On today’s episode of Thriving at the Crossroads, we have Bruce Hagberg to talk about innovating time with one of their products at riteSOFT, riteTIME. We discuss what problem it is that they’re trying to solve and who has those problems. We also go over the whole concept of what gets measured gets done, and that’s precisely what their product does, innovating time, tracking and productivity.
Listen to the episode here:
RiteTime, with Bruce Hagberg
Welcome to Thriving at the Crossroads. I’m your host, Amber Christian. Today, I’m pleased to welcome Bruce Hagberg. Bruce is the CEO of riteSOFT, a Central Minnesota based company that makes two interesting innovative products. One is called riteSCAN and the second is called riteTIME. Before I introduce Bruce, I do have to admit to our audience, in the interest of full disclosure, I am actually an investor in this company, so I do know a fair amount about the company. Don’t hold that against Bruce, we’ll get in to all the nitty-gritty details about the great things that they’re up to. Welcome to the show today, Bruce.
Thanks, Amber. Really glad to be here.
Today, we want to talk about your riteTIME product that you’ve got. Before we do that, why don’t we talk about the problem that you’re solving for customers and who has this particular problem?
We focus on small and medium sized manufacturing and distribution companies globally. Our target customers are probably those that have employees between 50 and 1000, which there are many. We look to provide them what we consider to be smart, simple and seamless solutions. In the case of riteTIME, it’s to be able to automate their labor data collection and integrate that into and out of their ERP and/or payroll solutions so that it becomes a real time integrated solution, providing them with better and faster information to run their businesses.
I like your comment about smart and seamless solutions. Tell me a little bit more about that. What is that thought process you’ve used with riteTIME? What is it that makes it smarter and more seamless for your customers?
The cliché that less is more is what we use as a team. We want to have less information on the screen so that it is easy for the shop floor workers to be able to key in the data that they need. You want it to be barcode ready in all cases, even simple things like biometric capabilities where more and more companies are requiring the identification of their employees. You want that to be fast and it’s got to be simple because you want people clocking in and out of jobs so that they can focus their time on their jobs.
Your typical user is someone in a manufacturing warehouse that’s moving products around, is that the typical user of the riteTIME product?
Correct. We have many different verticals that it seems to fit well with. Custom manufacturing is a great target because each job is a little bit different and unless they are tracking the specifics about the labor that is applied to the job, they don’t know if they’re making money or how much. They don’t know if they bid the job too high or low. Labor, in a lot of these custom companies or custom manufacturing companies, is a large part of their overall expenses. We also have a number of customers that are doing more, I would say, widget work. If you have high automation of your manufacturing production, your labor tends to not be quite as important, but what they’re trying to measure there is, “What are my scrap rates?” If I’m paying my employees bonuses based on a piece rates, it’s important to be able to track those items. RiteTIME allows you to do that as well in a very simple and fast manner.
Speaking of things being simple and fast, how long does it actually take, on average, again realizing every customer is different, how long does it take to implement your product for your average company? Is there a range? Is it a month, a year? What’s normal for your customer base?
Actually, I’m glad you asked that question because we’ve gone out of our way to be able to produce what we would call as packaged software for the most part. It’s packaged, yet it’s configurable. Packaged riteTIME implementation is typically between 10 and 30 hours. It’s between 10 and 30 hours of actual time working with our clients. It usually goes probably over a two to four week period of time. It can stretch out a little bit longer if there’s an integration with some of their payroll providers as an example, that could stretch out a little bit. It’s pretty fast, snapped-in installation.
It sounds pretty fast. I come from the SAP world and sometimes we talk in terms of years. “30 hours? Wait, what?” We haven’t finished an estimate at that point, for some of ours. Hey, let’s be honest, I try to be really candid on my show. We know how big these can be. It actually sounds like you could be a fit for someone that’s got multiple plans just in their individual plans. Does it necessarily have to be a small company or is it really mostly about time tracking for the production of some of these custom manufacturing? Can you talk a little bit more about that and some of the use cases you’ve seen?
