What Can You Learn About Your MES and Paperless Manufacturing Vendor?

With 5 simple tips, you can learn a lot about a manufacturing software solution before you ever sign a contract.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

With the wrong MES or paperless manufacturing vendor, your project could resemble a giant pile of dirt hindering production efficiency.

With the wrong MES or paperless manufacturing vendor, your project could resemble a giant pile of dirt hindering production efficiency.

I have called a dozen landscapers to move a large pile of dirt in my backyard.  I still can’t get a return call or sales appointment.  I don’t have the tools or the expertise to move the dirt.  I’m at the mercy of the vendors.  How is it that I can’t find a single company to call me back?  I’m realistic – I know there are times you can’t take on new work, but a simple phone call is all I want.

What message are these companies sending to potential customers?  I don’t want to sign a contract without knowing they will deliver on their promise.  What confidence do I have in their work if they can’t even be bothered to give me a call?

I’m constantly amazed at this same lack of follow-through in the software industry.  Too many prospects tell us we were one of the few (or the only) vendors to call them back.  How is that possible?  We’re never too busy to help, and we’d love to grow our business while helping you grow yours.  It’s not that we don’t have a full calendar – we are blessed with a full pipeline of work and high standards for our product.  We want to build the system features that continue to make our products more robust, user-friendly and dynamic, and that takes time and effort.

But, we also know how frustrating a problem you can’t solve alone can be.  When you’re talking manufacturing software like MES or paperless manufacturing, build-it-yourself solutions often become disasters that spiral out-of-control, consume resources and build frustration.  So if you know that you can’t, won’t or shouldn’t DIY, then you rely on the vendors (just like me).   This can lead to frustration.  You have a problem, but the potential solution-providers ignore you.  What can you do?  Here are a few pointers I’ve learned in software and manufacturing solution industry (and I’m considering for the mud dump in my backyard):

  • It’s safe to assume if sales won’t return your calls, delivery won’t be any more reliable. 
Look for a vendor that's responsive to your needs and works with you as a partner. Illustration from www.colourbox.com

Look for a vendor that’s responsive to your needs and works with you as a partner. Illustration from http://www.colourbox.com

True, there are times when a single company resource (who should call you back) is giving the whole organization a bad name, but company culture is either built for exceptional service or not.  Sloppy calling habits will mean sloppy delivery habits.  Don’t expect a company that can’t call you back to deliver exceptional service.

  •  Ask the vendor about their guarantees (if they even HAVE any). 

Just like everyone else, we make mistakes.  I know no one is perfect, but when mistakes happen, we admit our error and make it right.  You have my personal guarantee for any work we do, and we put it in writing.  Problems will happen during any software project, so it pays to ask about a guarantee.

  • Question the vendor on promise-based language on the website.

Do you see paragraphs of “we are the world’s leading…,”  “fastest to…” or “guaranteed to…” on the vendor website?  What makes someone a global leader?  Who is handing out “global leadership badges” and how is that going to help your shop floor?  What benefit are you going to get from the accolades they heap on themselves?  Is that global leader also a company that outsources their help desk so you never get service when you need it?  I even came across a company that calls themselves a, “cool vendor.”  Really?  How will that help you?

  • Focus on what you need.

As a subject matter expert in manufacturing systems and workflows, CIMx consults with its customers throughout the sales process.  We often see customer teams get hungry, and create a laundry list of requirements so long the project loses steam and profitability before you ever get to production.  Determine the “top” challenges and focus on the solution to those problems to ensure project success.


I’ll be honest, the dirt is STILL sitting in my backyard as I write this blog, and I’m getting ready to call a few more companies today.  I know I need to find someone to move the dirt (or build a mud pit or hilltop fort in my backyard), but I also know that choosing the wrong solution will lead to more frustration.

Take a few moments before you call a software vendor.  Ask the right questions, and have a focused plan of action, will help ensure you’ve found the right solution, and not created an even bigger pile of problems leaving a muddy mess on your shop floor.

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