Dan Fifer from Lane4 Precision expects excellence in anything he’s associated with. He buys high quality equipment, makes perfect parts, builds excellent business processes, and wants his software systems to be excellent as well. He also hates looking for things that should be easy to find. More about that later…
Dan’s background is as an engineer in the medical device industry. Being a designer of precision machined parts which go into medical device products, gave him an inside look at the process of designing and procuring those parts, and also an insight into the shops that were providing his companies with those parts. Dan started to see an opportunity to switch from the demand side to the supply side and decided to open a precision CNC machine shop to provide the exact types of parts he was designing for medical device manufacturers. Dan’s vision was to build a world class manufacturing facility focused on building best-in-class business processes so he could scale the company with fewer admin people and focus on providing value added work to his clients.
Months of research went into finding a facility, choosing just the right equipment, and selecting a software package to build the foundation of his business operating system. Dan knew that he wanted to start with a robust software platform to build his business on top of, designed around solid business processes, to support his vision. Dan was disappointed with all the software systems he found. None of them seemed to be aligned with his vision of helping manage all the details he wanted to track in a single paperless system. They also were cumbersome and difficult to use – and were very difficult to find things in – a real turn off for him. When Dan eventually found ProShop and started to learn more, he realized that it was the system he had been looking for. Even though he was just a one man shop at that point, he could tell that ProShop was the system that would allow him to achieve his vision.
Dan wanted things to be easy from an IT perspective so he chose to go with the cloud hosted version of ProShop which was quick to get setup. After signing up and having his instance of ProShop configured, he launched into the training with his dedicated implementation specialist, Luc. Starting with estimating, order entry, planning & programming and moving into purchasing, shop floor management and scheduling, and eventually shipping and invoicing, Dan was trained on all the basics. As he started to use it, Dan was impressed with how ProShop worked and how fast and easy it was to do things, and to find information. (Remember that Dan hates to look for information!)
One of the things that struck Dan early on was the flexibility to start a project nearly anywhere he wanted to and link all the information easily. He often starts a project by estimating and quoting the work. Then he converts that quote into a customer purchase order. But just as easily he can respond to an urgent request from a client and order raw material as the first step, then work backwards, making a work order, client PO, and part. The ease of which these modules and records link to each other makes it totally flexible, yet still easy to build a robust set of records by which to perform audits to, and to build his processes. “Everything is totally linked and I can find anything I want with a couple of clicks. Old estimates, old purchase orders, work order records, everything is at my fingertips.” said Dan, “I hate having to look for things and with ProShop I don’t have to, it’s all right there!”
Unlike some companies adopting ProShop who ease into the more advanced features, Lane4 quickly adopted some of those features including a feature called “Sequence Detail” to document their tool lists for specific operations in the Part module of ProShop. “The ability to document the exact configuration of the tooling on our swiss machines, makes our setups go faster and they are more repeatable with less experienced employees able to set up those jobs.” said Dan. “I understand that some companies wait to use those features until they are further along their implementation, but I saw that as a crucial tool for us from the beginning.”
Over the past year, Dan has begun hiring employees and finds it very easy to onboard new employees. With a little bit of training, they are up and running and performing with in the manner Dan wants them to work – with excellence and consistency. “I feel confident that when I show a new employee how we work in ProShop, that “this is how we do things here”, they will perpetuate that mindset of having world-class processes.” Dan explained. “We’re also setting things up to be scalable with the least amount of overhead.”
Making sure that a shop always knows what items are needed, and when, is an important feature of ProShop. When shops can make sure all their purchased items arrive on-time, it’s easier to ensure higher spindle up-time, and increase revenue. “I find the purchasing dashboard in ProShop to be super easy to use.” said Dan “When we get new orders, all the materials, hardware and cutting tools will automatically show up on the purchasing dashboard. We can get them ordered in a very short time, ensuring they will arrive when needed, as well as tracking all the job costing.”
Lane4 has found a creative way to link ProShop into its email system. By saving a relevant email to a record in ProShop (a very fast process), they can just click the link, which immediately opens their Outlook email program and allows them to see the relevant email and reply directly from there. “It’s a big time saver.” says Dan, “And it allows us to quickly see a relevant email from the context of the project, and then reply to a customer on the spot…Again, without having to go look for it.”
Another function that Lane4 uses extensively is the Part Archiving and Process Development features in ProShop. Dan explains how it works for them, “When we’re working with a client on a development project, we can document exactly how we set up the job, inspected the parts, and more. We will often ship a partial to the client, and then immediately archive the part which saves a snapshot of the exact configuration of the part. Then we use the Process Development feature to document all the changes and improvements to the process within the active part record, so we have a permanent record of the changes before and after the archiving process. That way, when we or a client wants to see the exact parameters under which each batch of parts were made, we can pull up the details instantly. I can’t think of a better way to document the evolution of a process which is critical to our clients and sets us apart from other vendors who can’t provide this level of detail so easily.”
A major next step for Lane4 is to become ISO 13485 certified. “Our medical device customers expect us to have this certification, and the fact that ProShop has all the modules to manage it, was certainly a factor in choosing ProShop.” explained Dan. “We are using ProShop’s Flying Start Package, which comes with a complete Quality Management System already pre-configured with all the requirements to meet the 13485 standard. It’s going to save us huge amounts of time, and our QMS consultant has been very impressed, and told us he’s never seen a more complete yet easy to use QMS system.”
Lastly, Lane4 has recognized the sales potential of ProShop in landing new customers. When a company comes to audit them, the foundation of the audit and shop tour is how everything revolves around ProShop. Dan explains, “When we show a potential customer how we will manage their projects in ProShop, it gives them a very high level of confidence that we run a world-class operation and can execute for them consistently I didn’t expect to be able to use ProShop to win customers, but it certainly is a bonus.”
Lane4 is a great example of how an entrepreneur with a vision can build their business to be setup for growth and excellence from day one, and how important it is to have the correct tools and partners along the way. “The team at ProShop has become a true partner for me, helping me get this business off the ground with great tools, solid advice from their own years of running a machine shop, and helping me build Lane4 into the company I envisioned even before I started it.”