Have you invested in new equipment in the last 24 months? Was it to add capacity to an existing capability or expand the breadth of existing capabilities in your shop? Did you build a marketing and sales plan around that new piece of equipment? Did you add space to your building to house this equipment? Is the need to fill that equipment with the right customers and the right opportunities keeping you up at night?
If you said “yes” to any of these questions, you have made significant investments for the growth of your company. These investments are not easy decisions and often come down to the probability of filling the equipment with work.
When you buy a piece of equipment, more than likely you have an idea of what you will fill some of the capacity with. Let’s say you add a new flat laser, a capability your shop already has, but you are running over with the 4 lasers you have today and you need to buy a fifth machine. Realistically, you may only fill 30% of the new laser with work. What will you do to fill the remaining capacity up? Many times it is a leap of faith that shops are taking when buying new equipment. There is some level of confidence that the machine capacity will be filled by the sales team based on the customers they have and the potential to go find new customers.
Before joining Paperless Parts, I had many different sales roles (Outside Sales/Field Sales/ Business Development Manager/ VP of Sales and Marketing) in the Production Sheet Metal Fabrication space for 20+ years. Every time a new machine was purchased or even considered, it was the same question:
“Jeff, do you think we can fill this thing up?”
All eyes were squarely on the sales team as these additional pieces of equipment were added to the shop floor. I burned up the phones, emails, roads, and airways seeking the best opportunities with the best customers that we could find. I logged around 50k miles per year on my car, stayed in hotels 100+ nights a year, and had hours upon hours of collaboration with prospects and customers.
I imagine that the folks reading this blog have all been in this position too many times to count. The time in the car, the hotels, the hours of collaboration, the follow-up, the asking for opportunities, these were all investments made to grow the business. I imagine you would provide all of the tooling and training necessary to maximize the capability of a new press brake, maintain a new Fiber Laser to maximize the speed that it offers, or build the best weld fixtures to maximize the productivity and consistency of a new Robotic Welder. To fill the investments you have made on the shop floor, it is all about maximizing, standardizing, and supercharging the front office of your business.
How can software investments in the front office help you fill up your new equipment investments faster?
When you add a new piece of equipment, you are likely increasing your indirect costs (i.e. your sales team or adding another estimator) to figure out how to fill this investment up with work. Investing in a powerful estimating and quoting software like Paperless Parts can help you maximize your investments while bringing these indirect costs down. When you have quotes that aren’t being turned around quickly enough, or you are missing quotes altogether because you don’t have time to quote them, you are not able to fill up your new piece of equipment. This is often due to a lack of processes or technology in place to quote fast enough or get to all the quotes. Instead of throwing more people at the problem and increasing those indirect costs, investing in the right front office software can help maximize your existing investments.
I was once a customer of Paperless Parts and witnessed first-hand how the quoting platform adds incredible value to a manufacturing company. Here are the top 3 ways Paperless Parts can help maximize your shop floor investments:
1. Gain visibility into your quoting process and understand where quotes are getting stuck
The quote dashboard in Paperless Parts helps you keep track of your quote/opportunity Pipeline. It allows multiple resources to know where parts are in the quoting process, if the quote is waiting on additional information, the priority level of the quote, the due date, etc. You can simply assign a priority number to a quote based on whatever parameters you choose. For example, if it’s a new prospect or maybe a quote around a new piece of equipment you want to focus on, you can assign a higher priority level. Paperless Parts allows visibility into what estimator is working on each quote, how long the quote has been in the system, when the quote was finalized and sent, if your customer or prospect has opened the quote, and how many times they have viewed it. This visibility enables your team to work more efficiently and proactively.
2. Quote faster so you can bring in more work and fill your equipment investments
Inside of Paperless Parts, creating the quote itself takes a fraction of the time compared to using spreadsheets, your ERP, and tribal knowledge. The time savings create hundreds of additional hours of capacity for handling more quotes and quote packages. Using Paperless Parts significantly reduces clicks, printing pages, walks to the shop floor, and time away from machines that add tremendous value to the front end of a manufacturing company. By using a platform that helps automate the quoting process, Junior Level employees can immediately add value to the estimating team. The platform is a great way to keep indirect costs down that are associated with growth.
3. Understand win rates around all of your equipment
With Paperless Parts’ Advanced Analytics feature, Executives and Senior Leadership can get granular when analyzing past data to determine what is working or not working. Manufacturers now have access to an incredible amount of data that allows a better understanding of market conditions, opportunities your team is driving, how quote speed is affecting your win rate, and a lot more. You can see how many quotes you are receiving and winning from a particular work center/machine, multiple buyers at a large OEM, end markets, quote types, etc. This data can inform where to invest or what quotes to prioritize for the equipment you have and the processes you win the most.
How do you break out opportunities for individual work centers today? More than likely, your ERP can not get this granular with analytics in regards to opportunities with a specific piece of equipment.
A lot of conversations with leadership in the past were made based on assumptions. With the Advanced Analytics feature in the Paperless Parts Platform, you can have real-time statistics that show how well a marketing campaign is performing or if the sales team is pushing the right capability….or that new machine you just bought. Software that captures and analyzes this level of data, i.e. win rates by machine, can help you make smarter business decisions when investing in new equipment.
It is important to take a holistic approach when investing in your business. Investments in new equipment, facilities, and people are all necessary for growth. Providing your sales team with the right tools, standardization (maintenance), and performance goals (productivity) is no different than the investments made in the equipment on the shop floor.
Learn more about how to choose the right front office software to grow your business
This article was written by Jeff Ganas
Jeff Ganas was the VP of Sales & Marketing and Precision Metal Manufacturing (PMM), and prior to that held a Business Development role at BTD, a US Metal Fabricator. Today, Jeff is an Account Executive at Paperless Parts and is working to provide job shops and contract manufacturers with the software necessary to increase revenue and grow their business.