Creating better outcomes for your team is, or at least should be, a key objective for any business.
For Timber Barron, one of Quanton’s newer customers, it certainly was.
The high-growth company, which exports Kiwi made bulk building materials, including timber, cement and steel, around the Pacific, came to us with a straightforward business need: They had a legacy production system which required all sales and orders to be entered manually by their sales team.
Now let’s be clear, Timber Barron is, like so many Kiwi companies, a smaller sized business. It has nine staff helping the business punch above its weight.
Having staff spending large amounts of time on menial data entry wasn’t ideal. And for managing director Daniel Ludlam there was an even bigger concern: He didn’t want valuable staff to leave because they weren’t enjoying their work. His staff are largely long-term members of the team and carry with them plenty of valuable business knowledge and Daniel was concerned they were spending more of their time imputing data than actually looking at it, analysing it and decision making.
In the current climate, losing staff is a big concern for many companies. Training up new staff, assuming you can find them, is time consuming and expensive, not to mention the potential lost opportunities while a new staff member gets up to speed.
So Timber Barron were keen to quickly automate the processes – and that, naturally, is our bread and butter here at Quanton.
Using Quanton’s Lean Agile Robotic Implementation (LARI®) methodology we were able to build and demonstrate the robot in less than five days. We worked closely with Daniel and his team, getting the team itself to say what tasks they didn’t think were adding value to their work and could be handed off to a bot.
At the end of the first week of work, we had a demo bot in front of Timber Barron.
The project was quick – three sprints of two weeks apiece. And it was highly successful. After each sprint we took stock, enabling Timber Barron to make functional changes as required. This made it very affordable and with a rapid return on investment.
Now all data entry, putting stock into the system, dispatching stock, invoicing customers is done by Robert the robot.
The pilot project was quickly signed off and reaped benefits for Timber Barron.
Daniel tells us Robert has relieved 9 Timber Barron staff from many hours of data entry each week, freeing them up to focus on higher value tasks, including bringing in more sales.
And the staff have embraced Robert as part of their continuous improvement philosophy.
When a staff member left, it was the team who came together and asked what they could give Robert additional work so that they would not have to replace the staff member. It became an opportunity for the team to redistribute workloads, handing off more of their own repeatable work to Robert and increasing the more enjoyable, higher-level work they were doing, by taking on some of the workload of the outgoing staff member.
Like most New Zealand businesses, the export market is pretty challenging at the moment. Daniel tells us the company is always looking to do things a little differently and find the most cost-effective value-add processes.
Creating better outcomes for his team through automation and technology is one part of that.
And while this project may have started small, it continues to grow.
Robert is taking on more of the workload, and Daniel says he’s looking at how bots can be harnessed across Timber Barron’s two sister companies. Between the three of them there are more than 80 staff and he’s keen to alleviate pressure across all the companies when it comes to repeatable tasks.
So, here’s to another 80+ Kiwis who hopefully will be even happier in their jobs!