This Consultant provides strategic business systems advice along with plans for technology implementation and training. Assistance with execution can also be provided. In this case, the Client assigned this Consultant for strategy and system selection.
This case study will be of interest to project-based companies with field service technicians. It considers the advantages of applying a collaborative system to keep everyone informed of projects as they progress through sales, production, and post-production/field service pipelines.
This scenario can be applied to organizations with a wide customer base, dealing with design, fabrication, and installation of fixtures for commercial establishments. Specs are driven by customer concepts, merged with innovative designs, then constructed to comply with industry standards and site restrictions. The depth of this Consultant’s expertise was important in determining an integrated strategy fitting within the Client’s existing business culture and practices.
About the Client
This organization manufactures and delivers custom signage to commercial customers all over North America. Innovations in the signage industry have replaced the majority of painted signs with lower maintenance, computer-driven displays or signs constructed with neon, fabric, and many other materials. This Client is confident in capturing a concept that their customer supplies, architecting a design, fabricating the product and then installing it at all types of locations. Employing more than 100 people, the process requires quality inspections at all stages in order to meet customer approvals and limit waste. The last part of the process, installation, is just as important since a moderate amount of construction is implied which means scheduling locates and compliance with utilities and other entities is necessary.
A satisfied customer will be a repeat customer, so tracing jobs throughout the process became the biggest challenge for this Client determined to improve quality in order to continue to grow sales. The Client had already invested in a mix of software products such as MS Dynamics NAV, Excel and a custom MIS (Management Information System), so it was important to find a solution that considered integration. It’s also important to mention that many of the employees outside of the accounting department would need significant training in order to adopt any new technology.
The challenge faced by this organization was primarily managing the number of touchpoints in the end-to-end manufacturing/installation process, the varying levels of digital literacy, the mix of existing products and the importance of quality to ensure satisfied customers.
In collaborating with the Senior Management Team, it was determined that this project would be best applied in stages and over a longer term, seeing as there were several challenges to attend to.
This Consultant approached solving the Client’s challenge by creating a strategy that would:
- Consider all company pipelines (Sales, Production, Post-Production)
- Integrate well with other tools
- Consider the varying degrees of digital literacy of the majority of plant employees
- Associate field service as a moduleIt was agreed that not all challenges could be met at once, however, all challenges needed to be considered in context for the future implementation of any system.
This Consultant recommended a strategy that started with a collaboration tool to bring all employees onto the same platform. Quite simply, to create channels for each of their customers, where notes and files could be added that kept all employees in the loop. When a customer added dimension, colours and installation locations—design, fabricators, and field service technicians could view, search and display those entries and already know the details. Should any have a question about the job, they could post the question in the channel and the customer or account manager could answer. Security and privacy was a consideration and policies were drawn that would ensure there would be two layers for each channel, one for transparent communication with the customer and one private to the company.
The above approach is a not a common solution for manufacturers, however, supporting collaboration and transparent communications often solves underlying issues. In this case, the underlying issues were complex, such as giving time for those new to technology to learn a new skill. A collaboration tool that resembles a chat or texting system is a great way to get everyone motivated to take bigger steps in the future.
Our solution also considered integration with other tools and the system we selected had ERP capabilities to bolt-on new modules or use a bridging tool to older products that could eventually be replaced as time went on.
Several meetings with senior staff, plant tours, and employee interviews were required to determine the best solution for the Client. In total, it took about two months to develop a strategy and recommend a system.
In the above case, the Client was pleased with our outcomes, strategy, and recommendations. Senior staff supported implementing a product that would excite employees to participate. Secondary outcomes included better quality finished products and fewer do-overs, which drove higher sales.
This Consultant values collaboration with the senior team to obtain results that are excellent. As it is our policy, all concerns were addressed and if necessary fine-tuned. The appropriate amount of time was applied for the transition to the new system. The Client would agree that this Consultant solved their problem and helped them achieve their short-range goals, all with an affordable budget and timeline.