How Your Choice in Manufacturing Software Might be Holding You Back

Manufacturing software companies, like MES, shouldn’t put limits on how you use their product, but many companies do and it’s hurting your productivity and profit.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Is your manufacturing software holding back production?  Photo by www.colourbox.com

Is your manufacturing software holding back production? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

I love coffee.

I’m not a fancy coffee drinker. I don’t need flavorings, whip or soy – just give me a simple dark roast or latte. I used to go to Starbucks (the gold standard in coffee) and pick up 3 or 4 drinks for the office. When I used their rewards program, I once got one “star” for each drink. The stars quickly added up. It made picking up coffee in the afternoon worthwhile.

Then Starbucks changed the program. No longer would I get a star for each drink, but for each transaction. So, to get 3 or 4 stars, I would need to pay for each drink separately. On top of that, the rewards program required I use and “load-up” a gift card to be in the program. I was being rewarded for standing in line, and not for what I purchased or my loyalty to Starbucks.

Today, they’ve limited the “reward” program even more. I earn no more than 2 stars a day, no matter how much coffee I purchase. They are no longer rewarding loyalty, but limiting options and forcing conformity.

Limiting the Options in Shop Floor Software

Software companies, especially manufacturing software suppliers, often impose limits on their product. Just like Starbucks, they present the system as “configurable” and comprehensive, with a wealth of functionality and options. As users dig deeper into the software they slam into arbitrary limits. The vendor isn’t putting the user’s needs first by imposing limits. They are squeezing more profit or future work from the people who use their product.

Here are a few ways suppliers limit your options with their software:

  • Modules: Modules often increase the overall cost of a product and, once installed, limit how you use the software. Consider this – some companies sell data collection as a separate module. How can the company say they sell an MES and NOT offer data collection in the base package? Many of the benefits of MES are dependent on data collection.
  • Form and Templates: Some MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) use elaborate forms and templates to organize production data. Once a form is built (which is easy) users plug in the data. But, any change to your processes will require a change to the forms, which can be costly, if not impossible, making it difficult to adapt to change on the shop floor.
  • High Cost of Installation: Some systems will require millions to design and years to install. By the time the software is in place, the user’s needs and requirements have changed. Rather than call the project a failure, or sign up for another long development period, the users “make it work” by adapting to the software, rather than having a solution that adapts to them.
  • Complexity: The more functionality you cram into a software system, the more complexity you’ll have to navigate to make it work. Adding PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) or an ERP (Enterprise Resource Management) to an MES will make the overall system more difficult to operate, and limit how it can be used in your processes. New MES solutions use a built-in integration tool to connect with an ERP or PLM without adding complexity.
  • Upgrades and Services: Some companies sell software for a lower initial price, planning to make up the difference in upgrades and services. In this model, users will need to balance the high cost of services with limited functionality. In the end, many companies struggle with less-than-optimal software to save money.

The Coffee and MES Connection

Don't let limits in your software hold you back from optimizing the shop floor. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Don’t let limits in your software hold you back from optimizing the shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Like the Starbucks Rewards program, some MES and manufacturing software vendors place limits on how their product is used. In software, these limits may make it impossible to optimize usage, and hinder productivity and limit profit. If you can’t upgrade the solution because the cost is prohibitive, the system is too complex, or you can’t access necessary functionality because it’s in a different module, you’ll never have a solution that operates at maximum efficiency.

Software should support your processes, and it shouldn’t dictate how the shop floor operates. You should have access to the latest software and tools with a clear upgrade path. Training shouldn’t pull users from the shop floor for more than an hour or two.

Just like you should be able to purchase a PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) for friends and know you are being rewarded for your loyalty, you should have a manufacturing software system that works for you.

Want to learn more, or see how an adaptable, scalable solution might work with your shop floor processes? Leave a message or give us a call for a free shop floor analysis. We’re always happy to help.

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2 thoughts on “How Your Choice in Manufacturing Software Might be Holding You Back

  1. Lilyotron

    “Software should support your processes, and it shouldn’t dictate how the shop floor operates” – this is a perfect point. Although, I do think it can be a challenge for MES providers to have their software be flexible enough to cover so many different types of manufacturing industries and plant types.

    Reply
    1. David Oeters Post author

      I completely agree. Providers should keep in mind the benefits of flexibility in a system. Flexibility can increase the overall benefit and significantly lower the TCO. This is also where a consultant or an implementation team can help – matching system functionality to site processes. A pilot program can also help address potential issues before the implementation.

      Reply

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