By Mark Porter
Summer is winding down and hopefully we will be starting a busy fall season. My last issue dealt with Doing More With Less and this month we want to continue with the theme of using technology to increase productivity.
Many if not most companies have reduced their staffing and other resources in order to cope with the tough economic times but this has put them in a vulnerable position when sales have spiked. The nature of this downturn has also left companies reluctuant to add more staff and therefore struggling to cope through prolonged periods of increased sales until the recovery is well established.
This obviously results in reduced customer service and strained production resources just as we need them most.
Technology allows consistent levels of service and although requires upgrading the majority of its cost is a one time investment.
Last month we discussed the benefits an Estimating and Management Information System(MIS) can provide in helping you cope with strained customer service.
A MIS system is integrated meaning that data is entered once and transfered throughout the plant. An estimate is quickly turned into an order, an order to a packing slip and an invoice. No double entry - avoids mistakes.
A MIS System puts information at your finger tips. You can save hours each day by providing customers with instant answers rather than having to look up information and calling them back.
A MIS System provides instant communications between you and your employees and your company and your customers. This results in less mistakes and more efficient production. (Please see July Blog for full article)
What other technologies can be used to help companies with their reduced staffing? The internet can provide huge advantages.
1. On Line Inquiries
The internet can be used to increase communications with customers. Allowing customers to answer their own questions regarding their jobs frees up your staff to focus on producing the jobs. Provide a customer password protected access to the data specific to their jobs. Questions such as the following can be answered by customers themselves 24/7:
Has my job been shipped ?
What was I invoiced ?
Is my estimate ready ?
When did I last run this job ?
Carry this further and allow customers to pre open their own jobs, enter information on printed goods they are sending you and pre enter estimate specifications. This maximizes the time you are aware of jobs and allows you to make more productive decisions.
This type of 24/7 convenience and service increases customer loyality and ensures it will take a bigger price difference or bigger mistake for that customer to go elsewhere.
2. Remote Access
The internet also allows you to access your system from anywhere. Software such as gotomypc can allow you to operate your computer from any web browser as if you were in your office. I am sure you are all spending too much time at the office but still we can't afford to lose valuable hours. If you are at a customers, the airport or end up having some spare time you can be in your office immediately with services such as gotomypc. This can work on production computer such as CAD/CAM as well.
Dienamic uses gotomypc to service our clients and requires only 1 connection but in most cases our customers will have several gotomypc connections for their own uses shortly after the installation.
Other products such as gotomymeeting can also be excellent for training and webinars. Putting on webinars for your customers and prospects can be an excellent way to increase your exposure and direct business your way. It could also be used for quick proofing or inquiries without having to wait for customers to come to your plant or for you to take time to visit them.
3. Blackberries and iphones
Any email based phone allows you to access and respond to your messages immediately.
A text based phone results in delays getting your emails and forces you to respond from your computer which accessing can be time consuming.
4. Generate Sales from Websites, Blogs and Email Mail Blasts
There is no business if there is no sales.
Many Finishers, Binderies and Diemakers don't have sales staff so as production increases sales effort decreases. The internet can help provide additional exposure.
The use of websites, blogs and email blasts can help keep your company's name in front of your customers and prospects and provide valuable information that will enhance your prescence in the marketplace. This can often be done with minimal effort.
Technology is an affordable one time cost option that will allow you to maintain a consistent and reliable level of service until business is sufficient to re-evaluate your staffing needs.