Monthly Archives: February 2015

3 Keys to Effective Software Customer Service

Don’t be fooled by marketing smoke and mirrors, effective customer service can be defined by a few key elements.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Are you getting the support you need from your manufacturing software provider, or are you getting the run around? Image by www.colourbox.com

Are you getting the support you need from your manufacturing software provider, or are you getting the run around? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

A few weeks ago, I took my car to a dealership for some work. “Don’t worry,” the service rep said as he took my keys. “I’m going to have my team get right to work.”

I should have run away the minute he said, “team.”

It took the team more than 3 days to get the work done – work that another mechanic said should take a few hours. I called to ask for an update every day, and every day the front desk transferred me to the Service Rep.  The Rep sent my call to the Lead Mechanic, who consulted with and transferred me to my Project Lead. The Project Lead then spoke with my Mechanic Coordinator who finally told me the work was almost done. Not to worry, he explained, they offer rental cars. The Coordinator sent me back to the front desk, who transferred me to the rental department where I gave them my order before they sent me to the rental garage so I could give them the same order again.

I ended up paying an extra $80 for a rental because my “project team” couldn’t finish the job. There were at least 5 people of various specialties working on my car, and the only benefit to the massive team is no one person ever accepted blame for delays or mistakes.

Manufacturing Product Support You Can Trust

Let’s be honest, you don’t NEED a team to manage your project.  You want ONE person you can count on to ensure all your project goals are met efficiently and cost effectively. You want that person to answer your questions, act as your advocate, respond to your needs and be responsible for solutions when something unexpected happens.

While sitting in the lobby of the car dealership while my “project team” came up with excuses, I came up with 3 keys to effective customer service for manufacturing software:

  • Accountability and Honesty.

You want someone who is going to be accountable not only for project success, but for the problems as well. Accountability means doing what it takes to meet the project goals, and having information necessary to give an honest answer. Don’t give me a repeat of the sales pitch – give me an honest assessment I can use. Project and budget overruns are not acceptable. Give me solutions, not change orders.

  • Management and Prioritization.

Many times, a “team” throws resources at a problem. Fancy titles don’t deliver solutions (I’m looking at you, Architecture Developer/ GUI Designer/ Team Lead/ Project Manager/ Programmer/ Engineer/ etc.) only higher service charges. Management means getting the appropriate resources engaged with the project at the right time, focusing on the highest priority items.

  • Partnership

Finally, we all want someone working on a project we can trust. We want to know we aren’t being cheated, our time isn’t being wasted, and we are getting the best service possible. Partners take a proactive role in achieving superior results – offering suggestions and taking initiative.

Shop Floor Software That Works As Promised

As an industry, manufacturing software suppliers often struggle with customer service. We offer highly technical software that companies need and rely on, which is good. Even so, some companies design the system to require expensive service charges just to keep it running (which is why these companies promise “implementation service teams” to their customers). Other companies hide behind service desks and help lines, knowing their systems are so complex and confusing they will be inundated with calls and questions. That service desk in a foreign country is a good investment!

Yeah, we know all the tricks used in this industry – which is why we do things a little differently at CIMx.

We offer all our customers a dedicated Application Engineer to handle their account. Customers with a problem or question can call on the Application Engineer, who manages all aspects of their account. They install and implement the system, train users, install updates, manage special projects, and answer user questions. If any project needs additional support, the Application Engineer will lead the Development team working on the project.

It works out very well for our customers. They have a single point of contact for everything they need. The Application Engineer becomes an expert in the implementation for their customers, and is best positioned to answer questions and solve problems. In every case, the Application Engineer becomes a partner with their customers, helping to optimize the system while working with users because they understand not just the software, but the shop floor processes.

Of course, it helps to offer software built on a solid, well-tested foundation. When the software works as promised, the Application Engineer can focus on improvements, not just problems.

Make sense? Let us know if you have questions or want to learn more about how an Application Engineer from CIMx Software can help you.

What Is the Foundation of Your Paperless Manufacturing Solution?

Position your shop floor for success by identifying and focusing on the key priorities in a potential manufacturing software solution.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Select the right MES for you and your shop floor by following a few simple tips. Image by www.colourbox.com

Select the right MES for you and your shop floor by following a few simple tips. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Last week, we wrote a blog about the Myths and Legends of MES and Paperless Manufacturing, and afterward, we learned one surprising fact – people love their requirement lists. Many argued the requirement list has to be the primary tool in selecting a solution. I can understand that. For some, the requirement list is the first step in the project. You need to know the scope of the project before you start planning, and the requirement list is a good way to start. It’s also an excellent way to build a business case for the project and justify the expense (and, let’s be honest, a four item list is not nearly as convincing as a 200 item list).

