Tag Archive | "best practices"

Business Sense: Digital Stoneworking Expo Recap: Fabricators Sharing Best Practices

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Business Sense: Digital Stoneworking Expo Recap: Fabricators Sharing Best Practices

Posted on 08 July 2019 by cradmin

Digital Stoneworking Expo Recap: Fabricators Sharing Best Practices is Awesome as Ever

By Katherine Gifford of Moraware

Going to the Park Industries’ Digital Stoneworking Expos is always something we look forward to here at Moraware. We try to take turns so that everyone on our team can attend. It gives us more insight into the needs and business problems that our customers and other fabricators are going through. And, it’s really fun to spend some time together in person.

This time, it was yours truly and Harry attending the Chicago event. And we all know how much Harry loves these!

As usual, I learned a lot listening to fabricators sharing their stories and listening to their questions. So, I thought I’d share some of my favorite highlights from the DSE for you!

What is the cost to do nothing?

A lot of fabricators attend these because they know that something needs to change in their shop. And honestly, we should always be changing if we want to keep being successful.

If you are lucky enough to know exactly what the bottleneck in your shop is and how to fix it, what would happen if you continued doing nothing about it? Would you lose money and eventually go out of business? Would you keep having a high employee turnover, which ends up costing you time and money on training and hiring?

It doesn’t matter what it is that is causing you a big fat business headache, it’s going to cost you more to do nothing about it. Sometimes you have to invest in a solution to see better results. This could be developing a better culture to keep your great employees or investing in technology for your shop.

In order to change, you must have a process

So, you decide to go ahead and do something to better your fabrication business. Huge step!It can be overwhelming and pretty darn scary. As Geoffrey Gran from The Countertop Factory said, “Change can be scary, it’s the owner’s job to lead.”

I feel like a broken record here but it’s too true not to say over and over again – every shop needs a process. And it will change as your shop’s bottlenecks change. In the Identifying Your Shop’s Bottlenecks breakout, Brett Brunson of Evolution Granite said, “Bottlenecks – we fix one and find another.” It’s only circled a couple hundred times in my notes…

Attending these events, touring other countertop shops, and asking your fellow fabricators are some first steps in learning how to improve your efficiency and define your process. These tips will help steer you in the right direction and tracking your metrics will help you fine-tune the process that works best for your team.

Labor pains in the stone industry

I found it really interesting that one of the polls showed Labor as the number one business pain. All of the speakers mentioned retaining talent in some way or another. With a labor shortage haunting fabricators of all sizes, training and culture are more important than ever in a countertop shop.

Creating easy processes and taking the time to develop thorough training allows less experienced employees to be successful. It also prevents mistakes and bad habits that can end up costing you.

As for culture, Sepp Vanderputten from Sarto Granite talked about his employees feeling like family. He found that by caring for and treating his team well, they shared the same level of concern for their work.

Thanks for the love

It was incredibly humbling to hear Moraware mentioned as the “lifeline” for many fabricators at this event. In the breakout discussions I attended, I was amazed at how often Moraware came up in different conversations about best practices. Our goal here at Moraware is to help fabricators in their business, whether it’s our software or highlighting best practices and industry resources.

Attending industry events like these are educational for us, too. We learn what fabricators are facing in their businesses and can continue developing solutions to help. Come say hi to us at the next one!

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Best Practices: Getting Beyond the Buzz and Moving Toward a Workable Strategy of Ongoing Improvement

Posted on 16 June 2014 by cradmin

by David & Lorrie Goldsmith

Can you define the buzzword “best practices” or demonstrate how you implement best practices within your countertop or countertop supplies business? Don’t feel bad if you can’t. Often, best practices, if considered at all, are elusive goals that may be confused with the implementation of a new process or benchmark comparisons to countertop industry statistics.

It’s not enough to say, “We’re above industry averages.” Best practices involve all aspects of a business, and the application of best methodologies, systems, tools and procedures used to obtain superior results and competitive advantage. A best practice may be as simple as how a phone is answered or as complex as developing a lean manufacturing shop layout.

