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When running a business, measure constantly

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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 peterm@planitcanada.ca
We say measure twice, cut once, but when it comes to improvement, measure constantly!
The New Year is the perfect time to bring in some changes. So where do you start? The only way to know is to measure as much as you can in the shop. We shouldn’t make changes based on gut feelings. We should make the changes that will have the biggest impact on our businesses. We don’t know what those are until we measure.
There’s no doubt that we love our machines. There’s something about woodworkers and tools and machines. We love the tools that help us create beautiful things. There’s a big difference between buying a new toy and investing in something that will make our business more efficient. Toys are fun, but they are an expense. A strategic investment in something that will improve our business is something that will generate more profit. The goal should be to invest in things that will give us more time and profit so that we can go out and buy the toys that make us happy and have the time to enjoy them.
So where to start? If you look at your expenses from 2022, start with the largest numbers. No doubt labor will be one of them. This is such an important part of our businesses. We already struggle to attract and retain great people. Anything we can do to maximize their time with us is gold. I’m not talking about making them pedal the bike faster; I’m talking about optimizing their skill sets to benefit the business to the fullest. This will also make it easier to justify paying a better salary, which in turn will help with retention.
When you start to measure what employees are doing, it’s important to communicate that the goal is not to micromanage them, but to uncover the opportunities to remove the redundant or boring tasks so that they can come to work and have fulfilling days that make them feel like they are key contributors to the business and not just a number.
There is a lot of software available that make it easy for shops to collect data. Once we have quality data, we can act accordingly. The first step is to get rid of paper. I’ve said it numerous times. Any paper that is going around the shop is a detriment to intelligent progress. Everything in software is timestamped 
and traceable. Even if you have employees filling out paper forms, the quality of the data is only as good as the people filling it out and they likely did not take a woodworking job to fill out papers, but rather to create awesome stuff.
Even if you don’t know what to do with the information collected, just start collecting it. It’s the first and most crucial step. Collect quality and accurate information. Without it, there are no intelligent decisions that can be made consistently. No dashboards. No seeing where the biggest opportunities to refine our processes. No way to properly measure the impact of changes and justify the expense of new technology. When cutting wood, measure twice and cut once. When running a business, measure constantly. Cheers to an AWESOME 2023!

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