How to avoid burnout when you manage a small manufacturing business?

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    Motivation to start a business

    Many small business owners indicate that running their own company offers many perks. That, combined with passion, the vision of success and money, are the top motivations to start your own manufacturing company.

    Following your dreams is exciting, especially when you can be in control of your success. There is no age limit to start, no hiring policy or recruitment agency to decide your fate. Choosing to create your own business is a leap of faith. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and gives a feeling of incredible power: you can shape your company to be something you’re proud of and that you may even be able to pass on to your children as your legacy.

    Indeed, when you work for yourself, finding the motivation to do the best possible work is more straightforward. So, naturally, you are driven to make each day as productive as possible, believing that hard work will pay off in the future. 

    Seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses

    Being your boss and calling the shots at running your own company, having control over your lifestyle and schedule, freedom to travel, and financial independence became legendary attributes of a company owner’s image. But in entrepreneurship, as in the rest of life, there is usually a gap between what we want and what we have. 

    “At first, it felt like a dream come true: we were super busy, had loads of orders, I was in my element”, – says Tom – an owner of a small CNC workshop. “Quite quickly, we built a reputation for a high level of service. The customers were beating down the doors”. 

    Tom hired five more people to keep all deadlines and complete orders on time, so ten of them were working in the workshop. “That’s when my struggle started”, – he sighs. “I had to be there almost 24/7 to supervise, monitor progress, guide and solve problems on the spot. As a result, I spent more time at the workshop than with my family, not to mention friends, trying to succeed at production planning, scheduling orders, minimising material loss, controlling workers and the quality of our products.” 

    Each time Tom wasn’t physically present in the workshop, the job was botched, so he often burnt the midnight oil or sacrificed his family time to improve the whole process’s efficiency by a few per cent, specify a measurement or learn something new. But it wasn’t enough. The more orders they had, the worse the information flow was. And the less freedom had tom.

    Reality check

    The gap between expectations of running a manufacturing company and reality and disappointment is something that many entrepreneurs are familiar with. When they started their businesses, most hoped that success would bring the freedom to work on their schedules, a level of financial abundance and the fulfilment that comes from knowing they’re making a difference. Typically, it is the opposite: business owners are tied to their computers and phones at all hours, struggling to make ends meet financially and spending most of their time doing everything other than what’s most fulfilling or inspiring. 

    Many small businesses are so desperate for help that they’re eager to bring on the first seemingly capable solution which crosses their path. In the case of manufacturing companies, that makes them vulnerable to marketing gimmicks of sales representatives offering the magic panacea: the ERP system. Advanced planning systems are advertised as a cure-all solution. Desperate for change and success in their manufacturing business is a silver bullet – but there are many things the company has to do if they want the manufacturing ERP to work smoothly. All elements must be integrated and organised, even in the advertised ERP software for small manufacturers.

    What is ERP? Is it a smart choice for a small manufacturing company?

    Growing companies eventually get to a point where spreadsheets no longer cut it. To optimize...

    The last few years were unexpectedly hard for small businesses: the covid19 epidemic, the war in Ukraine, high inflation, and the rising cost of labour and materials. The unique challenges, restrictions, financial fragility, limited business operations, and day-to-day business issues have left many small business owners uncertain. With families to feed and employees to pay, small business owners are caught in the trap of keeping their businesses alive. Unfortunately, getting caught up in this trap leaves them highly stressed, resulting in further problems.

    What is burnout?

    The term “burnout” is relatively new, first coined in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger in his book, Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement. He initially defined burnout as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

    Burnout is a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress and is characterised by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with the job), and feelings of reduced professional ability. In other words, it is a kind of professional depression.

    Heavy workloads and deadline pressures are a fact of managerial life. Who doesn’t feel overwhelmed or stretched thin sometimes?

    When you are on a contract as an employee, there usually is an option of sick leave, sabbatical, or an extended holiday. A wise manager can also offer a different position in the same organisation. If it doesn’t work, you can still look for a different job, change the environment, work remotely, or give a shot at a new career. But if you work for yourself, other people depend on you, so you don’t have the luxury of quitting. The heaviness of that can leave people feeling exhausted, empty, and unable to cope with the demands of life. They are on the fence: on the one hand, there is no more motivation to run the business; on the other, it is just impossible to give up. Burnout is just a step away with its critical elements: stress, disappointment, frustration and general unhappiness. 

    Beating burnout 

    Although “burnout” suggests it may be a permanent condition, it’s reversible. Company owners feeling burned out may need to change their work environment to solve the burning issue. It can also be helpful to develop clear self-care strategies and reduce some of the effects of a high-stress job.

    Easier said than done. 

    Different tools help the whole management process in a larger business, but it is not a standard in a small manufacturing company. The owner feels it is their responsibility to be present at all times because, as they say: “The master’s eye maketh the horse fat”. It is straightforward for those beliefs to lead to a vicious circle: you want a way out but feel it is impossible. 

    Then in a moment of inspiration, you turn to google and search for manufacturing software. There are hundreds and hundreds of search results, with providers offering their great solutions. You read page after page feeling lost and none of the wiser. 

    Implementing manufacturing management tools seems complicated: long months of introducing a new system, expensive equipment, and the need to hire an IT company to set things up. The longer you wait, the bigger the fear and the whole project becomes harder (at least that’s what you think). And to be honest, if you suffer from burnout, you are not the best judge of the situation. 

    It is time for simple manufacturing software.