Some common problems arise when trying to pinpoint best practices. First, best practices and business can change rapidly. Manufacturing and fabrication processes generally don’t change rapidly enough to keep pace with trends. Second, not all best practices will fit each company; they vary for each business, depending on its specific products and services and its size. One example is Six Sigma, a highly touted Motorola process that sets a structure for management to meet objectives. Six Sigma has been a boon for some Fortune 500 firms while others had to abandon the process all together. That’s why it’s so hard to define best practices in the countertop industry: It can be a hit-and-miss endeavor simply trying to define what they are.

Universal best practices may not be formally established for the countertop industry, especially when comparing different segments. There are a few benchmarking studies that can be found, and most countertop companies seem to be striving for continuous improvement. These continuous improvements are used to modify and transform operations, develop new products and services and create new business. But, the benchmarking numbers don’t really show the processes behind them. Without the transfer of the culture of a firm, the business/shop layout, urban or rural location or an understanding of the product mix and customer type, some practices or numbers may never be able to be transferred, implemented or even understood. The numbers do not tell enough. Most have read an article or traveled to a trade show, learned how a competitor does a process and then found that it was problematic or even impossible to attempt to apply what was learned to their own firms. What yields high numbers for one company could yield low numbers for another, based on missing ingredients in the “recipe.”

Ideas You Can Implement
Until formal Best Practices are established for the industry or for areas within the industry, there are a number of continuous improvements you can apply to your company:

1. Apply Continuous Improvements to each department, such as accounting, sales, operations, installation and maintenance. Often operations and customer service related activities are addressed at the exclusion of other, less obvious departments. The goal is to raise the whole firm’s level of quality.

2. Make change a group effort, enlisting input from management to front line. You’ll find that by including employees from all areas of the company, you’ll gain valuable information and greater acceptance of change. The smaller the company, the less staff power you may have to take from day-to-day operations. In these situations, it is more important that management take an active role in bringing new ideas to the firm.

3. Broaden your scope for idea gathering. Fabricators and manufacturers find ideas everywhere. This includes trade shows, articles, books, vendors and tours of other facilities in different industries. One company we worked with travels with a group of managers to local businesses that are non-competitive and walks the floors to see and hear how the facilities are managed. They bring back and develop ways to implement what works. Although this is a great way to solve problems and be proactive, it doesn’t ensure that you’ll find a best practice.

4. Keep records of changes to gain buy in, to provide sales and marketing with new tools, and to consistently build morale. Some companies take “before” and “after” pictures of improvement projects to provide a point-in-time reference. When a project is completed, the pictures are posted for everyone to see. Later, they are placed in an album to record company history.

Other companies stress the need for internal auditing. Creating their own statistical benchmarks, they gain a quick view of how they fit within the industry stats. This management tool provides focus and direction for the company. One piece of advice is to take a measurement of where you are today and establish where you want to be. Come up with a prioritized action list, and address each issue.

5. Systemize what works. A business owner we talked to outlined how his firm traditionally starts with a cross-functional group to address changes within the organization. For a single manufacturing concern, the members walk the process and follow raw materials through the system. The group asks questions and removes non-value-added activities. Plotting the changes, the group might be able to eliminate several steps or days in a process.

6. Make the shift from being reactive to customer needs to being proactive to continuous improvements. You’ll gain better control over the results. Continuous improvements can originate from within or outside your firm. Some smaller companies keep an eye on trends and pass down what they learn from larger companies. They employ the best practices of another firm and adapt them to fit their needs. The bigger picture is that management exists in the future, and the present is the result of yesterday’s smart actions.

7. One “size” does not fit all. Find the approach that works for you, and make sure that it aligns with what you offer to customers, not the other way around. Different shops operate on different sets of premises. A high-volume heavily automated facility is different from a smaller shop that focuses on highly custom work done mostly by hand tools. If one tried to apply the same manufacturing ideas in both shops, the long-term results would develop conflicting systems and a confused sales staff. Machinery and processes are different, as is the capacity and the required tooling . Pricing, quality, delivery and a host of other issues are adversely affected when we try the impossible: to be all things to all people.

