Insider Tips for Avoiding High-Cost Service Charges

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Software companies know upgrades are necessary for your manufacturing solution.  They may even be budgeting for your high-cost service fees. Don’t get fooled – learn the truth here.

Face it, manufacturing is a constantly changing industry.  New processes, new technology, and new products mean the shop floor is adapting and adjusting.  A work flow that succeeds one week may be in need of an update the next.

So, as you plan the installation of a new MES or paperless manufacturing solution, consider how you will adjust and adapt as your manufacturing needs change.  Ask yourself – is your software vendor planning to upgrade?  How they will ensure the solution continues to stay relevant?  Is an upgrade an additional fee or a standard offering?

Do they even have an upgrade plan?  If not, what will it mean to you?

Understanding the Upgrade Plan

Any OTS (Off-The-Shelf) solution will offer core functionality.  This is the foundation of the software system.  No matter how innovative or powerful the core functionality might be, it will begin to lose usefulness and relevance.

Selecting software that can be easily and inexpensively upgraded can be a strategic advantage for production.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Selecting software that can be easily and inexpensively upgraded can be a strategic advantage for production. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

10 years ago, few were considering “mobile manufacturing” solutions.  Now, mobility is a core function for most MES systems, either through an app or built-in functionality.  10 years ago, shop floor data collection was a simpler task, and now business analytics demands more information at a quicker pace.  Government and international regulations are constantly changing, and older systems struggle to keep pace.

An upgrade from a software vendor keeps the core functionality relevant.  It keeps the software up-to-date on industry needs.  Often, it addresses issues in the industry before they have an impact on your shop floor.  An upgrade is an important tool for avoiding software obsolescence.

Simply put, an upgrade plan may have a minimal impact on your initial ROI or decision to implement one system over another, but it could be significant factor in the overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).  Companies that don’t upgrade risk software that becomes dusty, fading into a legacy system that impedes growth and production.

Finding the Best Upgrade Plan for You

Don’t fool yourself – software vendors know there is the opportunity for additional revenue in basic upgrades.  In fact, many vendors calculate the revenue of upgrades into their planning.  Save yourself surprise service charges as your software ages by asking the vendor a few simple questions:

  1. Do you currently have an upgrade plan for your software? If so, how often do you offer new releases?  If they don’t have a plan for software upgrades, then you are likely purchasing custom software, or software from a company that won’t support the solution.  Regular software releases show the vendor keeps the software relevant.
  2. What is the cost of an upgrade or patch for your software? Can the upgrade be completed with internal IT resources, or will it require a service charge?  What is the cost for vendor services?  Ask these questions to get a better idea of what the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the software will be.  Many vendors plan on reaping the benefits of expensive service charges by offering software for a lower initial cost.  Don’t be fooled.  Look for vendors that offer free upgrades as part of the license fee.  Ask how they will charge for any services you might need.
  3. How do you plan for software upgrades? There are vendors out there that install software and then leave, letting the initial product age and decay into obsolescence.  It takes resources and effort to keep software relevant.  Ask the vendor what they are doing to keep their solution relevant.  Look for vendors that partner with their customers on planning upgrades.

Consider the Future

Many companies select a shop floor software solution, such as an MES or paperless manufacturing, with a specific goal in mind such as increased quality, paperless shop floor plans, or real-time production tracking.  Focusing on a single problem will ensure an early ROI, but without considering the future of the solution, you may be left with software that loses relevance over time.

Before making a final selection, step back and consider the future of the shop floor.  Look at other areas you can improve production with the system, and how future costs may impact your business and the solution.  Make sure you have a solution that will grow and adapt with your business, and not hold you back in the future.

Want to learn more, or see how you might benefit with manufacturing software, then give us a call or leave us a message for a no-cost evaluation of your manufacturing operations.

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