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Step 5 of The Glass Factory Approach – Adding Windows

“We Just Lost Another Customer”

Step 5 of The Glass Factory Approach– Adding Windows

“That’s the fourth one this quarter,” said the stubborn business owner. “Our competitors' order process is stupid easy,” replied the purchasing manager, “I can see why they left.”

For the past several months, this series has been walking through what tomorrow’s manufacturing world looks like–Less people, more work. It represents an awesome opportunity for business owners who see the “problem” for what it is… an opportunity for growth. But then why will 3,700 businesses in Wisconsin cease to exist in 2030? Because they’re not willing to change and adapt.

This article marks the fifth in a five-part series published in the Independent Business Association of Wisconsin’s newsletter providing insight into The Glass Factory, an innovative approach to help small- and medium-size companies navigate the forthcoming workforce challenges.

We define ‘Glass Factory,” as transparent in manufacturing in the eyes of customers, employees, and suppliers, therefore enabling increased efficiencies. This is a process any manufacturing company can go through to improve your efficiency and make sure you are allocating people power in the most needed ways.

The final stage of the Glass Factory is, in reality, just the beginning of your business’ growth. It is focused on developing a transparent portal for your customers to track their orders through your facility. This is made possible by steps 1-4, which we discussed over the last 4 articles in this series (how do you measure efficiency, running a pilot program, educating your team, and abolishing ambiguity). Together these steps prepare your company to navigate the economic and workforce challenges in the coming decade. With the addition of your company’s tracking portal, you will be providing your customers with important and timely information about their order, thereby building trust and confidence that is expected and indeed almost demanded given the standard set by Amazon and similar companies.

Why Are Customer Portals Important?

With the addition of these customer portals, or windows, comes visibility and transparency into your shop floor. Customers can log in and see exactly where their order is within the manufacturing process. This is coupled with automatic system notifications that cut out inefficient clerical work by your team.

Continuous monitoring of production equipment provides an additional layer of data that can be relayed to your suppliers and customers. It’s exactly what you see when you order a product from Amazon. You can confirm the item you want is in stock, track the order through multiple warehouse depots, see if/where it’s delayed, and even track the blue dot on the final delivery truck to your house.

Many of today’s companies still have to do this manually, eating up valuable personnel time which would otherwise be spent helping you and your team grow the business. Here is a recent example from a client who was trying to understand the status of a project.

“I need to know the status of our hydraulic box enclosures. They need to be laser cut, bent, welded, powder coated, and packaged. The powder coating is an outsourced part. I called the sales manager, asked him where we’re at with the order, he then, while on the phone, pulled up in his internal ERP system to see where they were at. This happened in a seven-minute call.”

Say there are typically 60 projects under management. If that information was available electronically in a centralized online system, he would be able to save 28 hours per month of process management time, or 336 hours per year. Time that is sorely needed to invest in business development.

Without adaptation, we're in trouble. Wisconsin is going to lose 1 million able bodies in the next seven years, yet economic demand in 2030 will remain the same or increase. So with less people doing the same amount of work, where time is spent is now critical. A seven minute phone call for an account update may not be a problem for one project, but as your business scales, this time-suck amounts to significant loss of valuable brain power and work hours. Once you are managing 600 projects instead of one, seven minutes of customer updates per project is not feasible. In addition, you will be building customer trust and confidence that will keep your customers loyal for decades.

What Comes Next?

Once you have gone through the Glass Factory approach at your company, you are queued up to be successful through further technological advancements. With 1-2 years of legitimate organized production data from following Steps 1-4 of Glass Factory, you’ll be able to pave the way into the technology that’s on the horizon, including Machine Learning and artificial intelligence (AI). In order for our businesses to thrive with the advent of this technology, we need to know what is happening in our manufacturing facilities. AI and Machine learning are only as effective as the information it is taught, or the data you have available.

In Conclusion–Get Customers to Flock to You, and Stay With You

Look at what Amazon is doing. According to Statistica, ”In the last reported year, the multinational e-commerce company's net revenue was almost 514 billion U.S. dollars, up from 470 billion US dollars in 2021.” They are gobbling up the big box competition with the transparency and ease of doing business. These same methodologies will trickle down into every industry. Small- to medium-sized companies that recognize this in their respective fields will become ‘The Amazon’ in their industry.

This transparency that comes with customer portals is becoming a requisite now that customers have experienced it so extensively in various market applications including food and grocery delivery. So whether we like it or not, our small- and medium- manufacturing facilities must adapt to the times to secure and maintain customer loyalty. Luckily, following steps 1-5 of Glass Factory set you up for an easy transition.

So what’s next? The first question to be asked is: How do you measure your shop’s productivity? If you can't definitely say, it’s time to take a look at the Glass Factory Approach.


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