8. Practice hands-on management to generate new ideas for improvement. When members of management are directly involved in day-to-day activities, ideas are born. Another benefit is that management has the authority to cut checks, providing quick funding when the need arises. A manager, owner, president, CEO or CFO who is walking or even working the shop floor as well as listening to customers feels the heartbeat of the organization and tends to make better decisions.

9. Consider setting up meeting groups consisting of managers and executives from multiple firms that are non-competitive in customers served and product types offered. They could meet a few times a year to share in-depth knowledge and experience. Financials and plant tours (perhaps on videotape) should be included. Others are likely to see what you are too close to your own company to see yourself. You can employ a capable consultant or mentor to facilitate the meetings. We facilitate such meetings with one such group in another industry. The members save and earn a great deal of money by assessing and making recommendations to other companies in a completely open environment. They also share information on best practices from the industry, which has improved the services to their customers and boosted their bottom lines.

10. Set up industry-wide definitions for financial numbers supplied to industry organizations, such as ISFA or MIA, and other organizations that compile industry data. Once definitions are established, stick to them. This means that if a company could not comply with supplying numbers according to the definitions, then its data would not be used in the survey. This is another way to move closer to establishing best practices for the countertop industry.

Becoming More Structured
One best practice everyone can use is the development of a structure for finding and developing continuous improvements.

1. Develop a process to research problems and find solutions. In some cases, you might use a cross-functional group – in others, just the decision maker. The first matter is to collect ideas and data internally and externally: a real thinking-and-analyzing first step. Be generous when filling your idea bank. Thirty ideas are better than three. Areas in which to look are:

  • Internal financial and statistical numbers
  • Industry perceived best practices.
  • Interviews of vendors and suppliers
  • Books, magazines and journals, and websites (such as this one)
  • Customers

2. Set up systems for creating change. The process we recommend is a combination of the Funnel Theory created by Wheelwright and Clark, and The Stage Gate Theory by Robert Cooper. The process involves capturing ideas and then having a structure for determining what project fits the company’s needs and is the best solution to pursue. Do not leave the mental strategy to a game of chance. Create a process culture. 

3. Utilize project-management tools to outline implementation and increase the probability of success. There are management tools that can aid you in your endeavors, including: Critical Path Method Charts, Microsoft Project, Ghant Charts, logistics tools, Queuing Theory, and so on. The Standish Group reported in 1994 that success rates for projects in Fortune 500 companies were 16.7 percent. The likelihood of the same projects coming in on time and on budget was 9 percent. By 1998, the numbers increased, partially because project management, to 26 percent successful and 24 percent on time and on budget.

4. Lastly, implement the ideas with a well-thought-out plan including contingencies that are adaptable to change. It’s the delay in equipment delivery or the failure of a loan to go through that generates massive confusion and lost time if not addressed early on in the process.

Perhaps “best practices” will always be a vague buzzword, and maybe it really doesn’t matter. What’s important to know today is that the most successful firms are those that are committed to continuous improvement to find the best business solutions. A best practice today might be out-of-date next week. It’s what works for your firm and your customers that matters. Where the countertop industry is concerned, there is a strong desire for excellence and great potential for future success.

About the Authors
David and Lorrie Goldsmith are co-founders of MetaMatrix Consulting Group, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in executive and senior management education. An owner of nine separate businesses, David brings energy and real experiences to the speaking stage, filling programs with meaty, valuable content to educate his audiences. During two decades of speaking and business ownership, David and Lorrie Goldsmith have won awards, such as CNY Entrepreneur of the Year and M&T Banks’ 40 Under 40 Leadership Award, and have appeared in publications, including The Financial Times of London and the Japanese edition of Entrepreneur Magazine. 

Copyright© 2002, David & Lorrie Goldsmith. All right reserved. For information, contact FrogPond at email [email protected].

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