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So where do we go from here?

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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
What’s next? I’ve talked a lot about what types of technologies are out there and what problems they solve.
Now it’s time to ask the question of what are the next big problems we can solve in our industry through technology. There is ample design and engineering software that allows us to create and manufacture wood products in a very predictable and efficient manner. So where do we look next? Technology requires a problem that is sucking out profits from our businesses. So what are the areas in the process that have the biggest opportunities for improvement?
When I think of the start of the process, I think of marketing and lead generation. But is that a really big area of opportunity? Most shops I talk to have an overabundance of work and delivery dates are several weeks if not months out. So maybe generating more business is not the biggest fish to fry…
Maybe looking at our closing ratios on new jobs is? Are we spending too much time and resources on chasing leads that only have a 50 per cent chance of closing? Are we inconsistent with the experience a prospect has when going through our sales cycle? If you win nine out of 10 prospects that inquire about your services, then maybe you’re doing well in that area. I get a general sense that the average shop has about a 50 per cent closing ratio when it comes to first time customers. Is there an opportunity to be more efficient in the sorting of inquiries or increase the closing odds?
What are all the steps and resources required to get a prospect from initial contact to a signed contract? Are we wasting time? Are we sitting in traffic going to visit a prospect that we only have a 50 per cent chance of winning their business?
What about once we’ve designed and produced the job extremely efficiently because we’ve got great technology for that? Are there opportunities in shipping? Is there a problem with getting the jobs out once they’ve been produced? Maybe for new construction? Maybe renos too if trades are not on time?
What about installation? It’s getting harder to find good installers. Salaries are constantly increasing. What are some complex problems we can fix or make easier with technology for the install process?
Then it’s safe to assume the job doesn’t get done to completion on the first visit. There’s always something to go back for. I know there are no missing items left in the shop because we have tons of technology for the shop floor to make sure the truck leaves with all the right stuff. But maybe back orders? Or maybe damaged parts that need to be redone?
Once we’ve reached the part where the job is 100 per cent complete and everyone has been paid and is happy, what then? Is there an opportunity for technology to be involved in the future relationship with that customer? If they did their kitchen, will they maybe want to redo their closets next? Or if we know the average lifespan of the kitchen, should we know when to reach out to them when remodeling time comes?
Okay, so a lot of questions… You have the answers and I want to hear them. If we’re going to move this industry forward and make it more profitable, we need to keep solving the biggest problems.
So what are they? I’m all ears.

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