. If a customer doesn't appreciate it then they probably aren’t a great long-term customer for you. Those that do are going to be good clients in the long run.
ProShop has countless tools to help you solve the problem in the first place and dramatically reduce the chance of a problem happening in the first place. From our solid and tight document control and automated archiving of old prints to our customizable checklists to ensure you never miss a step, or to our integrated inspection capabilities so you can ensure your parts are perfectly intolerance, and to our built-in calibration tracking, and so much more!
If you still do have a rejection from the client, with 1 click you can issue an RMA from a WO which instantly pulls all the metadata from the job, ties it to all pertinent records (client, PO number, Part Number, and name, WO number, revision, etc. and allows a highly efficient and auditable process of documenting the NCR, any Corrective Actions needed, dispositions, cause codes, improvement suggestions and much more. Without printing a single piece of paper too! Watch our video on going paperless!!
You can then just as easily issue a new work order, rework orders, see where it fits in the schedule and immediately give you client status on your recovery actions. Then at the end, you can email them a copy of the Corrective Action so that they can see you are serious about your improvement activities! There has never been a more efficient and cost-effective way to manage quality. The average client that has a quality manager says they save on average, about 50% of the quality manager's time! The time that can be better spent on improvement activities and eliminating scrap from happening in the first place. We can’t think of a better way to spend your QA time than that!