Selecting the right MES vendor for you and your business doesn’t have to be frustrating. Here’s how you can save time, money, and solve your production challenges.
By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software
Recently, a company in Poland announced an MES Application Maintenance service for companies around the globe. I have to admit… this one came as a shock.
Think about it… companies purchase an MES, then hire another company to maintain the software! Does it mean the original vendor can’t support their own software? Are they too expensive? Is the second company better at “maintaining” the system? Does the software need an entire “service” to keep it working? What does this say about the MES industry?
If the company that installed your MES can no longer support you, or has become so expensive you’ve stopped using them, perhaps a “service” company is the band aid (or tourniquet) you need. If you haven’t installed a system yet, take a moment and learn from this sad situation…
Companies say they implement Manufacturing Execution System (MES) solutions. Some companies build the tools they sell; others acquire the tools through a merger or acquisition to quickly fill a void in their functionality. Once acquired, the tools may be loosely integrated (or not), and the complete package is sold to the unsuspecting customer as a package. Other companies call themselves consultants and offer to research, buy the system, then implement. They act as the middle man for your MES, offering a huge catalog of tools to ensure you are getting just the right one (yeah, right!)
It’s no wonder the process of evaluating vendors is such a time-intensive and frustrating process, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are 3 simple tips that will eliminate much of the work and frustration:
- Who wrote the software?
First, eliminate companies offering a software tool they don’t own. The reason is simple – if you purchase software from a vendor who doesn’t own the original code, maintenance, testing and upgrade will be expensive and risky. You increase the risks of losing support for the software if you need it, and in software support is a must since your processes and company are always changing requiring modifications to the software to match your new work flow.
Many companies call these tools from third-party vendors “modules” or “apps.” Companies that sell and install software they didn’t build cannot consistently provide the same level of support as the company that built the tool. In fact, many times they are offering you an older version of the third-party software to cut down on the cost. When you start connecting these modules with other platforms, apps or tools from other vendors the risk and cost dramatically increases, especially over the life of the installation. The integration between the modules is custom-built as the implementation is put together. The initial integration won’t be cheap, and maintenance costs are going to be shocking.
- Ask difficult questions.
Next, ask about a warranty. I don’t know many companies that offer one, especially for software. As you consider a vendor, ask for their license agreement upfront. The process of getting the license agreement from them, and the content of the document, will tell you a lot about how the vendor does business. Potentially, this can identify vendors that don’t match the way you do business. Once you have the license agreement, ask for the warranty. Asking difficult questions in the beginning will give you a clue to how they will handle your challenging questions later, and will quickly eliminate vendors who aren’t being honest with you.
- Review the selling process.
Before you see a demo or sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) review the sales process with the vendor. Ask what steps they will take during the sales process, and how it will help you to make a decision. If the vendor has a distinct sales process focused on servicing the customer, chances are good they have a process for software support, customer care, product development and other areas of their business.
While you are talking to the vendor, ask about software support, customer care, and product development. A company with robust, customer-friendly or customer-centric internal processes will describe these very quickly. It will give you a good idea how these processes will benefit your business in the future.
I admit – I love my job. I love helping manufacturers, and watching as software and technology optimize the shop floor and help people do their work better, faster, and with fewer errors. I love to see the benefits of a project blossom as people realize how powerful the solution will be for them.
That might be why it drives me crazy to know there are companies struggling out there to make their MES work. The problem is so bad they need to hire another company just to maintain the system. That’s NOT how the system should work.
Don’t let yourself get trapped in a difficult situation by buying the wrong software solution. Take the time to ask a few questions of a prospective software vendor to ensure you’re purchasing the right solution. As always, give us a call or send a message if you have questions. We may not be the right vendor for you, but we’re happy to answer questions or guide you in the right direction.