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Plan ahead for smooth technology implementation

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Tech Talk by Peter Mate
Peter Mate is co-owner and president of Planit Canada, a software and services company devoted to servicing the manufacturing industry. For more info email peterm@planitcanada.ca

The time is never right to stir things up in our business. Is there a better time than others to introduce change? Over the years, I’ve witnessed technology implementation changes in various situations. In the heat of the rush, in the slow times, during employee turnover and with the pressure of new equipment arrival.
The are some positives and negatives to any of these times.
First off, if you are a shop with no automated machines and looking to move from pencil and paper to some type of software, the best time is yesterday. Of all the shops that have moved to software for drawing and cut lists, none of them to my knowledge have ever moved back to pencil and paper. This speaks for itself.
Most of the time, these are smaller shops and the owners are wearing multiple hats. Time is a scarce resource in these shops and anything that can save some time or help delegate some tasks while keeping a predictable outcome is quite welcomed. These shop owners have overflowing tasks lists that span all areas of the business. There never seems to be a right time to go from pencil and paper to software for design and cut lists. If you’re in this situation, find something basic you can start with that has room to grow and take the plunge. It’s typically a small monetary investment, a moderate investment in time and you end up with a good return on investment.
Moving from design and cut lists to connecting to CNC machines is another common stage.
Nesting machines are more popular and affordable than ever before. Some companies make the leap from pencil and paper right to CNC, but it’s a big one. If you do this, make sure you have some wiggle room in your schedule and you have the time and resources to buffer the hurdles you’ll encounter. The nice thing about making this leap is that once that CNC hits your shop floor and the lease payments start, getting everything setup and working becomes a big priority and procrastination is rare.
When you move from design and cut lists to CNC, the gap is smaller. The workload is less, but the same sense of urgency kicks in when that CNC arrives. Any time you are connecting to a CNC machine, you should plan for some buffer time. Something is bound to be delayed whether it’s related to the software, the tooling, the machine, the power, the dust collection or something else.
Any type of software that affects multiple departments like ERP software is a delicate animal. No matter how busy or slow things are, it’s so hard to stay focused on the numerous steps to get to the light at the end of the tunnel. It seems that the best time to implement is during a slower period.
For most shops, planning for a January to April type window is a common time to tackle this implementation. The downside is that without the pressure of a big new piece of machinery to keep everyone on target, it’s easy to procrastinate or get distracted. While implementing business software during a slow time, it’s important to keep working hard to get it done and have some experience under your belt before your next busy season. Plan regular meetings to hold involved employees accountable and on track. There’s a lot to get done and synchronized, but the successful companies benefit from the incredible rewards.
The end result is that you should plan for new technology implementation if you can. Implementing anything new in a state of panic or urgency is a very stressful ordeal. If you’re thinking that all this change is a lot of work, you’re right, it is. But there’s a reason why more and more companies keep implementing technology and forcing change. The results are too good to pass up. Cheers to your next technology hurdle and change! 

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