Manufacturing software systems for small and medium businesses

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    Below you will find some ideas on successfully implementing a manufacturing software system in a small or medium-sized company to achieve impressive “wow” effects.

    It probably goes without saying that most small business owners dream of ordering out their shop floors: keeping deadlines on orders, eliminating faulty products, and their workers know what to do and don’t just hang around waiting to be appointed.

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    Manufacturing software for a small business

    Suppose you have more and more orders in your small manufacturing company. In that case, you will come to the same conclusion: I need a plan or some manufacturing business software that would help me tackle the situation and systemise everything. Things are a bit chaotic at the moment, but as soon as we implement new manufacturing software, life will be much more comfortable, problems will be solved, and all bases will be covered.

    The truth is that most small manufacturing companies don’t need advanced planning systems, or when they consider such planning tools, they have in mind something different from extended ERP systems.

    “Wow” effects of introducing manufacturing software into a small business

    In manufacturing, your money is made on the shop floor. That is why real-time availability of every detail involved in the entire manufacturing operation is crucial to your manufacturing business’s continued growth, success, and profitability.

    Every minute of inefficiency due to lost paperwork, chasing customers, workflow bottlenecks and juggling finances costs your bottom line.

    This daily chaos leads to mistakes, missed reminders, and delayed services. Not to mention unhappy customers who quickly turn to Google to find your local competitor or write up a bad review of your company.

    When you’re overwhelmed by the day-to-day, ‘stuck on the tools’ problems, your profit and growth are shackled. Introducing manufacturing software in a small business almost immediately gives this “WOW” effect because changes and benefits are visible from day 1.

    The first impressive effect of introducing manufacturing software into a small business

    1. In a small company, even collecting all information in one place contributes to the “wow” effect!  There is no need to go over tons of papers searching for a missing order or go from person to person to find out what and how it should be produced. When the list of orders is completed with all items included,  it is clear to see the production process, track, schedule, and report the work status in progress from your floor level, giving you a clear channel of communication between your operators and managers of the production line.  

    What’s more, you can see:

                –  what is being produced at the moment and

                – the list of production tasks

    manufacturing software small business

    This is fantastic progress. Minor improvements allow the company owner to finally stop worrying about their production hall and start to think about how to develop the business to grow bigger. And time is money; in this case – free time.

    Sometimes shock therapy works miracles, and it is good to realise how serious problems your business faces (or, to put it bluntly: how far behind you are) to start organising things to bring at last law and order. When micro-changes make your production more efficient, it is plain that those changes are needed; they promise growth, and that’s the way to go.

    The second impressive effect of introducing manufacturing software into a small business

    2. The second production planning “wow” effect regards introducing production control. It sounds trivial, but it’s a whole new game when you can precisely tell what is happening at the production hall. The problem with most production plans is that somebody spends many hours willing to schedule and plan everything, but after 2-3 days, this plan is nowhere near real production needs. Consequently, nobody pays attention to it, and the work of a “planner” goes to waste. There is also no information on how long it took to produce a given item (lean time), making it challenging to improve and adjust for the future. The more detailed the production plan is, and the more diverse products are made, the faster it is outdated and useless.

    The third impressive effect of introducing manufacturing software into a small business

    3. The third planning “wow” effect is simple communication between the shop floor and managers. Again, it might come as a surprise that it isn’t a plan or schedule but communication that decides a manufacturing business’s success.

    manufacturing software system view

    A common practice in a small company is that an owner or a manager has some notebook or uses Excel files and takes this intricate plan to the production hall. Unfortunately, the piece of paper with crucial planning tips gets stuck on the corkboard where everyone can put changes, draw, cross things out, and write over to update. In the worst-case scenario, the paper gets lost, and the owner goes from person to person at the production hall, passing on information. Employees feel lost because they are not sure what to do, and even the originally perfect plan is ruined, especially when there is the need to introduce last-minute, small changes no one knew about. Even the most straightforward tool that will show people what to do will contribute to the “wow” effect.

    Modern manufacturing software in a small business

    online manufacturing software system

    Nowadays, the market is demanding, and more and more companies deliver various products divided into small elements while trying to stay flexible and competitive. This expressly excludes the need to have some long-term, complicated scheduling solution – it is simply impossible. Therefore, lean methods are winning over. That’s why it is so essential to control production and have a transparent production plan which shows real-time progress. It makes much more sense than using automated planning modules, which are less flexible and not adjusted to small manufacturing companies needs.

    Five tips on implementing a manufacturing software system in a small business

    We have already discussed some popular mistakes made while implementing manufacturing software systems and common fears many company owners face when they decide to introduce changes in their small businesses.