Unfortunately, this leads to a bloated list of low priority items. With a massive requirement list, the key priorities, which should be the focus of your project, can be lost in a sea of lesser items. In addition, the true cost of the solution may never be known, because often those less important items can be much more expensive than the key priorities.

Focusing on the Foundation

The first step in identifying a manufacturing software solution should be determining those key priorities. They will become the foundation of your solution, and the other requirements will spin off them, which is the way it should be.

One way to look at it is to see your future manufacturing solution like a house. When designing or buying a house, you will have a list of priorities – a fireplace, or a big kitchen. Those items are nice, but your search starts by finding a house with a solid foundation – the right square footage and in a good neighborhood. The search has to start with those key priorities. Likewise, you don’t build a house all at once, you start with a foundation, then build a frame and add the details as you go along.  The provider implementing the out-of-the-box solution works the same way – using a plan to build the solution piece by piece. Start with the foundation, and build from there.

Most of the time, the greatest impact from a MES (Manufacturing Execution System) or paperless manufacturing project will come from a few key items. By few, we mean normally 10%, while the other 90% are nice to have items, or simply a wish list of toys for various departments.  This might be improved quality from world-class work instructions, digitizing records, or a comprehensive data collection system. Solving these issues will deliver an ROI and improve production. Integrating other functionality or solutions can be done once the key items are solved by the software.

This is the problem with focusing your search on a comprehensive requirement list. Sure, it can give you an idea of how much functionality comes out-of-the-box, and what may need to be added later, but of even more importance is how the tools in the software solve the biggest issues your shop floor faces. Once you have the outline of a solution in place, the other requirement (the 90%) can be easily integrated into the solution. Want to learn more, or see how the tools in a paperless manufacturing solution can be mapped to your shop floor? Then give CIMx a call, and let us see what we can do for you.

Myths and Legends of MES and Paperless Manufacturing

Many companies end up throwing away money and production by looking for the wrong software system. Save yourself time and frustration by following a few simple tips.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Save time, money and headache by taking a few savvy steps when selecting a software solution for manufacturing. Image by www.colourbox.com

Save time, money and headache by taking a few savvy steps when selecting a software solution for manufacturing. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

First off, an out-of-the-box (OOTB) MES or paperless manufacturing system is NOT a magical rainbow unicorn. Unless you are willing to pay for a custom-built, one-of-a-kind system, no system will EXACTLY replicate the massive and painstakingly precise requirement list many companies feel must be the centerpiece of a software search. That precision is the primary (and only) benefit of custom systems. For that exactitude you better have the fortitude to handle the high-risk of project failure, the (inevitable and unending) additional costs, the massive support necessary over the life of the solution, the general headache you get from any piece of rainbow unicorn custom software slowly devolving into a legacy system.

If you start your search for the rainbow unicorn of OOTB software living in your dreams, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and failure. But, even though rainbow unicorns are works of fantasy, that doesn’t mean an out-of-the-box can’t solve your most pressing shop floor problems, delivering tremendous production support and becoming an amazing tool for your shop floor. You just need to refocus your search by taking a few savvy steps.

Don’t be Fooled by Rainbow Unicorns

It’s easy to see where the myth of the magical rainbow unicorn comes from. Consider how some companies sell their software. They have a library of modules and options, like a manufacturing software candy store. They make tweaks to the same-old code they’ve been using for decades and repackage it as a new product made just for you, and then promise it’s an “advanced OOTB solution.”

Truth is, with enough time and money a company can turn any old code into your very own rainbow unicorn. That’s how software works. Problem is, rainbow unicorns are expensive, hard to upgrade, and costly to maintain.

A much better method for selecting manufacturing software is to focus on key priorities – those requirements that will make a major impact on production and deliver a rapid ROI. Then, look at the long term viability of the solution. Will it continue to deliver benefits when change happens?

Finding the Right Manufacturing Solution

Don't rely on a massive requirement or wish list when selecting a solution - focus on key priorities. Image by www.colourbox.com

Don’t rely on a massive requirement or wish list when selecting a solution – focus on key priorities. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

For most companies, there will be a few high-priority items or requirements that drive the expected ROI for the project. They are the REAL story of the project. By adding other items to the initial requirement list, you are drawing attention from the high-priority requirements with a “wish list” of items that are more likely to bloat the price rather than add value. The result – the company offering you the best, most cost-effective and efficient solution might not even be considered because, according to the requirements, Widget B is found in the wrong column of Screen X in the accounting dashboard….

Focus your search on the key priority items, and then expand to additional requirements once you have a solid solution in place. Many times, those additional requirements can be added through a simple configuration or by mapping the software to your processes. Just because the code wasn’t written for you doesn’t mean the software isn’t designed for your specific manufacturing processes. It can be, once the solution is mapped. Don’t let minor items derail your search.

