If you don’t find Timereaction interesting after reading this, then you can blame my writing style. I’m telling you: this is great software with a great back‐story. In fact, it’s even been featured by Huffington Post Canada.
Here’s the high‐level version: the folks at Timereaction consider most of today’s “social collaboration” to be nothing but noise. They’ve come up with a tool that’s laser‐focused on efficiency. If you’re also laser‐ focused on efficiency, read on.
Table of Contents
A Better Way to Coordinate Production
It all started in the apparel industry. Timereactions co‐founder, Allan Diamond, spend 25 years manufacturing quality denim jeans. And although private label manufacturers aren’t household names, many of Allan’s clients were: Harley‐Davidson, Timberland, Volcom and Billabong, to name just a few.
In working with these iconic brands, Allan learned about the inefficiencies associated with filling their orders. There were just a few pieces of information their clients typically wanted throughout the ordering process: fabric cutting date, product processing date, and product shipping date.
But because Allan’s team was orchestrating activities between factories in rural factories in Quebec and Mexico, with clients across the continent, communication was a flurry of phone calls and emails. Every week, the team would sit around a whiteboard and spend hours analyzing and discussing the current production load, sharing status updates, and making decisions about what to tell their clients.
Allan is a smart guy, so it didn’t take him long to realise there must be a better way to do all of this. He figured, since so much of the process revolved around email and spreadsheets, why not put all that data in a database and then find a way to make the database accessible to all stakeholders online?
And so he did. Timereaction was born.
Running a $6 Million Business with Just Four People
Allan took all the data from his company’s workflow and put in into a database in 2001. He stuck a web interface (what we all used to call a “web portal” back then) on the front end. Suddenly, his team, his clients, and his suppliers could simply log on to see where the processes were at and how soon the finished goods would be arriving at their customer sites.
This changed everything. Allan and his team now only heard from clients when there was a problem—not for routine status updates. Workers at the production facility could easily update the database every time they completed a key task such as cutting the fabric for an order—and all stakeholders received notifications automatically.
Meanwhile, the factory received notifications of when purchase orders for fabric had been placed and could proactively adjust their production lines to support the changes on the business side.
Did it work? I’ll put it this way: Allan and his colleagues used this simple supply chain collaboration tool to run a $6 million business with just four people.
But then the economy tanked in 2009. Allan suddenly found himself as a fifty‐something who was waiting on pins and needles for his business to turn around at a time when there was a strong trend for leading brands to use overseas fabric manufacturers.
The solution to Allan’s woes came from the unlikeliest of sources: a 20‐year old college student. To be precise, it was Allan’s son.
A Young IT Student Saves the Day
Allan showed his application to his 20‐year‐old son, an IT major in college. “Dad,” chuckled the lad, “you’re locked in an inflexible world of semantics. I’ve got some time on my hands, so I’m going to help you out.”
With an entirely different take on his old man’s business and the peculiar enthusiasm of an IT programmer – Allan’s son began by rewriting the application using powerful open source technologies. He put a social spin on the tool and generalized it to the point that it could be used to support any kind of workflow the user wanted to create—not just a textile production workflow.
The application that resulted is now transforming the way manufacturers and distributors think about getting stuff done.
True Social Collaboration Means Positive Peer Pressure
The genius of Timereaction is that it runs on light web technology that lets global manufacturers pull up a simple, color‐driven calendar in their browsers. They had transparent access to a color‐code time & action calendar.
They can see green tasks that were completed on time, blue tasks scheduled for the future, and red tasks that demanded immediate attention. Each user could also micromanage their schedules based on tasks, today to stay proactive and meet their goals.
Timereaction totally changes the concept of social collaboration. In stark contrast to other collaboration tools, Timereaction revolves not around threads of conversation, but around scheduled timelines. It socializes the concept of getting stuff done. Based on the workflow a manufacturer has created, a simple social post can launch a thread in which multiple other collaborators will later post to report that they have completed their tasks.
For example, suppose the finance department posts a PO. The supplier will then be assigned a task to approve the costs and quantities on this PO. Their approval—and their copy of the pro forma invoice—will go right into the thread where everyone can see it. The manufacturer’s finance department can then post a letter of credit. And so on, and so on. These steps will be nested within the same social conversation in Timereaction and create a bullet‐proof audit-trail.
By socializing each of these steps, Timereaction lets manufacturers leverage peer pressure in good ways.
There’s no longer any mystery about which steps are holding up each process and who’s responsible: overdue tasks will show up red on the calendar of the person responsible. Stakeholders can check in with each other to make sure things keep moving—and can even offer to help each other out if someone else’s task is holding up their own task.
A 50‐70% Reduction in Email? Sign Me Up!
What’s the benefit of Timereaction in terms of numbers? The application was one of just 300 chosen by the Canadian government to participate in the Digital Technology Adoption Pilot Program. The program determined that Timereaction could reduce a supply chain participant’s daily email volume by 50 to 70 percent, save two hours per employee per day and boost overall productivity by 20 percent.
Not bad. What’s really cool for end users is that they can combine all their tasks from all their customers into one calendar. No wonder more than 200 factories in five nations are using Timereaction with great enthusiasm. They typically get up and running without any need for customer support.