Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021 - 39

DITCH THE PAPER
Written orders are a recipe for delays, mistakes and inefficiency.
Time is wasted tracking down paper forms (which are sometimes
off-site in a vehicle or altogether lost), and sloppy handwriting can result in
mistakes and loss of profit. Imagine this scenario: a salesperson wrote 3'6 " ,
but the shop employee read the order as 36 " , and now the product needs
to be recut. Randy Westlund, founder and CEO of Post Falls, Idaho-based
Awning Tracker, knows the problems too well.
" I grew up working at my dad's awning business and was living through
these issues, " he says. After getting a degree in computer engineering and
working for NASA, he decided to try to solve the problem by developing
project management software for small manufacturers, specifically awning
companies. Westlund sees the industry lagging on the technology front
because it's a specialized market made up of smaller companies, and
developing technology is expensive. Even with a good solution, companies
that want to change need a leader who will champion the new system,
and it can be hard to find that person. " Business owners often get bogged
down in day-to-day problems and can't focus on strategy and long-term
growth-which should be their primary job, " Westlund says.
CENTRALIZE INFORMATION
Even if a shop isn't ready to dive into a digital order tracking system,
it can take steps to become more efficient by keeping information
in one place. This can be a spreadsheet or a whiteboard, either online or
centrally located, that shows all jobs, what stage each job is at, and who's
responsible for what. This can eliminate a lot of " steps " to answer questions,
for example, when a customer calls to ask when an awning will get installed.
At many shops, this would require the person answering the phone to
track down the sales rep, the sales rep might need to ask the production
manager, the production manager may have to go to the back of the shop
to see if the special order materials have arrived, and so on. It can take 30
minutes to answer the question, and in that time, three or four employees are
interrupted while the customer is annoyed by the wait.
A centralized job tracking system like a whiteboard can help, but it only
works if every single person keeps it up-to-date. Not following through is
a common pitfall, according to Westlund. " I see this with my customers
who have adopted our software. Acquiring a system is step one. Step two is
getting everyone to use it. This takes discipline and might mean letting go of
employees who refuse to change and adapt to new ways of doing business. "
And it's not just job tracking that benefits from more centralized,
shared information. Giving the person who answers the phone access to
salespeople's calendars to schedule appointments when potential customers
call can be the difference between gaining or losing business. " In the time it
takes a receptionist to track down the salesperson to check their schedule,
that customer might have called the next company on the search list, "
Westlund says.

0121RV_p38-41_F3.indd 39

A well-organized space is a productive space.
In the parts room at Kamber Narrow Fabric
Machinery, items are organized by part and page
number. These represent 20 percent of total parts
but are common to 80 percent of the machines.
Photo: Kamber Narrow Fabric Machinery LLC.

12/17/20 10:46 PM



Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021

Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021 - Cover 1
Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021 - Cover2
Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021 - 1
Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021 - 2
Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021 - 3
Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021 - 4
Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021 - 5
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Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021 - 7
Specialty Fabrics Review January 2021 - 8
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