OT: Organizing My Boss

I need advise!!!!
OK! So I am kind-of slow at the moment. So my boss wants me to help him get his procedures revamped on the process from handling RFQ's to
implementing Job numbers, all the way thru to shipping of product, and how the information is maintained. I will try to be brief here, but it will be difficult.
I am a designer, not a business manager. I am good at what I do, but this is out of my knowledge to advise him. I have honestly not worked in very many shops, so I am hoping some of you have some good simple suggestions for me.
My boss is one of the most un-organized persons I know (other than my wife). Don't get me wrong. We do a h_ll-of-a lot of business here. But honestly I sometimes wonder how we are able to keep track of everything. We are trying to put together a procedure that takes place from the moment we receive an RFQ, to the moment a job is shipped to the customer.
In general, our process is this (much like any other company I'm sure): 1. Create an RFQ 2. If we get the job, we receive a P.O. and it gets assigned a job number. 3. Somehow, accounting finds out that we got a new job in, and finds the terms and conditions of the quote and starts the initial invoicing procedures. 4. Any information pertaining to the job is then collected. This could be via emails to the customer, notes taken from meetings, models and/or drawings, specifications about the job requirements, etc., etc. 5. The job then usually goes through engineering (me) for design or interrogation. The design is briefly reviewed by my boss and the shop foreman for approval. Sometimes the job will bypass this step altogether, for example if the customer provides a completed design that we build to. 6. The shop then gets their hands on the job for manufacture. 7. A lot of times drawings are marked up by the shop foreman mid-manufacture that he has changed through this process. The shop foreman is the president and owner of the company (my other boss), so I really can't argue too much about this. 8. The marked up drawings are supposed to make their way back to engineering to be updated. Sometimes this actually happens. 9. The job is completed (assembled) and shipped to the customer. 10. Engineering data is shipped to the customer via email, CD, ftp server, etc., etc. 11. Somehow, accounting finds out that the job is complete and starts the final invoicing procedure.
Now, my question is how can all of this information, data, specifications, etc, be managed throughout a project in one neat nice "package" that can be easily accessed by the necessary person(s) as needed?
Currently: 1. RFQ's may be produced by scribbled notes transferred to a formal Word document by the secretary, and either emailed or printed/faxed to the customer. Where the electronic files are kept, and how they are categorized is a mystery. 2. The P.O. may be received via a hard-copy (rare), contained within an email message, verbal over the phone and scribbled down to be added to the shop log, or faxed. The shop log is where the job number originates. It is simply a very long Excel spreadsheet with a list of numbers. There is a columns for general information about the job such as customer, date received P.O., job description, due date, date shipped, date invoiced, etc. Sometimes all of the columns actually get filled in. 3. Accounting is handed the hard-copy of the quote (which now has a hand written job number on it) for billing purposes. Not sure where it goes from here. 4. A piece of legal paper is handed to engineering (me) with all of the pertinent specifications about the job for me to design by. Many times there is extra verbal information given to me at the same time that is not on the paper. A model or drawings is usually forwarded to my email also. Sometimes I need to call on the customer to clarify some of the specification given to me. 5. After the design is finished, we all huddle around the screen to dissect the design for 5-10 minutes for approval. With this intense review, there will be no need for any changes during manufacture.... right?!?! 6. The prints are put into individual buckets and scattered through-out the shop to be produced. I think sometimes at random. 7. Prints are finally marked-up so they can be manufactured. 8. Once the individual components are produced, I think the prints are then eaten by goblins. Drawings rarely get updated from the marked up drawings due to lost info. 9. The job is completed and assembled. Amazingly all of the parts are usually there on assembly day. And it really does assemble to a quality product (no sarcasm here). 10. Engineering data is finally sent to the customer after he has reminded us to send it. 11. Someone tells accounting that the job is completed and shipped (our maybe she hears it through the grapevine). Final billing starts.
All we have right now is MS Office Small Business which included the typical software. Accounting uses QuickBooks which I know is capable of handling at least some of this process. But it is not accessible to anyone but accounting.
I know there is other software out there that can assist us with this entire process. I've heard the terms MRP & ERP as well as others but don't really know what it all is. If anyone can suggest a simple and cheap, decent piece of software to help manage and maintain this process, I would appreciate some input.
However I am not sure that adding software is an option. So I am hoping that someone could suggest methods for using the tools that we currently have to help maintain a systematic process of managing all of this. I honestly have no clue where to start. It's not my forte. But I've been given the "privilege" of coming up with a solution. I'm sure that if we just had a good easy system/method, it would eliminate the "sticky note" type management.
--
Seth Renigar
(Remove ".no.spam" from my address)
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You can't change your bosses, you are set up to fail in such a small company in this situation. I went to work at a small company that made industrial equipment and they didn't even have a multi-meter. When I asked if we could get one, I got "we never needed one before". When you get the "don't raise any issues with me unless you have a solution", you know its time to eject!
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Just to make myself clear, any system you set up will be run around using the old unorganized method by your bosses.
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Yes, except that the boss is the one that initiated this study. I always try to work from the standpoint of, if I make my way easier for them to do their job, they might use it.
So, the goal is to find a way to make it easier for everyone along the way. However, in reality, there will be some things that take more time than the old way, but the whole picture is better. There is software out there to do all of this. We use a large package called Encompix that tracks info all the way through, but it's probably way to big & burdensome for your place. Keep looking - you might try starting here. http://www.2020software.com/default.asp
WT