It’s not restricted to the smaller companies, but as a fairly small company ourself, we have ten employees here, we want to make sure that we’re able to focus our resources to have the highest customer satisfaction. We do have a number of companies that have multiple plans actually in different countries. Most efficiently, they’ve got those tied together on one server and they’ve got processes in place that their supervisors are reviewing their reports and would actually plan in the future to be scaling up and addressing even larger companies going forward. Right now, the focus tends to be on the SMB space.
Now, you brought up a whole other dimension about global companies or companies with global manufacturing. Do you tend to find, the way your product is adopted, is it pretty uniquely similar across different countries or have you found real differences across different countries across the world? Can you talk a little bit more to that, about some of the countries that you’re installed in?
That’s a great question. One of the examples, we’ve got some installations in South Africa. Because the labor rates there are quite a bit lower than in other parts of the world, certainly in the US, that they have a tendency to have one terminal with many employees that are logging into it. Sometimes they could have 30, 40 employees tied to a given terminal on the shop floor. You don’t tend to see that in the US because people are saying, “I can’t afford people standing in line. I would rather buy three, four more terminals, spread them out, make it easier to be able to get into.”
In the countries where labor is such a small part of the overall expense, they do look at the product differently, but they still want to measure productivity. They want to measure their scrap rate because a lot of times the material that they’re using can be an expensive part of the overall process since they’re not keeping track of that. Then they also want to be able to measure it by employee. If you and I are basically doing the same job and you’re putting out 1000 pieces with ten scrap and I’m putting out 600 pieces with 100 scrap, somebody better be tracking it.
Exactly. That’s like, “Um.” You might get a few questions about that one. This concept of scrap, haven’t ever interviewed anybody and gotten to talk about scrap in the manufacturing process, this is a first. This is a new first. Do you have some demonstrated savings for some of your customers or real surprises that they found when they implemented the product as it related to scrap?
I don’t know that there would be any real surprises because each company is a little bit different. One of our plastics companies was puzzled by the variance in the scrap rates that they had. They couldn’t get it down to both the machine, if somebody was working around a machine that needed to be tuned up and certainly the operator. Because in some cases, the operator doesn’t make that much difference in the overall output because they’re just monitoring the machine. In other cases, you got operators that could far outperform their peers. The most enjoyable stories to tell are those companies that have implemented bonus programs and they see the overall production, the overall productivity goes up and the scrap goes down because what gets measured gets done.
You’re exactly right. That’s so true about what gets measured gets done. Particularly, as it comes to productivity, it can be hard to pin down that number. I think it’s interesting how you’re able to tell them both what was happening really to the machine and to the person, and then help them weigh that. Have many organizations changed some of their incentive programs? Was that their initial reason for implementing it or was it really just about the efficiencies, was it an outcome? Can you talk a little bit more about that?
The more progressive companies are realizing that what gets measured gets done, what gets rewarded gets done. For companies that are looking and saying, “How do I get my team to be more into the day to day activities?” Sometimes you’re putting one shift against the other shift and try to create a healthy environment, that’s competitive and everybody can win. A lot of companies tend to still do, they start out with the Big Brother approach, who clocked in, are they late, are they slacking off or whatever. You’ll find those companies too that once they implement something and they get a better handle on things, instead of speculating, they might say, “Gee, we thought this shift was an underperforming shift,” and it just turned out to be either the material or the machines or it’s a combination of things. Without that detailed information, you’re really left with nothing but speculation. That’s not fair to the employees.
It sounds like this can help companies do some root cause analysis as to some of the problems going on in their manufacturing processes and help them actually isolate where’s it coming from. Like you said, is it the people? Is it the product? Is it the machine? Then start to really get to the heart of, “How do I improve it?” I think you’re correct when you talk about what gets measured gets done, but also we have to incent the right behaviors. You also have to be careful that you’re measuring the right things because when you start to measure and incent people on particular things, that’s the behavior you’ll get. Good, better and different. It’s not always good. Sometimes you’re like, “Wow, that was a really creative way to meet that key performance indicator. Maybe we need to adjust it a little bit.”