Software Adaptability is the Key

Just because we’ve ruined the magical rainbow unicorn dreams of shop floors everywhere doesn’t mean the right software isn’t out there waiting for you! To ensure you have a long-term, viable solution, you need a solution that will adapt and grow as your shop floor needs change. In fact, it can be argued that an adaptable system is preferable to a highly configured and customized system perfectly designed for your current processes because change will happen.  The slightest change will either force the shop floor to adapt to the system (never a good idea) or require costly configuration or coding work.

With this in mind, avoid forms-based software systems. With a highly configured and customized system, it is easy to EXACTLY replicate your paper-based forms in the software. It looks nice and is easy to do when building a software system, and might be comfortable for users at first, but the minute you need to change a form or process (which will happen) then the hard-coded form in your system is suddenly holding production back.

The most effective software solution will be one that models your processes and production, rather than your forms or individual tasks inside the process. Can the system adjust when change happens? What about upgrades for the software? Is there an upgrade path, and what additional costs will there be for an upgrade?

Avoiding Monsters on the Shop Floor

Today, with modern software technology and advancements in information systems, there is no reason to use a monolithic behemoth of a custom software solution. You can enjoy the same benefits from an OOTB solution with a lower cost, viable and affordable upgrade path, and adaptability in an easy-to-use and –install system.

The system you select should grow with your business. If you have a company promising magical rainbow unicorns in their solution, while they send “implementation teams” to live at your facility, then you are probably looking at the wrong solution.

Want to experience a better way to select software, from strategizing about the solution, to mapping the software to your processes, to the final implementation and training? Want to learn how trust in your software supplier can benefit you and your shop floor? Contact CIMx today for a free evaluation and learn what paperless manufacturing can do for you.

Simple Tips for Selecting the Right Manufacturing Software

Don’t get stuck with a software solution that causes more problems than it solves. Learn what you can do to deliver a project that makes a positive impact.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Ever wonder why some companies struggle to move forward with a project, including an MES or paperless manufacturing system, even when there are obvious benefits?

It may not make sense, but it’s (literally) human nature.

 

Select the right MES for you and your shop floor by following a few simple tips. Image by www.colourbox.com

Select the right MES for you and your shop floor by following a few simple tips. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Confirmation Bias is the tendency of people to selectively remember, interpret and analyze information to confirm existing beliefs. We selectively process information to confirm what we think is true, while ignoring or misinterpreting anything counter to those beliefs. Confirmation Bias is a cognitive issue, an error in inductive reasoning, and a failure in logic and information processing. It could also be what is holding your company back, and keeping you from finding manufacturing success.

Companies come to us with production problems – a failed audit for example, or a critical quality escape. We’ll help them identify the issues behind the problem, then find the solution. Along the way, we’ll discover other shop floor solutions to problems like out-of-control paper records or missed data collections. Despite the benefits, companies are still reluctant to take the next step and make a change. They will twist their processes and operations to cover-up the flaws, throw away money and never really solve the problem.

Often, that’s confirmation bias costing them money. IT wants an easy option that won’t add to their work. In their mind every new system means new work, so they can only see the current system as the best solution. Similarly, many current shop floor users are more than happy with their current processes, so they will only see flaws in other solutions. Management, Quality Control, and others will have a stake in the project, and evaluate each option with their own cognitive bias and flawed inductive reasoning.

Is it any wonder building consensus around a new shop floor system, no matter how effective it might be, requires a herculean effort of titanic proportions?

From our experience, the companies that overcome confirmation bias and find the best solution for their operations will first build internal consensus on potential solutions early in the process. Start out by including all the stakeholders. While the project should focus on the key priorities, also be aware of the priorities for each stakeholder. Many times, a project fails when one group makes a selection based on a single set of priorities, never understanding how it will impact the other stakeholders. Building consensus early will help ensure the project has the greatest positive impact.

Next, develop a focused and manageable set of priorities based on expected ROI. A project will often be derailed by a massive list of requirements. Requirements shouldn’t be a wish list. Identify the 3-5 key items that must be addressed in the system. Other items can then be added in later phases once the system has been installed and the company begins collecting an ROI.

Finally, be prepared to evaluate alternative solutions before making a selection. One easy method for overcoming confirmation bias is to force yourself to consider alternatives before evaluating your preferred solution. Looking at alternatives first will help you objectively evaluate data. Many times, the preferred solution ends up being the best, but by looking at alternatives first you can better evaluate all the options.

Once a solution is chosen, develop benchmarks and a schedule for evaluating the solution. Use the requirement list to determine the benchmarks. Determine if the solution is solving your problem and meeting your needs. If it’s not, make sure you’ve written into the contract how to proceed. Don’t get stuck with software that requires endless service calls or causes more problems than it solves. Find a supplier you can trust to work with you and deliver solutions.

Are you curious to learn more, or see how a simple software solution can significantly improve your bottom line? Then contact us today for a free evaluation of your shop floor.