Dealing with a sustained growth surge is the type of "problem" many manufacturing companies wish they had. But it's also the type of problem that usually comes with strings attached: strings in the form of challenges -- sometimes unexpected, complicated ones.
Pioneer Metal Finishing, a 69-year-old privately owned company based in Green Bay, Wis., underwent an ownership change in 2007: Its management team bought out the previous owner. At that point Pioneer immediately switched into growth mode and started snapping up similar companies around the country at a brisk pace -- roughly one to two acquisitions a year.
Then, in 2012 -- five years into the new phase -- Pioneer's leadership team began to see that its workforce management system was hampering its growth instead of helping it, mainly because of its limited, cumbersome labor-cost reporting capabilities.
"We started seeing that the system we had in place would no longer be able to support the type of rapid employee growth we were getting into," Pioneer HR Director Brad Nycz says when asked about the company's former workforce management system -- a mainframe-based system operated by a service bureau provider. "We were about to embark on our biggest acquisition ever, and we knew we'd have to pull the trigger."
So Nycz and his team went shopping. They evaluated a number of systems over a six-month period before settling on Workforce Ready, a cloud-based system designed by Kronos. The new provider installed the system for Pioneer in lightning-fast order: The implementation took just three months.
"We signed the contract in March , and we were live by the beginning of July," Nycz says. "Kronos had said that with a cloud-based system like this, they could get it up that quickly. We were skeptical, but it happened. Obviously we were pleased it went that quick."
Anywhere There's a Hookup
Nycz says Pioneer chose the cloud-based system mainly because it enables the company to do large HR-system updates quickly from any place that has Internet access.
"With our quick expansion across the country, we need to be able to go into a market, announce one day that we've acquired a division, and then the next day be able to hire several hundred new employees into our payroll system," Nycz says. "And we need to be able to do that essentially from anywhere. Previously we didn't have the infrastructure to be able to do that. Now we do."
Nycz says the new system integrates all aspects of Pioneer's HR management seamlessly and is so easy to use that some of his workers have started using it without first undergoing training. "It's so intuitive that they don't need it," he says.
The new system's flexibility and timely reporting will help Pioneer manage its growth for years to come, Nycz says.
"Good leaders need data to make decisions, and you don't want to have to go chase down the information you need to run your business," he says. "Having our time and labor data, our turnover data, all of our people metrics in one spot -- it's pretty powerful."