No, that’s not really what we were after.
Boy, you sure learn a lot about your communication and how people interpret things, you’re like, “Oh, I guess technically that might be accurate, but maybe we might want to adjust that KPI a little bit.”
One of our customers, speaking to that, they have up to 200 temporary employees on any given day showing up for work, that’s a lot.
That’s a lot.
It is. Some come back the next day and others don’t. Some are temporary for many months. One of the things that they like for riteTIME is that it takes probably less than five minutes to train somebody on how they’re going to be using the product so when they report in for work, they can use this product. Then their HR department and the supervisors, instead of guessing who is better at this given output, they’ve got the ability to measure it. When they do make hiring decisions, they can take the cream of the crop from those temporary employees. Again, objectively being able to measure something will get you better results.
You’re really innovating time and time tracking as a part of it in giving them a whole new series of information that they might not have otherwise had. That’s an interesting example about that temporary labor. You bring in a whole set of people that might be here one day, gone the next. That really means you have to have great usability and great design. How do you guys think about that whole user interface and design? How do you approach that, given some of these types of customers where, like you said, I might have five minutes to train them? Are there any thought processes or certain practices or ways you go about it when you look at your product and innovating time that really work well for that whole keeping it down to a small amount of training time? Can you talk about that some more?
Very much so, in trying to automate with barcodes in particular. There’s a variety of different barcode methods that we could use. When you clock in for the day and you clock in to a given job and a machine, it could literally be, beep, beep, beep and you’re there. You have to provide physical user interface and touchscreen environment and whatnot, you need to provide a variety of ways to input data. The best practice in companies are those that have streamlined their work orders, they’ve got employee badges, they’ve got very streamlined operations so that people are moving through it very quickly. If it’s going to take a lot of time, you’re going to have resistance from the employees and then you lose some of the benefits that you’re really investing in a real time data system.
I like that. Your employee time be tracked by going, beep, beep, beep and I’m done? That’s a good tagline for you, Bruce. Employee tracking down to beep, beep, beep.
I like it.
The three beep principle. That’s true. A lot of the barcode and other automated tracking can make that easier in terms of that overall tracking. Do you have to deal with a lot of user base where English is a second language or there isn’t English? Do you run into that in manufacturing environments very much?
A little bit, but not a whole lot. In our other product, we have done simplified Chinese for the warehouse solution because one customer wanted that and helped us design it. Typically, Spanish is the one that comes up the most for us since most of our sales are in North America.
Now, you brought up another angle. I always have to ask about some of the customer engagement and customers designing things with you. Most organizations and even growing companies have the initial solution, and then customers can add on or customize. How does that work in the environment that you’ve talked about with riteTIME? Do you allow people to do that or is it more of a, “Check it out. Buy it. This is the package.” How does that work if customers need different levels of flexibility with the product?
We try to be flexible. The typical customer buys it and uses it pretty much out of the package, so to speak, and we end up performing the integration work that needs to be done. We’ve had some very technical, knowledgeable customers that know their ERP very well and they said, “Hey, can we do the integration because there’s some other tweaking that we wanted to do?” In that given case, they wanted to do some machine integration. We said, “Yup, we’ll be there with you to help you do that.” They very clearly had not only the desire, but they had the expertise and that would be probably one of our showcase accounts.
Sometimes people will look at riteTIME as having MES type capabilities, manufacturing execution system. The pricing of riteTIME and for the time to install it, we’re really like an MES light type thing. It isn’t going to give all of the bells and whistles necessarily. It’s not priced that way, the functionalities are not that way. It’s really focused on smart, simple and seamless. That probably creates more opportunities for us because oftentimes, people will have invested in a system or the ERP system has some time tracking capabilities but they aren’t very user friendly. They tend to use that to get the reports that they need or they say, “Gee, my employees are on the shop floor, there’s too much clicking around and there’s too many mistakes. I can’t have my supervisor trying to address 40 mistakes on time entry every day. We need something that is very simple.” That’s what we try to capitalize on.
