What it’s Really Like to Adopt New Manufacturing Technology
As a member of the Product team at Paperless Parts, I see the manufacturing world from a unique vantage point. Not only do I see the data-driven impact of technology on people’s lives, but having previously stood on the Customer Implementation side of the business, I view that impact within the context of our customers’ challenges.
The shops we work with – while they’re dispersed across the country and may vary in specialty, shape and size – all share a similar challenge when it comes to using software to run their business before choosing Paperless Parts. The problem is two-fold:
1. Scattered, vulnerable information silos
There is a lot of legacy software in the manufacturing industry that inherently creates silos of information. SaaS companies don’t make up much of the technology space when it comes to solutions for manufacturers. Before becoming Paperless users, a lot of our clients were quoting using some combination of ERP/CAD/Excel/email/pen and paper, which not only creates gaps in communication but leaves sensitive information vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. A lack of sophisticated SaaS software is creating risk and hindering efficiency across the industry.
2. A lack of customer prioritization
Many software companies in this industry don’t invest much time and resources into making sure their customers are successful. Simply put: they aren’t customer-centric. What I hear from so many of our clients is that the software products they previously used didn’t prioritize their needs. Instead, they would evolve around goals that weren’t their own and it was on them to retrofit their processes around the software.
For my team, everything we do is centered around how our customers use the product. We’re trying to make manufacturing more accessible, and that means making the platform genuinely useful, intuitive, and user-friendly so that learning it and getting good at it isn’t this stressful and difficult thing. The more custom manufacturers are able to adopt Paperless Parts, the more innovation we’ll see across the industry (and ultimately, the world).
Alex (left), with Paperless Parts teammates Kate Zinsky (middle) and Reid Lance (right).
How Shops Can Overcome Technology Challenges
From my days onboarding customers, I understand that changing your processes and implementing new software is objectively hard; I don’t like doing it myself. But given the antiquated and expensive nature of the existing software products on the market for contract manufacturers, the longer you wait, the more headaches you’re creating. Here are 3 pieces of advice I have for tackling the beast that is adopting a new technology like Paperless Parts:
- There’s never a “good time.”
Everyone is feeling pressured by time constraints as a result of the labor shortage and supply chain disruptions, but don’t expect there to be a lull on the horizon. You’re also never going to be in the mood to learn how to use a new software. However, the time and money you’ll ultimately save will make it all worthwhile.
- Commit to the onboarding process.
During the short period of time where you’ll be onboarding, try to stick to a schedule and learn everything you can about the software. Putting in the work for just these few weeks allows you to start turning quotes around faster right out of the gate and see a more immediate benefit.
- Don’t let perfect get in the way of better.
Once you’ve come out on the other side and started using Paperless Parts to run your business, focus on how you can best scale your business. Shops who are over-engineering the quote spend so much time getting it as perfect as possible, while those that are able to get quotes out the door faster have more time to put back into other areas of the business. This can be a difficult shift for our customers to make, but once they see the efficiencies our software enables – like not having to to program a part just to quote it – they’re able to spend more time working on more strategic initiatives that have a tangible impact on their business.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
If you’re reading this, you’ve likely heard about Paperless Parts’ ability to streamline your quoting process. But what many people don’t realize is that the platform can do so much more to make your life easier. Once you’ve nailed the meat and potatoes of the platform – like analyzing parts, building your custom pricing language, and sending digital quotes – the time-saving possibilities are endless.
There are a couple features of our platform that are surprisingly underutilized, but when leveraged can save our customers countless hours of time and manual efforts:
The search bar
It may sound boring, but it’s literally Google for your own business resources. One of the biggest challenges our shops face before coming to us is finding information, and this eliminates that problem. Being able to search through everything you have, whether it’s PDF files, quotes, internal messages, notes, customer names, file names, part numbers, or otherwise, you can instantly pull up the information you need. This makes all the difference when you need to quote a repeat job (or just stay organized) and you’ll never have to deal with the stress of losing information again.
Internal collaboration tools
Our customers always find it surprisingly transformative to be able to talk within the context of files by annotating prints or 3D models. Anything that changes how you communicate with people is a tough pill to swallow, but having a way to talk with your team in a secure, contextualized way is worth it. Think about whenever you have questions on aspects of the quote or need your boss or procurement to review something: most shops already have a communication system in place for this, but it involves some level of getting up and walking across the shop to potentially interrupt someone’s work.
Alex with Paperless Parts colleagues at last summer’s company party.
If you’re thinking about onboarding new technology, I know it can be scary. But the answer is not to avoid it. Luckily, there are so many ways to make it less scary, like setting aside time for training and working with a company that really cares about your long-term success.
As a manager of our product, I can attest to the fact that it’s designed with our users’ needs top-of-mind. Aside from being inherently supportive, using a software like Paperless Parts also gives you access to our support team that is available whenever you need from day one. So while it’s still a leap of faith, it’s a much shorter leap.
See the benefits of new tech in action.
Alex Sinson is an Associate Product Manager at Paperless Parts, where she began working after graduating from Trinity College with degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Environmental Science. Alex resides in Boston, MA.