User Stories is a regular column here on the WorkflowMax blog. Here, we get a company to walk us through their workflow process. Every company is different, and every firm has different methods and processes for managing their projects. Our hope is that by studying what others do, you can find techniques to improve your own workflow.
Today we talk to Heidi Johnston, director of WindowMakers, an Auckland-based aluminium window and door manufacturing company.
Tell us about your manufacturing firm, Windowmakers:
Windowmakers is an aluminium window and door manufacturing company. Currently we’ve got around 28 staff - we have university students come in over summer to help too. This company has been operating for 25 years, and I’ve owned it for 12 years.
What challenges were you facing when it came to your workflow?
Back when I took over the business, we were operating a DOS-based system. We had two of those old style computers that were a black screen with green digits - so we’ve moved forward since then! Unfortunately the nature of the building industry is that there’s a lot of old school ways of doing things. And that’s been part of the challenge, finding a way that you can make things so we get consistency, and the visibility that we need to be able to run a company and make business decisions - but also doing it in a manner that gets everyone in the team on board.
The other thing is that we don’t just deal with one builder who builds one house. We often deal with builders who, at any one time, have multiple houses on the go. It’s really crucial that we track that through the process on a job-by-job basis, because one might be a small, simple job and one might be a really complex job and we have to have the ability to adapt for that.
Walk us through the life of a project:
Say we get a set of plans or somebody comes into our design centre, that information gets loaded into WorkflowMax lead manager, and then it is passed on to our estimating department for them to estimate the value of the job. Then all the details get updated in WorkflowMax and the job is assigned to a project manager to follow up.
Then, once it’s accepted, we do a site measure and from there we have our job tracking set up, where we tick off each part of the process along the way.
We do progress claims along the way as well, and so we’ve set up WorkflowMax so that we can actually generate progress claims in Xero by typing in how complete a job is. Say perhaps we’ve measured and ordered our materials and it’s a 25% claim, so at the end of this month, we’ll put in a 25% claim so we can actually track their progress through the job.
On completion, we send out a customer feedback form, we check the full payment, and then we do our warranties and progress statements right at the end when everything is paid for.
What do you love most about WorkflowMax?
I can actually make smart business decisions. I’m planning for the next financial year now and I can actually get fact-based information. As a measurement tool, it’s given me a whole lot more visibility on questions that I have. It’s brilliant. It benefits us financially as we don’t need to have so many people touching a job.
It means we can be more proactive about our workflow. If I can see we’re having a bad month we can actually do something about it straight away, because it’s no good waiting until the end of next month and going ‘We didn’t bill out as much as we should have’.”
Also I love that it benefits our customers. With WorkflowMax, if a builder or a homeowner has an issue on site, they can ring our office here and everybody can be on the same page as to where the job is at, so it’s not holding anybody up and the job process is still flowing. If we need, there’s a feature we can turn on so that clients can also have visibility over their jobs.
The clients get more instant contact. By having their workflow documented we communicate back to our customers at regular points with confidence. We can deliver consistency to our clients. If clients buy from you once and they get this great experience that’s consistently replicated, you become a dependable business partner.
Thanks Heidi! If you’re running a company using WorkflowMax and want to talk workflow with us, then drop me a line at email@example.com and we can interview you for User Stories.