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Using technology to minimize human interaction

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Tech Talk by Peter Mate
Peter Mate is owner and president of Planit Canada, a software and services company devoted to servicing the manufacturing industry. For more info email
What a time we’ve been living through… It’s interesting to see how quickly we can adapt to new ways of working and new technology if we really need to.
The COVID-19 situation has forced many of us to change the way we work. For so long it’s been so easy to keep doing business as usual. Showrooms were humming. Human interactions were plentiful, and business was good.
With COVID-19, many businesses were forced to temporarily close or change the way they work. Working from home became the new norm for many of us. We instantly needed to find new ways to work together. While we can’t necessarily produce wood products from start to finish remotely, there have been many parts of the process that our industry had to turn to technology for minimizing the physical human interaction.
Video chat software, like Microsoft Teams and Zoom have become commonly used applications for allowing us to continue to collaborate together while working apart. Why didn’t we do it before? Well, we didn’t have to. Some companies have been using video conferencing tools more than others, but now, it’s the new normal.
Anybody who hasn’t been using these types of tools is all of a sudden forced to get on board. Some other technologies are also shining in these crazy times.
Maybe this was the time when your company started considering electronic signatures for contracts. These systems have been around for a while and can definitely make signing documents remotely easier.
3D walkthroughs of jobs make it easier for customers to visualize what they’re buying. In times when we can’t have designers sit with the customer in a showroom over a cup of coffee, we need to find new ways to continue to serve the market, but remotely. Showing a virtual walkthrough over a screensharing session can really be effective to continue to get jobs without having to be in the same physical location looking 
at samples.
Creating jobs in a manufacturing software that allows us to send them to CNC machines minimizes the paperwork and human intervention needed. No need to scribble on paper and physically walk a file folder around the office or shop. These days, people may not even want to touch a physical file folder that gets passed around!
Perhaps now is the time to consider a solution to sell online? A big part of our industry is custom, but there are still many standard cabinets and products that can be offered online. Figuring out the online portion and allowing room for the custom products is very feasible. There are systems that allow for payment processing, order tracking, CRM and many other tasks that can be digitized to avoid the physical file folder and even reduce or eliminate the countless emails being exchanged internally and externally.
Anything you can do today to digitize as much as you can of the process, the better it will serve your business long-term.
Make the change now, benefit from it forever.
We’ll get through this pandemic. What will your business look like on the other side? There are currently many government initiatives to financially help Canadian businesses to re-tool during these times. This can make you stronger if you use these times strategically.
I hope that all Canadian woodworkers are staying safe, in good spirits and gearing up for the other side of this pandemic. We will get through this.

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