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    Below are some insights on how to make the whole process smooth and successful. These tips are based on years of experience in consulting, different software implementations, and optimisation of processes. We have worked with numerous clients who successfully implemented Prodio’s manufacturing software system leaving behind their expensive and sophisticated ERP systems. Here is  the list:

    1. Start to implement a manufacturing software system

    It might seem obvious, but if you saw the statistics, you would be shocked to realise that so many companies get stuck even before they start using manufacturing software. Endless discussions, analyses and consultations will get you nowhere. The majority of failures result from not taking action. In theory, start using some manufacturing software at your production instead of planning forever and doing things on paper. It is possible with manufacturing software such as Prodio, where you can easily set up a computer at the production hall and prepare the first production order in less than 15 minutes. Once you start using the system, you can adjust and make necessary changes. Something in the discussion phase might seem complex, but it will be accessible in practice with manufacturing software systems. Even the more prominent companies considering purchasing an ERP manufacturing system should start by sharing Google docs at the production hall or system such as Prodio to know exactly what they need. Then, when they opt for a more complicated procedure later, their needs are precise (they often say: “we need something like Prodio with additional functions and different integrations). 

    2. Keep it as simple as possible

    There are many manufacturing companies where all the scheduling is in a paper notebook. Suddenly they decided to implement production management software and wished to have all integrations possible: inventory, orders, accounting, advanced statistics and analyses. It is a sure way to a massive failure because it is too big of a milestone. Imagine that you have just taken up running and, after one week, signed up for a marathon. The best way to do it is to take baby steps: one computer in the production hall, a simple product (without separate operations, machines or shifts). It is enough to have three or four operations in the system for people to use the computer and register production. Slowly your workers will get familiar with the manufacturing system, and then you will add more details. If you do everything at once, you will be overwhelmed with the amount of data to be put into the system. The staff might also protest and panic when confronted with many new tasks and technical details. It won’t make any sense. The point is for the team to start using a manufacturing software system and learn its functions step by step in a friendly way. Your workers must understand that manufacturing software systems can be straightforward and helpful, and then when they get used to working with such systems, you can add more elements and functions.

    3. Manufacturing software system – don’t start a revolution

    If you are after changes in your small business, don’t try to force them by employing a new manufacturing software system. Many company owners decide to kick start some significant changes and reorganise the whole business using manufacturing software to trigger the entire process. They wish to alter the old ways of data collection, order registration, and all production procedures. This approach won’t work because it is challenging to work on two independent projects simultaneously. As a result, there are too many changing ideas on how the product should be organised and the new manufacturing software system fails to catch up with them. People become more and more confused and stressed, and the prospect of working with a new program is daunting. Everybody feels discouraged even before they start using the system. It is better to take your old corkboard with a production schedule or the notebook where the orders are noted and try to translate these simple processes into your new manufacturing software. Let the data become digitised to see all correlations on your computer. Try planning things online, and then when your database is ready, you can start to think about improvements and more advanced options.

    4. Find the right balance

    When you introduce a manufacturing software system, it is tempting to start collecting all data possible. Especially when you picture the old paper orders and notebook or handwritten scribbles. Many clients want to collect all information possible: every screw used, a splash of paint, a minute of overtime, etc. Unfortunately, you are on the right track to implementation failure if you do that. Why?

    1. Suppose you are not used to analysing and collecting information because you haven’t used any software system before. In that case, you are in for a big surprise: a “gigantic” Excel file will be overwhelming. Your initial reaction: “I don’t understand a thing”. It is much better to limit the number of things monitored, so the reports become clear: to make a product, there were three operations with a total of 14hrs. You can compare this with your calculation (it is supposed to take 10hrs). The conclusion is simple: the technology might be wrong.
    2. When you wish to collect a vast amount of data, it is a time-consuming process for your workers as they would have to clock in/out, click, etc., all the time. Their reaction is not hard to predict. They will either feel that too much time is wasted on monitoring and registering, leaving them with insufficient hours to do the job, or that a new manufacturing software system is introduced as a sophisticated form of slavery. The owner can’t trust them if he wishes for such extensive control. So, naturally, they will try to boycott the implementation.

    5. Don’t be lured by unique features

    There are software producers which promise a pie in the sky: a manufacturing software system that will integrate different modules: inventory, accounting, scheduling, orders, etc. don’t be lured by such promises. Unfortunately, the majority of ERP systems offered for small companies are extensive, large solutions with massive accounting and inventory modules but only peripheral production scheduling features. It won’t work in a small manufacturing business. On the contrary, Prodio is typically dedicated to managing production and shows you exactly which orders are due and what is being produced. The large ERP systems are more for keeping track of each element used for making goods, accounting for inventory, calculating the cost, monitor thousands of unimportant details. The production model is added as an extra feature to attract small businesses, but it is not what they want. When you implement such a sophisticated ERP system, you will work as an accountant in your company for at least a few months. You will have to adjust your business to the system, not the opposite. When you finally start registering production, there will be so many limitations (resulting from the accounting and inventory requirements) that you will feel tired just looking at it, not to mention the lack of flexibility and ability to adjust to rapidly changing conditions.

    Prodio offers you an alternative: you can start to plan your production straight away and later make decisions about which data is worth exporting to external accounting programs. 

    manufacturing software system plan

    Remember that, first and foremost, there is no time like today, and if you want to implement a new manufacturing software system, it is better to start from something simple. Hours spent on consultations and listening to “good advisors” will stop you from implementing a great solution. Instead, it is better to start doing something, introduce a simple solution, and then search for more advanced options if the need arises. But try today, not tomorrow.

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