New Zealand cabinet making companies are getting great results from comprehensive management software that allows them to quote accurately, track jobs through the factory and integrate with existing design software.

These businesses are using Manager, an Australasian product that was developed for the woodworking industry after being created in partnership with a cabinet making company in Queensland.

Well-known as innovators, New Zealanders have been quick to see the benefits of embracing this new technology. The nimble Kiwi approach to change means they are often ahead of the adoption curve seen in other countries.

Manager has its origins 10 years ago when Cairns-based CCW Cabinet Works, now with a staff of 50, was looking for a software program to manage a growing business where every job was different. The company found there was nothing out there for them.

Developing a system from a builders’ estimating package, the company worked out how to broaden it beyond estimating, integrating the software with the company’s CAD and CNC programs. The software eventually became Manager.

A recent adopter of Manager in New Zealand is Nelson-based The Sellers Room, a cabinet making company that uses the system to prepare accurate quotes and track all its jobs as they progress through the factory.

Suppling kitchens across the top of the South Island and commercial fitouts nationwide, The Sellers Room has found it “a fantastic product”, according to production manager Craig Pengelly.

The company, which employs 25 people, previously used a number of different enterprise programs including DOS software to prepare quotes and an off-the-shelf accounting package. Manager replaced all these programs.

“We didn’t want to have three products – one each for design, accounts and tendering. We needed an integrated package,” Craig said.

“With Manager working in tandem with Planit’s Cabinet Vision, we have that. Manager is a comprehensive program that can extract design data from Cabinet Vision as well as do all our number crunching.

“It estimates costs, labour required and materials needed, giving us a dollar figure on the job. We have far more accuracy in quoting.

“Manager also allows us to monitor the progress of a job through the factory. That’s very important to us. We can follow the job continuously and ensure it’s on schedule. Staff can check their own performance,” he said.

The program facilitates on-line scanning of components, using bar codes. The Sellers Room has five scanning stations, with the bar codes holding vital information including the list of duties within the work order.

In the final stages of the production process, Cabinet Vision and Manager work “wonderfully well” with the company’s flatbed router, according to Craig.

“Clients notice the speed of turnaround. Once the drawing is done in Cabinet Vision, we can complete the job in hours with much less manpower required. It’s a fantastic product. There’s no doubt about that.

“A lot of management software is out-of-the-box, but not Manager. We were able to customise it exactly to meet our needs. By changing the way it reports, we expressed our own vision for the product,” he said.

When configuring Manager for accounts and invoicing, Craig wanted the program to have a staff interface, so that operators could access the data themselves instead of going through him.

“As a result of our feedback, the interface was developed for Manager and it was available to us within eight months.”

He noted that there was initially some resistance from staff to adopting something new. “But we highlighted the benefits to them and since then we’ve had a tremendously positive response.”

Craig estimated that the company will see a positive return-on-investment on Manager within about 18 months of implementation – certainly less than two years.

Like The Sellers Room, New Plymouth-based Kitchens Designz needed to systematise a growing business, so installed Manager early in 2009.

“It’s given us the capacity for tracking stock, both inwards and outwards. It also prepares our jobs and quotations,” said Dan Holmes, owner of the company that markets customised flat panels and other cabinetry all over the North Island.

Kitchen Designz draws its cabinetry in Planit’s Cabinet Vision, then exports this information into Manager. From there the orders for materials are placed, incoming goods monitored, and the job tracked until it leaves the factory.

“Manager is a complete system that is offering what we need,” Dan said. “I’m hoping for a return-on-investment period of two and a half years.

“Meanwhile Graham Rutter of Planit gives us full support. He’s extremely good at getting back to us.”

Greg Harman Joinery, which serves the Hawkes Bay area, also uses Manager for tracking jobs.

“We know exactly where they are in the factory. As well, the program manages our inventory, telling us for instance how many drawers are available and how many are ordered,” said proprietor Greg Harman. “Bar coding is the next thing that we will bring in.”

He said that Manager benefits the customer by reducing the time taken for quoting to five minutes, as opposed to about an hour before.

While Greg is the sole user of the software system at present, other operators will soon start learning it.

“We had a few problems with other associated software that were holding us up with Manager, but now we’ve sorted those out it’s racing ahead,” he said.

Thames Joinery is another cabinet maker that has professionalised its operations by replacing factory-drawn spreadsheets with Manager.

“We use it for ordering. Once we’ve prepared a quote, we press the keys and it automatically places orders with our suppliers,” said proprietor Bruce Fulton.

“We also do back costing on Manager – how much money we made out of each job. The program is really good and I’d recommend it to anybody.”

Manager is an integrated business management tool and control system designed for manufacturers of all sizes.

The program accurately monitors the progress of each job or work order by material, consumption and labour tasks and times, allowing the user to plan and track scheduled start, finish, production release dates and shipping dates.

Its planning function synchronises lead times with work order start times, schedules work orders with job tracking, provides job status and due dates and oversees job status tracking.

Manager easily tracks job profit progress through each job, uses a bar-code scanner facility to capture hours, and offers a range of reports including sales, win/loss, and labour costs on jobs at each work centre.

 

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