Business Sense: Do Countertop Fabricators Really Need Scheduling Software?

By Katherine Gifford of Moraware

If you’re not using scheduling software, what are you currently using to organize your fabrication schedule? A magnetic board, a whiteboard, maybe a color-coded Google Calendar?

Second question: how much time do you spend each and every day on scheduling? An hour, a couple of hours, maybe even half the day or more?

It’s no secret doing scheduling this way is a pain. But even so, can fabricators make it work instead of investing in a scheduling software?

Let’s explore it!

Using a Whiteboard or Magnetic Board for Countertop Scheduling

You can use a physical board like a whiteboard or magnetic board for scheduling. We talk to hundreds of fab shops that have used this method at one time or another. You can purchase a large whiteboard that’s either plain for your own customizing or one that’s already set up like a calendar.

Get some dry erase markers, and start deciding how you want to color-code different activities. Perhaps all red activities are installs, and maybe all green activities are templates.

There are a few things to keep in mind when using a physical calendar for scheduling purposes.

1. It doesn’t go where you go.

If you use a whiteboard for scheduling, you can’t see it unless you’re standing right in front of it. What if you’re not at the office and a customer calls about the current status of their job? 

You won’t have a good answer for them unless you have a photographic memory, and even that is problematic. What if an adjustment was made to the whiteboard since you saw it last?

One of the largest problems with fabricators using whiteboards is they don’t have access to it when they’re at home or out in the field.

2. There’s no “Undo.”

The cleaning crew arrives and accidentally cleans everything on your whiteboard. What now? With a whiteboard, there’s no way to hit “Undo” and get all of that information back.

There’s also no way to reference what was on the whiteboard last month, or even last year. 

You might think the chances of someone erasing everything is slim, especially since that whiteboard is literally your lifeline, but it has happened. Teri Wright of Wright’s Woodworking explained their cleaning gal cleaned off the bottom two rows of their scheduling whiteboard, and they had no idea what the next two weeks were supposed to be.

Bottom line: life happens.

While a whiteboard can work for scheduling, it’s obviously not ideal and won’t work long for a growing fabrication shop. 

Using Google Calendar for Countertop Scheduling

In a pinch, you can use Google Calendar to schedule the various tasks in your shop. You can create a color-coded system and make sure everyone is synced up on the same calendar.

In several ways, Google Calendar is a step up from a physical whiteboard. At least your information is accessible “in the cloud,” and you don’t have to be physically in the office to look at it. Your various jobs and activities can also be referenced later in time if needed, though it might be clunky and somewhat of a hassle to do so. 

Google Calendar really isn’t built for some of the more complex things you may want to do, like tracking your activities this month compared to this month last year. Again, it’s possible – it’s just not ideal.

When you use Google Calendar, it’s not your single source of truth. It’s really not a great place to keep and store customer information, so you’ll probably use a combination of tools. We often see shops using Google Calendar, file folders, and spreadsheets.

Again, using Google Calendar or Outlook for scheduling is doable – it’s just not efficient, and at some point, you’re going to outgrow it. Keeping up with it simply gets too chaotic.

You also don’t have any features that are specifically useful for what you’re doing, like reporting, automatic scheduling, and mapping.

Kristian Tharaldson, Operations Manager at Great Northern Granite in Minnesota, explains

“I came on in 2012, and everything was done on paper. It was a corkboard calendar with little pieces of paper with the job address and the material going to that address. We then moved everything to Google Calendar and tried to color-code everything. Then, we realized Moraware was a better version of that. When we switched to Moraware is when everything changed in the company.”

Using Moraware’s Scheduling Software Instead

Systemize, our fabrication scheduling software, is created specifically for fabricators so there are a lot of features that are uniquely beneficial to our industry.