SIGN MANUFACTURERS: IT S TIME TO SEE YOUR SHOP FLOOR IN A NEW LIGHT

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1 WHITE PAPER SIGN MANUFACTURERS: IT S TIME TO SEE YOUR SHOP FLOOR IN A NEW LIGHT How to Utilize a Project Management Philosophy for Greater Visibility, Accountability & Adaptability Topics included in this paper Introduction A change in perspective Project management in action Visibility, accountability and adaptibility Creating project management advocates The right tool for the job KeyedIn TM Manufacturing Sign Edition Project management in the Cloud Next steps

2 Introduction True visibility. What improvements would you make to your shop floor operations, your estimating and quoting practices, your production scheduling, if you could have a real-time view into your sign manufacturing business? For years, software evangelists have been touting applications and suites as the gateway to true business insight. But technology is only one element. Applying a project management philosophy to manufacturing operations and using the right technology to support it can provide insight and visibility into elements of the business that were virtually impossible to track before. This white paper will examine the fundamentals of project management, how it can be put to use for more successful manufacturing operations, and what technologies are most effective in managing a successful project-driven business. 2

3 A change in perspective There was a time when project management was associated with businesses with fixed-time client relationships, such as consulting and services firms. Today, project management strategies are being applied to a broad range of fields including manufacturing and shop floor operations. This approach is of particular appeal and value to custom sign manufacturers, for which two jobs are almost never alike, yet every one requires multiple phases and steps. If applying a project management philosophy to a manufacturing operation seems like a leap to you, consider this: the sum of a sign manufacturing business operations is really a series of processes aligned around a common goal: to deliver the promised order on time and on budget. So it is with project management as well. Every custom sign order can be viewed as an all-encompassing project to unite every related material, labor, milestone, expense, and quality benchmark. Bringing all of the processes and pieces together in a project-oriented view provides dramatically greater insight into the production process and helps align expectations so that what was envisioned and designed is exactly what is delivered. Let s look at a scenario for a typical make-to-order sign manufacturer: What s the estimated install date? Have the necessary permits been secured? Installer Can you provide what we need within budget? What s the status of my order? When will the sign be installed? Customer Is it done? Who s getting it done? When will it be done? Is it done? Shop Floor Manager City/County Permitter Is it done? Account Manager REAL-TIME PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOLUTION I ll try to remember to tell you when it s done. Management Shop Floor Workers Is the project running on time? Have the necessary permits been secured? Has the customer been invoiced? What was the profit margin on the completed project? Figure 1: Within a single order, there are various players with varying needs and questions. With a centralized project-driven philosophy supported by the right technology solution (in green), those players have a single source for finding answers. 3

4 In the scenario, you see that a project-based philosophy doesn t change process, per se. However, it provides a huge advantage as it delivers greater visibility, accountability and a unified view of real-time data, thereby increasing the likelihood of success. Project management in action Let s push further and walk through a practical application of what a project-based philosophy would look like for a sign manufacturing shop: What are we making? DEFINES THE PROJECT TYPE Who is going to oversee the job? BECOMES PROJECT MANAGER/S What steps are needed? BECOMES PROJECT MILESTONES This establishes the core frame of your project. Now, determine specific elements and steps for the milestones: What tasks are independent (can be done in any time/order)? What tasks are dependent (require certain sequence with other tasks)? What files or documentation should be associated with the job? With the variables established and correlated under a single project, it s time to open the job. As the project moves through its tasks and milestones, every stakeholder shop floor manager, sales team, CIO and executive leadership can get a real-time view of where the project is at any time and get insight into mission critical questions: Have the appropriate materials for the job been allocated? Are any jobs ahead or behind schedule? Have the necessary permits been obtained? While jobs for sign companies are typically all custom in terms of specifications, the steps and processes are always at least similar, making it possible to maintain similar processes especially those that would be deemed best practices instead of starting from square one with each job. 4

5 Visibility, accountability and adaptability In a project management setting, time is money. Technicians must keep pace with the expected timeline. Materials must be available when they are needed. Any delay means jeopardizing the completion of the project within the customer s expectations. Project management is about visibility, accountability and adaptability: Real-time visibility into exactly what is going on with a certain job at any given moment; Accountability of the technicians and other influencers to perform at, or above, expectations; and Adaptability to enable issues to be addressed proactively before they negatively impact the job. In short, project management ensures that a manufacturer s resources are used strategically, risks are addressed, and costs are managed tightly together driving project performance and profitability. Creating project management advocates Those resistant to incorporating project management in their manufacturing operations may see it as too rigid or confining. In fact, the exact opposite is true: when project leads and decision makers have a real-time detailed view into production timelines and how resources are being utilized, it actually provides greater flexibility to manage time and resources to their maximum potential. For example, by reviewing the data across multiple projects, a project manager can see trends that might show when a certain technician is performing a task, production lags. Scheduling can be adjusted to boost productivity, or perhaps re-map the workflow so that the project doesn t fall behind. A project management strategy supported by an intuitive technology solution that is designed for project management parlays the power of a traditional business management software application into an action-based framework. A customer wouldn t call in wondering what your monthly production rates are. They would call wanting to know what the production status is of their order. With a project-based strategy, you can provide a more exact answer. 5

