Connecting the Dots  
How Integrated Software Enhances Businesses  
B Y K A T H E R I N E C O I G A N D T R E Y B A R R I N E A U  
s companies in the door and  
window industry grapple with  
a lack of skilled labor, many  
are finding a solution in automation.  
Integrating software throughout a  
company is a major part of that pro-  
cess. Software and automation often  
go hand-in-hand; the synergy of the  
technologies makes for a successful  
and efficient operation compared to  
just an automated machine. It’s also  
invaluable for sales.  
Simply put, integrated software can  
make production and operations far  
less expensive.  
The benefit to our user is you’re  
cutting down on the  
amount of time and  
you’re cutting way down  
on mistakes, which is key, because  
those can be very costly,” says Nick customer more self-sufficient,” he turing environment. They have the  
Carter, president of WoodWare said. “We used to get a lot of faxes, but capital and resources to invest in this  
Systems, which provides software for that’s shifting. We still have customers technology and also the most to gain  
the millwork distribution industry. that want to talk on the phone, but through volume processing,” he says.  
Any system can automate a task, but the generation coming up is changing “However, many smaller businesses  
what we’ve got to do is take it beyond that. Point and click is one of the best are now realizing the benefits of auto-  
that so that we’re bringing productiv- ways to go.”  
ity to bear.”  
mation. CNC milling centers and saws  
are becoming more commonplace in  
many workshops.”  
Warehouse management has cer- Forward Thinking  
tainly helped, but just the visibility of  
With automation providing many  
Integrating software streamlines  
orders for both employees and cus- benefits, most door and window automation processes. This elimi-  
tomers has been a huge change, says manufacturers appear to be opting nates the need for workers in the pro-  
Dan Schaefer of WoodWare.  
for more manual-free production. duction process. Ron Crowl, president  
We can have the order invoice, According to David Brennan, manag- and CEO of FeneTech, explains that  
shipping ticket and receiving ticket all ing director of the software compa- finding skilled employees is a chal-  
in one document, and they’re linked ny Smart-Builder, many of these are lenge for the fenestration industry,  
all together,” he says. “That helps.”  
Jonathan Bayer of Bayer Built make a lot of products quickly.  
Woodworks, a maker of doors and  
Rod Hurley, strategic accounts  
large-scale operations that need to but integrated software automation is  
a promising solution.  
“Any progressive company is look-  
other millwork products, says tech- manager for Soft Tech Group in New ing at automation,” says Crowl. “In  
nological advances have helped his Zealand, echoes that sentiment.  
customers in many ways.  
“Typically, it’s the larger businesses  
The electronic catalog makes the that work in a centralized manufac-  
today’s age, it’s hard to find employees  
continued on page 30  
March 2017  
who will work when you need them  
to work. Young people just don’t enjoy  
these manufacturing jobs.”  
Door and window companies  
are waking up to the possibilities of  
“Our industry has been one of the  
slowest to embrace technology,” says  
Carter. “Part of it is there is a manual  
side of our business we can’t get away  
from. But I don’t think we’ve even  
scratched the surface in terms of what  
we can to streamline the way that  
information is utilized.”  
Filling in the Gaps  
Software is the bridge between Integrated software streamlines automated production processes.  
manual and automated processes,  
according to Hurley. So, what process- boosts transparency, from the execu- reducing the risk of injury to workers  
es are moving toward full automation? tive suite to the shop floor to custom- and increasing workplace safety.”  
“By far, the most common process- ers on the other side of the country.  
If companies replace employees  
es in the industry [are the ones] send-  
“It’s being able to have that infor- with software integrated automation,  
ing manufacturing data directly to mation at their fingertips, not after what does that mean for the fenes-  
machinery,” he says. “Cutting profiles the fact, but as it’s happening,” he tration industry’s existing workforce?  
and milling operations performed on says. “Another really vital tool is to be Some say they’ll be out of jobs, but  
those cut pieces are commonly sent able to push as much work as possible software companies might disagree.  
directly from estimating software to outside the walls, such as letting the  
CNC saws and milling centers at the customers look up information. Every need to automate and stay competi-  
click of a button.” minute that you have a customer do tive will reduce the demand for low-  
Without integrated software, that is another minute that you’ve er-skilled jobs, there will be more work-  
While Hurley recognizes that the  
employees manually enter data, added to your productivity.”  
which can result in costly errors.  
ers who can transition to positions that  
formerly required special training.  
