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You sit down at your computer and see a familiar sight. It’s another email from another frustrated customer. They want to know when their job will be complete. When will it ship? What’s taking so long? How much longer?

Do these questions sound familiar? Are you getting complaints from customers about your long turnaround time and inability to meet deadlines? Even worse, are you not getting any complaints at all and just watching as once loyal customers silently drift away?

Missing deadlines is a common problem in the machine shop world. In fact, it’s so common that the shops who actually do meet deadlines are often seen as heroes by their customers. If you can master the art of meeting deadlines, you can use that ability as a big draw for attracting new business.

It’s not an easy fix, though. To turn around your delinquency issues, you’ll need to take an honest assessment of your business. You may need to make some big changes. Here are some of the biggest reasons why shops consistently miss deadlines. If these sound familiar, it may be time to look for solutions.

It’s all done on paper.

Do you keep all your deadlines on sheets of paper scattered around your office? Are the deadlines written down and buried in customer folders in your office’s filing cabinets?

It’s not the 1990’s anymore. It’s time to ditch the pencils and notepads.

The thing about deadlines is that they need to be well communicated throughout your shop. Every team member involved in the job should be able to quickly see what the time frame is and how fast each step needs to be completed. Unless you’re walking around the shop reading deadlines off a sheet of paper, there’s just no way that this level of team-wide communication can be accomplished with a manual system.

Instead, you should look at converting to a job shop software system. That will allow you to keep all deadline information in digital format. Your team members can access the information with a few clicks at their workstation. You can see where bottlenecks are forming and then take decisive action. You can see where a job may be held up and then address the issue before it’s too late.

Job shop software can be a powerful tool in getting your scheduling issues straightened out. Paper isn’t a system. Put the notebook away.

Everything flows through one person.

Again, this is common among far too many shops. Maybe you have a manager or supervisor who is skilled at running the floor. He knows how long jobs take and how the jobs should be scheduled. All the deadlines run through him because, well, that’s how you’ve always done it.

The problem with this system is that the “guy in charge” usually becomes the bottleneck. Information gets to him and then it isn’t communicated to the team. Or the shop may get behind and then he spends all his time scrambling to make sure that jobs get done.

Eliminate this bottleneck by distributing scheduling and deadline information to the whole team. Also, invest in training your team so they can identify bottlenecks and process issues.

There’s no reason why you and your managers should take on all the deadline responsibility. Train and delegate. When you do that, you’ll have an entire team focused on deadlines, not just you and the floor supervisor.

You’ve become complacent.

Everyone misses deadlines. Admit it, you’ve used that line of thought to justify your shop’s delinquency. To a degree, you’re right. Most shops never make deadlines and many customers have just grown to accept it.

However, that doesn’t mean that you have to be one of those shops. Why can’t you be one of the rare shops that actually meets deadlines? What would that do to your customer loyalty? How would that help you attract new business?

This involves an attitude adjustment more than anything. It starts with leadership. You have to decide that deadlines are a priority. Then you have to set a lofty, but attainable, delivery goal. Finally, share the goal with your team and back it up by providing the software and tools they need to make the goal a reality.

You’re not charging enough.

Quoting is a tricky game for most shops. On one hand, if you quote too much, you  may not get the work. If you quote too little, you may lose money. Some shops try and walk that line by quoting less and then pushing the job through with few resources. This may work here and there, but it’s no way to run a shop on a regular basis.

If you’re missing deadlines, it may be that you simply aren’t charging enough for your work. Maybe you need another machine to get the job done. Maybe you need some guys to work overtime. Either way, you need more money to do that.

Again, job shop software can help you identify your costs, your scheduling challenges, and your material needs so you can have a full view of each job’s requirements. That will help you quote accurately so you’re still competitive, but can also do high-quality work.

You have the wrong customers.

No customer is a bad customer, right? Wrong. Your shop is probably geared toward one specific type of customer or job. Maybe you only have the equipment to work on smaller jobs. Maybe you don’t have the resources right now to do a lot of custom work.

Whatever your niche is, be honest with yourself about it and then pursue those types of customers aggressively. If a customer falls far outside your area of expertise, it may be best to refer them elsewhere.

Sending business away may seem illogical. However, think about what it does to your shop. Your team doesn’t have experience with that type of work, so they spend far more hours than they should on the job. It backs up your other jobs, causing frustration with those customers. In the end, that job that didn’t really fit ended up costing you more than it brought in.

Instead, focus on what you do best. If you want to take on bigger customers, set some goals and grow into that business. But don’t stretch yourself now to take on jobs that don’t fit.
Most of these issues can be resolved with solid machine shop software. Contact us today to learn how the E2 Shop Software System can help you meet your customer deadlines. We would be happy to show you how the software works and learn more about your shop’s needs and goals.