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Not necessarily! One of the reasons this place isn't very organized is that there has never been a good system in place to start with. As the business has grown, there has been a "domino" effect and has turned into a real mess. We have pretty much always been so busy, and the fact that we run pretty lean-and-mean, there has never been time to establish a good system. My boss knows that we have got to do something about it. That's why he has assigned me the task to research this in my temporary lull. He can be a very disciplined person when the need is there.
--
Seth Renigar
Emerald Tool and Mold Inc.
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One way to start would be to try to put together some forms/coversheets that can track the progress of a job. Figure out the path that a job "should" follow, and try to get that down on paper. From there, it's mostly a matter of trying to be disciplined about making sure that all the appropriate boxes are filled in before the job moves on to the next step.
Generally speaking, if there's a formalized checklist to follow, folks will be better about following the process than if it's just a vague bit of company folklore. One thing that's very important in that regard tho is that the system needs to meet the needs of the folks that are going to use it--take the time to talk to the other stakeholders (accounting, the shop foreman, etc.) to make sure that you understand what their needs are. Circulate draft proposals to get their input, and try to come up with something that everybody can live with.
the fact that your boss has initiated this is a good thing--it suggests that he recognizes the need, and is likely to be supportive of a solution. The trick will be to come up with something that's not too intrusive on how your company works--you're trying to formalize some discipline, not reinvent the company. For what it's worth, it sounds like you have a pretty good starting point--just expand on the stuff that you've got in your posting.
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That sounds good, the process is already outlined. It looks like the only thing left to do is to fill in some of the areas that don't have a set procedure for passing information from one group to another. In a lot of respects, it looks like a simple project. Just think of it as writing a specification and creating a flowchart.

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Take a look at Basecamp ( http://www.basecamphq.com/index.php ) its relatively cheap and lets you keep track of projects... Kinda sounds like it would help your situation... plus its web based which means no server space required...
Jeff
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I agree with Michael. The first thing I would do is document the current procedure. This will help to fill in some of the holes you have with the current process. Find out where the electronic data is stored. If you can, standardize some of the forms. Find out why drawings sometimes come back, and sometimes don't. Document how the drawings come back; this is the procedure you should try to get the shop to follow. Once you have the current process documented, hopefully your boss and the owner will agree that this is the Standard Operating Procedure. From this starting point, you and others can work to improve the procedure. I would recommend incremental changes, because that is easier to make happen. The changes that make thing more organized and easier to do are the ones that people will use. As far as generic software, if you have a database program like Access, learn it and put some of your standard forms in it. This way, the forms are easier to fill out, and the electronic data can be stored and used from a central database. Brian
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Just a suggestion... Although they seem to be making a step forward (that's good),..get it in writing that they, the bosses, are committed to change for the company! Sadly, the chances are, it will not happen. So, having it in writing, that is, "in a offical company memo" should increase the odds that it will happen?
..
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That reminds me of a trick I used at a company where I worked. If I had a memo that required a signature from a manager or higher, I would write the memo than take it to them. Once I was in their office it was quite easy to explain the memo, then get their signature.
Just remember to keep management out of any direct planning for as long as possible.
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Seth, it sounds like you have already fairly well defined what you will do and can work that down to a final set of steps.
Database designers help small companies set up these things all the time.
www.filemaker.com has lots of independent contractors who make end user solutions from their product (I use it, but thats it). This sort of database program would then let anyone on the network check and follow whatever is needed.
Most times the companies that sell specialized "manufacturing software" actually use one of the stock database programs, and just pre-package an industry specific solution as a saleable product.
Bo
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Thank you all for your replies. You've all given me some great input that I will now analyze.
Thanks again...
--
Seth Renigar
Emerald Tool and Mold Inc.
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