Do you dread the idea of implementing new job shop software? Have you purchased software that’s subsequently gone unused because you don’t know how to manage the transition? You’re not alone. For many job shops, the challenge isn’t in finding the right software; it’s in implementing the new software.
Most job shop owners see the sense of having an integrated shop management system, but some hesitate at implementing it because of the unknown. Following the purchase, some actually go months before actually kicking it in gear.
Job shop software implementation doesn’t have to be a nightmare, however Yes, there are parts of it that are always challenging. Employees – especially those who aren’t technologically savvy – may resist the new software. There may be early moments of confusion about job statuses, job scheduling, invoicing, or other important functions. You’ll have to transition information from your legacy system to the new one, and maybe even run them simultaneously for a limited period.
All of those challenges can be easily overcome, though. With careful job shop planning, disciplined communication, and a commitment to training, there’s no reason why your implementation has to be anything other than smooth and stress-free. Here are four tips to make your implementation easier:
1. Communicate your vision.
The more buy-in you have from your team, the easier the job shop software implementation will be. You want everyone – from managers down to shop floor personnel – to understand what’s at stake and why the new software is necessary.
Have a kickoff meeting to introduce the idea of the software and why it’s needed. Discuss it in terms of benefits for the shop and for the employees. Will it allow you to take on bigger customers? Will you be able to get product out the door faster? Will the software make your employees’ jobs easier? Share what’s in it for your employees and ask for their support and patience as you transition systems.
2. Form a team.
Once you have buy-in and support for the process, choose a handful of employees to form an implementation team. Don’t just make it management. Make the team a representative cross-section of managers and end users from a variety of departments. By being inclusive, you’ll ensure that everyone has a voice in the process.
Once you have your team together, nominate one or two people who will spearhead the process. Call them Implementation Champions or Supervisors, and give them the task of keeping the project on-track. Ideally, one of these people should be someone who will be the software point person going forward and who will receive in-depth training on all facets of the software’s functionality.
The implementation team should decide whether the shop software implementation will be staged or full and what the schedule will be. Tasks should be delegated and a communication schedule should also be set forth. Schedule regular team meetings to keep the project moving.
3. Take advantage of every opportunity for training.
No matter which vendor you choose for your software, there should be some level of training included. Even if training isn’t included, it may be a worthwhile investment as an additional option. Many vendors, including Shoptech, offer in-depth job shop software training in their home office. Send your one or two top point-people so they can become authorities on the software and how it functions.
You may also see if the vendor can send trainers to your facility to do on-site training. The benefit of that is that the trainer can work with your managers and end users in real-world, practical situations. That helps you and your team work out kinks and points of confusion with trainers standing right next to you.
Finally, you may want to see if your provider offers online or remote training. You’ll need to get new employees up-to-speed on the system as they come on board. A quick one- or two-hour tutorial should give them enough training to get started in their roles. You may want to sign up for these remote trainings periodically for the benefit of new employees.
4. Develop an administration plan.
While your job shop software implementation plan may have an end date, the job is truly never done. There will always be issues, questions, and concerns from your team on how best to use the software. You can handle these issues as they arise by having a software administration plan in place.
First, determine who your point person will be for software related questions. Make sure that person is thoroughly trained and was a leader during implementation. Then establish a process for how team members should contact the point person about potential issues or concerns. You could possibly set up a dedicated email address specifically for software questions. That way, you can make sure all concerns are addressed.
Also, develop an inventory or checklist of the kind of the information that should be accurate in the software. This could include things like job numbers, customer information, invoices, parts prices, and more. Schedule random audits to check this information and make sure the data has been loaded into the software correctly.
Finally, ask your employees how the process is going. They may not always be proactive and tell you when they’re confused or concerned. Check in with them. What do they like about the job shop software? What are they having trouble with? These random check-ins can be informative and helpful.
Most every job shop software provider has an implementation plan that, if followed, will eliminate the delays that are costing you money. E2 by Shoptech, for example, has a detailed playbook that’s easy to follow and speed up and simplify the process so you can quickly start realizing the many benefits of a turnkey job shop management system.
Implementation may be challenging, but it’s worth the effort. Formulate a solid plan and then put the plan into place. If you do that, you’ll have your new software up and running in no time.