By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software
We regularly review the manufacturing software market. Last year, we were twice caught off-guard by references to the “death of Manufacturing Execution Software” (MES) by both a major analyst firm and a competitor.
Manufacturing software isn’t dying. With the changes to our industry, the growth of technology, and the need for companies to better manage resources and production, there has never been more need for strong software tools to support production. Paper, a modified spreadsheet, or an ERP modified with some shop floor functionality, simply can’t provide the capability manufacturers need. There is no magic bullet, super-system to solve all your enterprise problems and replace manufacturing software. Predicting the “death of MES” flies directly in the face of what we see every day.
The Premature Demise of Manufacturing Software
In the first case, an analyst predicted MES vendors would need to specialize to survive the next 5 – 10 years. I agreed whole-heartedly with this analysis; manufacturing systems do need to adapt. The era of the 200+ MES vendors that do it all is over. Technology is so prevalent with apps and devices everywhere, there’s no way a general, “everything to everybody” system can thrive. His solution, however, was an incredibly and wildly expensive master system that utilized every hot button technology analysts obsess over.
When I read similar content from a competitor, I thought back to the analyst’s prediction. The thing they had in common, however, wasn’t the prognostication. It was their blindness to more than 90 percent of the manufacturing market – firms that don’t make the Fortune 50. Each was looking at the market of multi-million dollar software implementations with automation, IIoT and BA that only the fewest manufacturing companies can consider.
This doesn’t mean MES is dying. Manufacturing software for the rest of the industry is adapting, better utilizing technology to improve both functionality and efficiency.
Years ago, we started talking about Paperless Manufacturing as a focus long before others picked it up. We wanted to empower manufacturers to improve productivity and quality, eliminating compliance issues by eliminating error-prone and inefficient paper on the shop floor with a system and software tools that are easy-to-use and quick to implement out of the box. Now everyone seems to be talking about paperless manufacturing (which isn’t another way of saying MES is dying).
Many analysts and major software providers focus on only the very largest manufacturers in the world, completely ignoring the largest segment of the market. They both offer solutions for only the largest companies. Their position makes sense for those companies, but I struggle when they use that perspective to move the needle without considering the entire market. It’s no wonder a majority of manufacturers struggle to find software designed for them, or believe manufacturing software is going to bankrupt their business.
Manufacturing Software Solutions for the Market
I don’t understand these analysts and massive software providers refusal to see the manufacturing world below $1 billion. For these companies, there is no Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), no Smart Connected Assets, no Factory-Automated shop floor in the works. These hard-working manufacturers need immediate, focused and sustainable help to survive the current challenges of global competition, worker shortages and a lack of interest among new workers for manufacturing. Predictive analytics is fun to read about, but it’s not going to get the next order out the door.
The good news is there are systems and software solutions designed for these companies. With modern technology, there’s no reason why all manufacturers can’t support their production operations with software. The right system can save money, improve production and quality, and get orders out the door. Manufacturers and a production operations team shouldn’t have to struggle with inefficiency.
There are even software systems that can be installed and help improve production and efficiency this year (not all can, so be sure to understand the service and ask for qualifications and guarantees). The law of averages tells me that for every US $10 million in revenue you have on the top line, you can conservatively spend between US $35,000 and $50,000 on a system. That’s more than enough to move from inefficient paper to paperless manufacturing and all the benefits it brings.
You will need to create a short, focused list of requirements; some vendors can even help you with that. Here are a few things to watch out for as you start researching the market:
- Template-based systems (fill in the boxes or blanks) work well only for those companies that have consistent, never-failing production. These are useful in automated settings where input is minimal and variation is seldom.
- Services-to-install are an area that some vendors will underbid on. Ask for a fixed-bid to complete the work, a guarantee of deliverables and make sure the vendor offers a very strong complaint process.
- Upgrades must be included in annual support. Always buy the annual support to ensure you can upgrade. New functionality will keep your production operations modern and focused.
- Be knowledgeable about the vendor’s support practices before you sign on the dotted line. Ask how they support customers and call the support line before you purchase to see how you are treated. Their handling of issues will be fairly consistent throughout your tenure with them.
Make 2017 the year you start doing something to improve your competitiveness, profitability and quality.
If you don’t know how to take the first steps, reach out to us at CIMx Software. Our goal is to provide our manufacturing software to as many companies with a real need as we can, and we’re offering programs right now that can immediately accelerate your research and get you started. We can help you assess your needs with a Shop Floor Analysis, a market review and other helpful tools.
Want to know more? Contact CIMx today, we’re happy to help.