“Production line workers see auto-  
“Software provides accuracy,” says  
The Upside  
One important benefit that soft- mation as a threat to their livelihood.  
Brennan. “We’re people—we get dis-  
tracted; data often has to be re-en- ware provides automation is produc- Companies need to provide sup-  
tered, which holds up lead times, and tion consistency. Companies want to port and further education to their  
there’s a cost there.”  
keep their customers happy, and the workforce,” he says. “This will create  
Software greatly reduces these risks. best way to do that is by timely and opportunity for workers to move into  
“If you automate a work cell, it efficient operation.  
other roles where possible. And, com-  
operates more efficiently, and the  
“Software is so important because panies will require more IT skilled  
integrated software provides visibility it gets those machines to talk to each resources with the addition of new  
of the production floor in real time,” other,” says Sam Frankland, sales man- software and machinery.”  
says Crowl.  
It’s also a huge help on the sales side. is no automation. It’s critical in avoiding Building Transparency  
We’ve had people tell us that repeat data entry. Humans are error- One of the biggest advantages  
some of the things they’re doing with prone, but software allows companies of software is that it provides com-  
appointment confirmation will save to cut down those manual steps.” pany-wide visibility which, in turn,  
them an entire full-time employee,” Aside from consistency, integrat- boosts efficiency in the processes.  
says Justin Showers, chief market- ed software also reduces the need “If you think about what comput-  
ing officer at improveit! 360, a busi- for manual labor, the epicenter of ers have done in the past, it’s auto-  
ness-management platform for the work-related injuries and mistakes. mate the clerical side much more than  
home repair industry. “Often the sav- “Automation means less human the manufacturing side,” says Carter.  
ager at Smart-Builder. “Without it, there  
ings is on the office side, but the big error, which ultimately reduces waste “That’s changed. Now we need to be  
gain in efficiency is on the sales side.” and increases consistency and qual- helping the C-level folks in the execu-  
WoodWare’s Carter says software ity,” explains Hurley. “It’s pivotal in tive suite with a wider array of mean-  
Door & Window Market  
ingful, immediate information.”  
That trend we’ve seen for window “It’s going to take at least a couple should speed up adaptation.  
and door companies is they contin- of months if your entire operation is “It’s a different generation coming  
ue to want to have as much of their going to be using a platform like this.” in to the market as leaders, and they  
business in one place as possible,” In the end, it’s about how much the understand this right away,” Showers  
Showers says. “They’re looking for staff is willing to adapt to change. says. “A lot of other industries are well  
convenience and efficiency.” “It’s really about your people,” he beyond ours in terms of the uptake in  
Showers adds that they’re also rec- says. “It’s about whether or not you technology. I don’t think the young-  
ognizing it’s now a necessity. have buy-in from your people.” er generation can imagine running a  
The percentage of door and win-  
dow companies that are using software  
menting a system like this,” he says. companies on to their children. That  
Others suggest it’s a monetary issue. business without some sort of opera-  
“It’s the cost of implementation. tions platform.”  
has increased dramatically over the Machinery and software can be  
past five years,” he says. “I think a lot of expensive,” says Hurley.  
Still, the rate of change can surprise  
even a software veteran.  
light bulbs went off during the reces-  
Whatever the reason, Crowl offers  
“If you had told me 10-11 years ago  
sion when they needed to find more advice to companies looking to fully that most of our customers would not  
ways to be efficient and be adaptable.” integrate. be stocking windows and that every-  
I think it’s very important to select a thing is going to be special orders,  
software solution that can adapt to your and they’re going to turn them around  
Just as there are benefits, there are business needs and not vice versa,” he in a week or less, I’d have said you’re  
also challenges that prevent door and says. “The right software will allow you crazy,” says Carter. “And look at where  
window companies from using inte- the flexibility to grow and change as we’ve come to today.”  
grated software. Showers suggests that needed with little or no downtime and  
the industry needs more to time to deliver consistent results.”  
Trey Barrineau is the editor of DWM  
adapt to new technologies.  
As more business owners retire magazine. Katherine Coig is a contributing  
It will always be a challenge imple- from the industry, they’re passing editor to DWM magazine.  
March 2017  

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