Now, you brought up a key aspect, reporting. My ears perked up when I heard that. It’s a continual challenge for a lot of people when they go live on some of their systems, is what kind of reporting is there. How easy is it to get the data out of riteTIME? Can they build their own reports? Is it all stock reports? How does that work in the product?
It’s a SQL based product and for people that are used to doing SQL reporting, they take to that very easily. There’s also Crystal Reports, there are some standard reports that come with the product. But most people want to have something that’s tweaked enough. The reports, sometimes that’s all people want. “I don’t need to see the real time data, I just need to track this at the end of the day with the employees that are on my shift.”
Crystal Reports is the main product that would work with the backend reporting, which a lot of people have that. I was just clarifying. That’s the primary product people would use. Now, you also brought up integrations to ERP. Since you guys are a startup company, you have ten employees as you’ve mentioned, in Central Minnesota, one of the questions I always ask guests on the show is about where they’re at in their customer lifecycle. We can probably guess based on your number of employees but I’ll ask anyway. Since I interview startups that may be working on getting their very first customers through ones that may have thousands of customers, it’s all over the map, I tend to ask people about their customer base so people can just know where you’re at in your journey as a company.
We have a rating scale on the show here. The rating scale is ABC, alpha beta customer. That means, “I’m just working on my first customers. I haven’t done any integrations at all with any ERPs. I’m just working on those very first ones.” D is, “I’ve done it at least once or up to five times. I’ve got a series of live customers. I have a pretty good idea how these integrations should work or how they do work because I’ve implemented some of them.” Then we have category E, which is an existing customer base. Means, you’ve already got more than five live customers, you’re familiar with the integrations and you can really guide a customer through that lifecycle. Where would you say riteSOFT is in terms of your riteTIME product?
We would fit in the E category. We’ve got over 50 customers so far in multiple countries. Our overall user base is over 5000 users but a lot of that is our riteSCAN product. We’re well on the way. As I’m fond of saying to people, as I said with you, we’re working the plan and the plan is working. We’re a small company with big plans. It may sound kind of trite, but it is what we’re doing and it is working.
The fact that you are working a plan is great and not all over the place. As an entrepreneur myself, I’ve always got to do that plan and make sure you’re working your plans. I totally get that for myself as well. Now, I have one final question for you today, Bruce. I like to travel myself and so do most of my guests on the show. I want to know, what is your favorite travel destination you have ever been to and why?
I might disappoint you Amber, because it’s about an hour away, at our in-laws’ lake cabin. It’s not an exotic place, but it’s probably my favorite place. They’ve got a nice spot up around by the Alexandria area. The reason it is is because it’s everybody’s favorite spot. We have four kids, they’re not kids anymore. The youngest is 24. Every one of them wrote a school report about what’s your favorite place to be in the summer. That’s just up the road. I have had a chance to be able to do some really fun travel business related too just in the fall here. We’ve done a fair amount of business in Canada, Halifax and Toronto and Vancouver were stops that were all very enjoyable. I’ve got some international travel, again, coming up in March to the UK and also South Africa to visit partners and customers and prospects. I look forward to Australia. Some of the spots that we have already acquired partners and customers are places I want to travel.
Excellent. Here I thought maybe Australia and New Zealand were a nod to me since I’ve been to both and actively talk about how much I loved them both.
Pretty cool. If you want to go back, you can do our next install ever.
Woo hoo, new partner. Fantastic. Wonderful. How do people find out more about your company, Bruce? How do they find you online and find riteSOFT?
Our website is riteSOFT.com. We’ve got a number of recordings on YouTube. Like most small companies, we’re always revising and upgrading the awareness. We are very partner focused. Currently we have 70 different reseller partners in ten different countries right now. We try to continue to get the word out that way. We’re very active in LinkedIn, which is a wonderful networking tool. If you want to learn in real time what it is that we do, our website is probably the best way to do it.
Fantastic. Thank you so much for joining us today and talking about how we can innovate time. It’s the first time we’ve gone there. I really appreciate having you today, Bruce.
Thank you for the opportunity.