I have the great opportunity to meet many business owners in the woodworking industry and over the years, I’ve met many like-minded people.
In technology, we classify one particular small group as early adopters. These are the companies that are constantly on the lookout for the next technology edge to implement in their business. These are the companies that bought a nesting machine 10-15 years ago. These are the companies that bought CAD software 20-30 years ago.
Today, these companies are still adopting new technologies to get that extra edge in their business.
I decided to get a better understanding of early adopters by having a conversation with one of the most forward thinking individuals I know: Mathieu Simard, of Simard Cuisines et Salle de Bains, which is located near Quebec City. With a degree in accounting, Mathieu took over a family business and turned it into something pretty extraordinary by re-thinking the way things were being done.
A key driver in adapting new technology was the quest of transferring his teams’ knowledge into systems and processes. By moving the strengths of his team into software and equipment, the business relies less on individuals and more on the collective team. The individual skills became less important than the combined teamwork.
When you have a production manager that figures out the cutlists by hand or Excel, you rely on that person’s skillset. If they call in sick, you get no cutlists that day. By automating these types of tasks, it makes it easier to ensure consistency and reliability.
One of Mathieu’s early decisions was to invest in software for design/engineering/CNC and then CNC machines for the shop floor.
By automating this process, he was able to grow the business from $1 million per year to $9 million per year while only doubling the manpower on the shop floor. That means nine times the revenue and his head count on the shop floor only went from 10 to 20 employees. He estimates they grow about 15-20% every year, yet his labour costs do not follow. By shifting the knowledge that was on the shop floor into the office, he was able to make due with limited human resources in the shop where it’s always hard to find good people.
This move also allowed for a more just-in-time manufacturing process, which drastically reduced his inventory on hand. He now has a lot less money tied up on the shop floor even though he has a greater throughput.
From a sales standpoint, Mathieu is introducing his customers to virtual reality. He is using technology to differentiate himself and to offer a better customer experience. He likes the idea of having limitless kitchen displays in a small of a space as 10 square feet. He has a small showroom in a nearby suburb with 5-6 kitchen displays, but he says he never sells those kitchens. Customers come in knowing already what they want and it’s ever changing. They want to see their design, their colors and their counter top. Mathieu is giving them what they want and saving the hassle and expense of a large showroom. By having a software solution complementing his showroom, he can adapt to the change in design trends without having to rip out a kitchen display.
When asked about the future, Mathieu believes in smaller showrooms, smaller offices, more technology and a better customer experience. He believes designers will be ever more mobile and will work and present remotely.
The result of his technology investments allowed him to be more competitive on price, while not jeopardizing his profitability. Hats off to you, Mathieu, for using technology to benefit your business in such a compelling way.