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High Technology In Low Places

June - 2014
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Technology is good. Of course it is. And in today’s highly technical, fast paced, envelope pushing metal finishing shop technology is you ally, your savior and your future.
New processes that are faster, produce higher quality coatings, machines that can measure thickness and alloy and check for the presence of hex chrome or cadmium, inert anodes of space age metals... The new technology that is out there is futuristic compared to where the industry was just 20 years ago. Expensive? Risky? Usable? Some of the new technology brings with it risks to get the reward but there’s no arguing you need it and there’s a supplier who has it.
Maybe though, you have some technology already ion your shop that you could be utilizing right now and possibly for free. I just lost all the suppliers who were reading this... Sorry guys. But it’s true. What technology do you already have that is under utilized, seldom thought of or not being used at all? Here are some thoughts I had regarding the technology that we could start using as soon as you put this exciting technology issue down.
Your phone. I actually scratch my head when I see a customer pull a cell phone out of his or her pocket. I mean a cell phone not a smart phone. There are some out there that are still “flipping” open a phone and making a call. Have you ever considered that you can be checking your email? I got my 1st smart phone because I would be on the plating shop floor and would miss 37 emails while I was out in production for 3 hours. You know you have that customer that if you don’t email them back in under 3 minutes they email the world that you don’t respond or worse, send the order to the other guy because you didn’t answer. We all know “that guy”.
Plus, you can do so much in seconds from wherever you are with a smart phone. You can have internet access in the palm of your hand. Searching background on a customer, process, equipment need, metal cost, a phone number etc... You’re faster, more efficient and more immediate when you have this tool on your hip.
Now the majority of folks have a smart phone of some type but I’m always a little taken aback by someone with a “phone”. But are you using as many of the features as you can? How about the camera? Taking, texting, emailing pictures right from the line to a customer, supplier or heck why not a family member as something happens. Email a quick picture to a customer of that massive dent in the part you saw as you unwrapped it the second you see it. Evidence that proves it had to be their fault not yours at that point right? What about a quick video chat in a pinch? How about downloading the precious metals current pricing app for quick reference? I could go on and on if I thought about it but, no doubt, you have a powerful computer in your hand and the technology it offers is amazing... If you use it.
How about your web site? I’m sure it’s a great resource for your competition to see what you do and learn more about how to take your customers away. Oh and your customers can get directions and contacts.
But it can do a lot for you if you ask it to.
I worked at a shop that added password protected access for customers. They could log in to our software and they could see where their parts where in the shop and what our expected completion date was. We allowed key customers this access and immediately half my phone calls went away. Most of the time customers just wanted to know when the parts would be ready. Once they learned to trust our web site (and we worked hard to make that happen) they didn’t need to call 17 times a day to be sure. We bar coded at each step to so they would see that the parts had been received, racked, plated, packed and were in final inspection. Due tomorrow and obviously right on track, no need to bother Marko we’re good! Thank you!
I’ve seen systems that allowed customers to downnload their PO’s right into the finisher’s systems. Jobs that were already in the computer and set up could be downloaded right into the system. Advantage? They’re doing your order entry. The paperwork / job traveler / router is printed before the parts even arrive. And they’re doing it for free!
And what about your computer system? You can set it up so the system adds pictures of the parts, racking or masking automatically rather than wait for somebody to remember we took pictures last time we destroyed an order of these. You can put a part # on hold so you don’t make the same mistake you did last time. You can elevate a quality level if you had an issue or it’s a key customer. You can add the note (and this is death but sometimes necessary) “See Marko Before Processing” (ouch... I remember those days). Rather than find out that the parts you swore you’d do right next time just went through the shop when the customer calls with more bad news you can set yourself up to succeed and not rely on someone’s memory to NOT make that mistake again, again.
Lastly, what about the technology you pay for that happens to be at another location. The support equipment and tools your favorite supplier already owns and bought with the proceeds of the sales he got from you? Do you send materials out for testing? Do you get SEM work and those really helpful pictures that makes those raw material defects look like the surface of the moon? Nope, those aren’t plating pits they belong to your customer so you can ignore that debit memo and DMR. Hardness testing, special bake cycles, testing of adhesion, thickness and multiple layer cross sections. I can’t speak for all suppliers but the biggest and the best will make you look like a NASA think tank with the equipment they have in their labs that you have at your disposal. Yes your key suppliers bring you lots of info and assistance, make sure when your back is up against it they bring you the technology that will support your needs and your customers needs.
Yes technology is everywhere and for those of you who are doing all of these things and probably so much more I apologize for taking your time. But there are still some out there that are under utilizing their most basic tools that are paid for and in house already. All you need to do is learn how to do it better.
It isn’t easy in this business, you need every tool in the tool box to make it through the day. And it may help you at home too.
Courtesy of:
Marko Duffy President
Marathon Manufacturing Services
125 Glenn St Lawrence, MA 01843