We talked to Marek Mrowiec, CEO and founder of Prodio, about effective production management, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Marek Mrowiec: We are trying to cope as best as we can. Slightly worried, what the future may bring, but luckily our product is online software, we anyway work online most of the time.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Prodio.
Marek Mrowiec: It is not a rag to riches type of story, but it proves that hard work and patience pay off. Marek Mrowiec says: “Since I remember, I worked as a consultant, but originally had no plans to set up my own company, not to mention a software business. I got into consulting while studying, getting hands-on experience in my father’s family manufacturing business. This was priceless, and I was praised for my job quality when auditors, who regularly visited the company, complimented us on the progress. They said that it took years to achieve the same organization level in many businesses we managed to get just in a few months between the audits. There I was 23, having managed ¼ of clients for Tuv Nord Poland, one of the best Polish certification units, where I shared my observations and expertise.
At first, I perfected the optimization processes improving life in small manufacturing companies to move slowly to larger and larger clients. My job involved mainly advisory services on organizing and managing quality in production processes, maintaining order, and improving staff productivity and effectiveness. When another company, after about a year and a half, noticed that even though the ERP system had been introduced, they still carry on using “my” Excel sheets and Google Docs (although not everything worked perfectly because of the amount of data to process) I had a light bulb moment: why don’t we create a simple kind of software based on the same idea as Google Docs and Excel sheets?
I had known Paweł Kotarski (Prodio’s co-founder and CTO) for many years, so I jumped at the chance to pitch this idea to him: a simple, user-friendly software, without any accounting modules, designed to register work and schedule production in a small manufacturing company.
How does Prodio innovate?
Marek Mrowiec: Prodio is a kind of “Trello app for production halls” – it is production management software for small companies, allowing for paperless production scheduling online. This tool ensures smooth communication inside the company and builds the company database, enabling increased productivity, monitoring costs, and overall performance. Since the very beginning of Prodio (2017), we had in mind primarily small manufacturing companies. At present, there are more than 200 companies, half of them hiring less than ten staff, 40% of the companies employ 10-25 people, and only 10% are larger enterprises. The business idea was born thanks to my job experience. At first, we encountered a lot of criticism, and everybody who heard of our idea tried to discourage us from doing it. Critics said that the software without integration accounting modules does not make any sense because companies would still want to buy ERP systems. Moreover, the project was viewed negatively because of the low pricing: we shouldn’t introduce such cheap solutions (from 97$ per month) where the clients can implement the whole system online without having a consultant present at the manufacturing company. But the market proved the skeptics wrong: companies give up ERP systems and start to use Prodio. And the users say that the fact that we aren’t integrated with accounting modules is the benefit.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Marek Mrowiec: In 2021, we planned to stay in our “niche” and expand to foreign markets. But of course, it is not the perfect timing – clients are more hesitant to try out new solutions, as the covid19 pandemics influence the world’s economic situation. Some of the industries we are co-operating with (ex. print shops, advertising firms) were badly affected by the epidemic and lost orders or were forced to close down. It is unfortunate.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Marek Mrowiec: We are a small company, and so far, we were spared such dilemmas.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Marek Mrowiec: We have an amicable support team and use live chat to help with any difficulties. Our approach has always been a bit informal and friendly, so that hasn’t changed. Last year, during the first lockdown, we offered free-of-charge months and different discounts for our customers to help them survive in the business. We are also flexible and open for discussions with new companies which want to start using Prodio.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Marek Mrowiec: No, we haven’t.
Your final thoughts?
Marek Mrowiec: We see our product as the first step for small and medium-sized companies on their way to technological transformation in the spirit of the 4.0 Industrial revolution. The data collected via Prodio can inspire to buy other machines, automate, become more advanced. From that perspective, Prodio supports transformation – it is a solid foundation for the company to base on further development decisions. Prodio means the end of chaos, order, and organization, insight into possibilities of growth. All of the above is possible without physical presence 24/7 at the shop floor because the progress is monitored from your smartphone, and orders are scheduled online. The covid 19 epidemic means that the situation is still dynamic, but even the first lockdown made companies aware that they have to learn to operate in the new reality. What does it mean in daily practice? Many things have changed: the way we work, relax, buy products, or use services. Our professional lives moved online, and it is not impossible that even when the pandemic ends, it will stay that way. The need to adjust to the new reality proves to be challenging for many small manufacturing companies. They are looking for savings to survive and wish to optimize operations and some production process elements.