    The first and most important thing for you to know: maybe you don’t need to make a significant change. The philosophy of small steps could be helpful without buying any advanced and expensive solution or paying a guru coach to reinvent you to eliminate burnout. But, of course, it would be handy to have somebody or something to help you daily, especially if you would do with a double body or at least a time-stretcher which would allow you to have more than 24 hours in a day. Unfortunately, this is not an option so a few easy-to-implement changes will be a good step forward. 

    What if you could start with a computer or tablet with an internet connection and spare 15 minutes of your precious time to set up a free account in an application such as Prodio? 

    That done, you can explore the options offered by the tool and see if anything is interesting there for your company.

    Imagine how much business you could do if every employee had an extra 20 hours to utilise… while spending the same (or even less) on monthly wages. There is a chance to restore your life-work balance and avoid burnout.

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    How can manufacturing MES prevent burning out?

    As we already mentioned, there are a few typical pain-points small company owners list regarding business disappointments. These most often include:

    • Non-existing work-life balance 
    • Routines and boredom
    • Lack of freedom (financial, personal)

    How come a manufacturing tool can address these problems? 

    As a workshop business owner, you have to have eyes everywhere. Of course, tracking job hours for your staff is a top-of-mind priority, but keeping on top of things can be a challenge.

    At Prodio, we understand that there is only one of you! Without a seamless system, processing timesheets often lead to questions and issues around incomplete or inaccurate time-tracking and recording. They can result in one big headache for you as the workshop business owner if not kept in check.

    Manufacturing Execution Software – a daily helper

    First, an online MES is a platform for seamless communication between you and the staff. You can conveniently manage your entire workshop from your smartphone/ tablet or laptop and take advantage of the fact that you don’t have to be physically present in the company. You can run your business from anywhere with our mobile production management app, whether at home, in the office or on the beach enjoying a luxury holiday. 

    Thanks to cloud-based manufacturing software, it’s easy to assign tasks, track time and add attachments while on the go. You can manage customers, suppliers and products at your fingertips on your tablet or iPad. Plus, enjoy simple job clocking and photo management for stress-free productivity. The tasks are assigned to particular people, and the status of each task is visible to everybody.

    • Workers can leave comments and update the progress (visible for different company departments). It is clear what should be produced and who is responsible. People see the queue of tasks and follow their daily routines. Then, they click to start work on the tasks and register their work. The production schedule is shared on the shop floor and across all departments, giving you a complete and reliable system.
    • The number of clock-in mistakes is minimal – the moment workers click to start work on the production order, they can see its status changed to active in the system. For example, in Prodio manufacturing control software, the orders “in progress” are orange, as all production schedules are colourful. The other production operations are visible on the timeline, which shows the complete view of all production hall activities.

    Being truly online

    You can access your projects from anywhere, and real-time changes give you the desired freedom. You don’t have to present in the company round the clock to tell people what to do. Once they clock in, they see their tasks with priority and due dates, so they start work without waiting for you. Communication between managers and employees doesn’t have to be messy or complicated. Prodio manufacturing tool ensures that everyone in your company is on the same page, no matter where they are.

    Do you feel like having a coffee in the local bakery instead of your office? Do you want to watch your daughter’s school play? Spontaneous weekend break with friends? They are no longer a problem because you are free to enjoy all these activities. Finally, your work-life balance will be re-established, boredom and grit routine long forgotten. 

    It won’t happen overnight because we are all creatures of habit, but slowly but surely, new patterns will kick in, and you will get used to delegating, managing and enjoying every bit of this.

    As for financial freedom, productivity and profitability, manufacturing software can help you boost them too. 

    Remember those complaints from your customers, where you have to re-make the exact door or window sill twice? You couldn’t find who was responsible for these expensive mistakes, but there was hardly any profit made on order. There were a few such situations monthly, resulting in diminished margins and a few less enthusiastic customer reviews online. 

    Avoiding mistakes and burnout

    When you use manufacturing software, you can avoid mistakes. First, in the comments to operations, workers can give the number of deficiencies and the reason for them: 

    • The defects make up for the large percentage of hidden production costs, often missed. At times workers “forget” to report some of the flaws; 
    • The simple defects analysis helps calculate production costs better and make estimates and comparisons.  
    • Mistakes are not repeated by building a company database and keeping the actual know-how in one place. Instead, photos of possible defects or notes with trade tricks are attached to orders, so the workers get that information and are extra careful. 

    Mistakes are bound to happen when workers on the production line still rely on paper and spreadsheets to manage production records. Plus, these manual activities are inefficient and prone to error. But on the other hand, a digital production record solution can extend digitisation to the users who need it most, delivering significant quality and productivity improvements.

    Saving your time and money

    What’s more, the most basic information from the MES software enables calculating the cost of production and estimating the manufacturer’s optimal price for the client.

    • The employee registers the START of a performed production operation. The system automatically receives information on who (namely), when, and what kind of task or product has just started to produce.
    • The employee registers the end of a production operation by clicking a STOP button. Then, they add the number of pieces made and comment on potential defects.

    Prodio software captures all non-productive time while identifying which non-productive activities are most time-consuming. This information gives you the tools to thoroughly evaluate your workflow and begin to make improvements quickly without the need for manual processes. When you discover where the money leaks, you can start sealing these places and save money, you will be less frustrated. Hence the chances of burnout will also be smaller.  

    Keeping a small company running isn’t a simple task. Health and safety, machine maintenance, quality assurance, reporting and all those other little administrative things will keep you on your toes every day – but there’s no reason burning out should be on that list.