By Lara Copeland, assistant editor
The American Mold Builder
In 1965, when Chicago suburb Aurora, Illinois, was a midsize manufacturing city, Craftsman Tool & Mold opened its doors to create precision stack mold bases and rotational spin stack mold bases for the multi-shot injection mold industry throughout North and South America. Today, as a market leader in custom mold bases, Craftsman values its customers and strives to support them as competently as possible, including during the shipment process. More than a year ago, the company took steps to improve communication with its customers during this process.
“The purpose of our shipping communication system is to give our customers the information they need in order to plan their production schedules,” Craftsman’s Process Improvement Manager Dan O’Neall said. This used to be a completely manual process.
“The previous system was time consuming and required a lot of manual data entry. Because of this, we did not reliably send out the shipment information to our customers,” O’Neall explained.
When the schedule was busy at Craftsman, its shipping personnel either didn’t have time or forgot to send out the delivery information to customers. “They had to waste time calling or sending us an email to request the information they needed regarding their shipment. Since our customers often work on tight project schedules and deadlines, they need to know when their parts will be arriving,” he added.
Without up-to-date information, the customer can’t properly schedule the rest of the project, which may lead to inefficiencies, increased costs and late deliveries. As a result, Craftsman decided to create a system that was quick and efficient in order to get the information sent to customers every time.
The new system uses a combination of Craftsman’s current ERP system (JobBoss) and an in-house developed software the company has named CRP (Craftsman Resource Planning). “The shipping portion is an integral part of the software,” Craftsman President Wayne Sikorcin said. “It’s the last opportunity for Craftsman to find an issue or to make sure everything was shipped so our customers receive a perfect mold base.”
The employee in final assembly uses CRP to determine which orders are ready to ship, inspect those orders, capture information as the orders are processed and then forward that information to the customer via an automatic email generated through Microsoft Outlook. The system was built to be as quick and efficient as possible.
“This system allows us to offer better support to our customers without increasing the burden on our employees,” O’Neall continued.
Since its implementation, the new system has been through several iterations. It is essentially home-grown, which gives the company the ability to make enhancements as it sees fit. “It is constantly changing and improving,” O’Neall explained.
The newest update allows employees in shipping to use a smartphone to take a picture of the skid and automatically save the captured image directly to Craftsman’s file server. The image is tagged with the proper job/shipment so when it comes time to send the shipping notification to the customer, the images are automatically attached to the email with a single click of the mouse.
This efficient system has aided the company in a multitude of ways, and these benefits have spilled over to both employees and customers. The information Craftsman provides to customers has improved.
“Craftsman now is able to tailor what we send out to include all pertinent information for the customer,” O’Neall explained. Customer specific part numbers, project numbers, descriptions, PO comments, etc., are all included. “The correspondence we provide is not just a canned report that only includes Craftsman sales order info. We make sure the customer gets the information that makes sense to them instead of having to translate what we send them,” he added.
Craftsman also can send customers images of their shipments and even SMS message updates to their phone if desired. Employees are spending less time sending out shipping notifications, gathering information and sending information with this faster and easier system. “Our customer satisfaction also has improved since they don’t have to send a follow-up email or pick up the phone to inquire about more information relating to their shipment,” O’Neall added.
In addition to sending shipping information to its customers, Craftsman also sends automatically generated status reports. This allows customers to track the progress of the order as it travels throughout the shop. O’Neall explained, “Our customers often are operating under extremely demanding timelines, so Craftsman makes sure to keep them informed constantly throughout the order fulfillment process.”
O’Neall said the company always is looking for ways to improve the level of satisfaction it provides customers. “In our shipping email, we include a link to an online survey where customers can offer direct feedback on anything related to their order,” he said. If a customer were to suggest or request something, there is a high likelihood the company would implement it into its process because the CRP system is built around customization – doing anything to improve satisfaction for the customer.