6 Furthermore, a project management methodology helps keep the big picture in sight for everyone involved. Project managers, decision makers and management are given a clear window to the mission critical elements of a job: planning, scheduling, risk management, quality management, quality assurance and quality control. The right tool for the job We have established that resistance to the philosophy of project management-driven manufacturing is a major hurdle. The other challenge is not having an effective tool to drive it. Collecting statistics and data is fairly common practice among manufacturers. The vast majority of firms collect, and even track, data primarily in static spreadsheets. However, few are making that data available for use in a meaningful, practical way or to people around the organization that would find it useful. This is where utilizing the right project management-driven manufacturing solution is vital. If your business is going to think from a project management perspective, your manufacturing business solution needs to work that way. KeyedIn TM Manufacturing Sign Edition KeyedIn Manufacturing Sign Edition is a single-system solution developed to meet the needs of sign manufacturers in order to boost efficiency and drive cost-savings. It includes the necessary business solution functionality for sign manufacturers: estimating, accounting, CRM, supply chain, job costing and more. However, these elements are brought together in the context of customer orders or projects in the same way you run your day to day operations. With each customer order, a project is opened in KeyedIn Manufacturing Sign Edition and all of the related job information is associated with it people, quotes, specs, materials, shop orders, permits, related jobs, or any other relevant information. KeyedIn Manufacturing Sign Edition uses a web-based interface and aggregates relevant information in a single, real-time view. The summary page of KeyedIn Manufacturing Sign Edition shows an overview of the project elements: 6

7 As the job progresses, key milestones are easily entered and tracked in KeyedIn TM Manufacturing Sign Edition: 7

8 Project management in the Cloud The common roadblocks to taking on a new solution that would support a projectdriven philosophy are up-front cost, time/hassle to implement, and concerns about total cost of ownership. If IT budget is a concern, and really it always is, considering a solution that is delivered as software as a service (SaaS) is a wise choice. These solutions require less start up costs than on-premise solutions and typically can be up and running much more quickly. Additionally, once the system is live, your entire business has access to it anywhere there is an Internet connection. In contrast to the typical capital investment categorization of on premise, consultantfee-laden technologies, SaaS can be viewed and booked as an operating expense because it s ongoing and typically related to a certain area of the business (sales, support, accounting, etc.). Furthermore, because the SaaS model enables new releases and upgrades to be rolled out without expensive upgrades and extensive consulting contracts, it enables you to stay on top of emerging technologies with virtually no hassle. KeyedIn TM Manufacturing Sign Edition is delivered as SaaS to provide a reliable, secure, high-performing solution. With the flexibility to grow and adapt with your business, the innovative architecture eliminates the burden of heavy hardware investment for quicker cost savings. Next steps Adopting a project management strategy has numerous benefits for sign manufacturers. If you understand the benefits that a project management strategy can provide for manufacturers, the first step would be to establish a methodology, making certain that there is at least executive support, if not full cooperation. Next, look for a technology solution that can support your methodology. It s important to select a vendor that is focused on the manufacturing industry and has successfully delivered project management solutions to sign manufacturers. 8

9 About KeyedIn TM Solutions KeyedIn Solutions is focused on helping organizations simplify processes, improve performance and drive results. The company s Cloud-based software systems not only offer greater flexibility, but effectively scale as business needs dictate and can be implemented quickly, delivering a measurable ROI months, or even years ahead of on-premise systems. And KeyedIn offers a true SaaS model, making its solutions affordable for every budget. KeyedIn Manufacturing is an ERP system that helps custom manufacturers work smarter so they can increase productivity and bring new products to market quickly, for a distinct competitive advantage. KeyedIn Projects, the company s project management suite, helps businesses and professional services organizations improve everything from project initiation to execution by managing programs based on top-line strategy and delivering profitable projects to the bottom line. And when new solutions need to be developed quickly, KeyedIn clients turn to KeyedIn Konfigure, the company s rapid application development (RAD) platform for affordable applications designed just for them. When businesses need results fast, they look to the Cloud and turn to KeyedIn Solutions. You should too. Keep up with us at Corporate Headquarters 5001 American Blvd West Suite 1010 Minneapolis, MN 55437, USA p Part of the KeyedIn Solutions Business Portfolio EMEA Headquarters Maple House Woodland Park West Yorkshire, BD19 6BW, UK p +44 (0) Copyright 2014 KeyedIn Solutions. All rights reserved. KIMS_AE_WP_PROJECTMAN_0114

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