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Fast adaptation

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Crafts Technology workers use ECI’s software to keep current on each step of a part’s process.

COVID-19 compelled one shop to streamline software sooner than planned

September 2020 - A complete software suite overhaul can seem daunting and risky during normal circumstances. When the COVID-19 pandemic tied up the economy, Crafts Technology in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, chose to add two software modules to its existing ERP system to streamline operations and communication between remote and on-premise departments.

“We needed to take incremental steps in order to adjust to an unprecedented work-from-home situation,” says Joe Abbate, technical sales manager. “We had to consider that a lot of our workers have gone into work for 40 years and working from home seemed awkward. It wasn’t an easy change for them to make.”

Crafts Technology designs and manufactures wear parts, components, assemblies and custom tooling, and performs EDM and grinding. When federal regulations required social distancing to avoid COVID-19 infection, the company split up its engineering and office administration departments, which include about eight to 10 people. “We started having people come in on alternate weeks and noticed right away that some people wouldn’t make it to virtual meetings—it was a quite a challenge at first,” Abbate says.

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The JobBOSS shop management software platform has options for single level, multilevel assembly, blanket orders, split jobs, time and material job status.

In order to make the hybrid office and production floor environment work properly, Crafts Technology invested in two modules from Fort Worth, Texas-based ECI Software Solutions: KnowledgeSync and Job Location Utility. The two modules supplemented the shop’s existing ECI JobBOSS ERP software.MFG Security 2020 140x140

These added modules allow the component and subassembly manufacturer to safeguard administrative tasks by eliminating data entry mistakes. For example, if delivery quantities and order quantities differ, an alarm alerts the user that the job should be reviewed. Whether an employee is working in the office or off site, there is no disconnect that may lead to errors.

The JobBOSS shop management software platform has options for single level, multilevel assembly, blanket orders, split jobs, time and material job status. It integrates with other software suites such as QuickBooks, so users need not abandon what they are already use. For online credit card and payment processing, ECI also integrates with NET1 so users can streamline payment processing with their customers, improve business data security and enhance customer service.

ECI’s Job Location Utility allows users to plan and see each step of a process along the way using detailed master, production and shipping/parts modes. Users can look up job histories to see where in the process parts are, including which worker moved what and when. Each project is tracked and accounted for in real time.

The KnowledgeSync module monitors time-sensitive tasks and sends alerts, like when an item is out of stock, when invoices are overdue or when shipments are delayed. It automatically delivers forms and documents, while monitoring inventory and purchasing. Users can make more informed decisions based on up-to-the-minute information.

FFJ 0920 software image2

Crafts Technology designs and manufactures wear parts, components, assemblies and custom tooling, and performs EDM and grinding.

Attainable adjustments

Using ECI’s software, Crafts Technology provides its employees with updated visual display boards within the shop. Workers back on site are also aided by electronic devices to help mitigate any confusion.

“We’re unable to hold production meetings as we would normally,” Abbate says. “When we’re not doing production meetings virtually, we socially distance (keeping 6 ft. apart) and have given our workers iPads and headphones to follow along during meetings on the floor.

“We can speak to each other and interface in this way without always wearing masks,” he continues. “This way, we no longer have to rely on people calling in remotely and either having trouble connecting or missing the meetings entirely.”

Despite COVID-19-related dis-ruptions, Crafts Technology’s workload has remained steady.

“These software upgrades were in the works anyway,” Abbate says. “But the pandemic forced us to make these changes ASAP. We were accustomed to using JobBOSS and using these two additional modules felt relatively seamless. Each ECI utility has been pretty straightforward, and our employees have been able to handle these modules with no problems.”

As efforts to streamline communication continue, Crafts Technology’s team remains confident about the future. “With every hurdle COVID-19 has put in front of us, the ability to maintain our business—only slightly behind our growth goal for this year—means something for us,” Abbate says. “We knew we had to do everything we could think of as soon as possible and installing these modules were part of that.”

FFJ 0920 software image3

Users make informed decisions using current information when quoting customers or following up on order status.

Full disclosure

Deemed an essential business, Crafts Technology never shut down. “We had to figure out some of the [details of] returning to work for back-office and other positions not on the shop floor,” Abbate says. “We felt that we were ahead of others in our industry.”

When the pandemic first hit the U.S. in March, Crafts Technology immediately reacted. Along with its social distancing protocols, updated software and emphasis on employee communication, the company documented its strategy and made it public. “We stayed open and had to figure stuff out on the fly,” Abbate says. “We published what we’d done to all our vendors, partners and customers in a downloadable manual.”

By sharing what the shop has done thus far, Abbate says the intention is to help others learn from what they’ve tried. “We’ve been through all the steps”—to upgrade automation and adjust procedures to accommodate health guidelines. “We have a news and learning section on our website with a COVID-19 protocol manual available to anyone who wants to view it. It’s a way to help others as they work their way through this difficult time.”  FFJ

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