Tag Archives: ERP

What to do when an ERP vendor wants to be an MES

There is a big difference between an ERP and an MES, as companies using their ERP on the shop floor have discovered.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Every day, we work with manufacturers to make them more productive, and every day we hear stories about Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems trying to replicate an MES. The ERP supplier promises they can replicate the functionality of an MES in their system, offering a single solution for the manufacturers software needs.  Why buy multiple systems when you can get everything in a single purchase?

Trust me – this never turns out well. If you really want to improve and support manufacturing, you need an MES. Manufacturing is one of the most complex processes in business today, and a few features tacked onto an ERP aren’t going to help.

Defining the ERP

3d man in trouble

Can your ERP really support optimized production? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

An ERP is a transactional system.  It can keep track of things – employees, vendors, customers, orders.  An MES is based on workflow and processes, completely different than a transactional system.  If you need to build something then send it to a customer, an ERP can track an order and the payment, but how does a system like that help you plan work, implement changes to the plan, and give you visibility into processes and workflow?

On the shop floor, the ERP can easily keep track of a routing; it’s a thing.  A routing is a list of work centers (things) and it can put those centers into an order. The ERP can list out what you will need to complete the work, and maybe even attach a document or spreadsheet.  That simple listing works perfectly fine in the core mechanics hard-wired functionality of an ERP – leading many to believe there is an MES lurking inside the ERP. Mapping workflow isn’t a natural function within a transactional system.  It can’t tell you where the order is, when it’ll get to the next step, or whether the order will finish on time.  Worst of all, an ERP can’t help you when things go wrong.

Identifying the Gaps in an ERP

And things go wrong on the shop floor.  Parts are missing.  Machines break down.  Operators make mistakes.  The ERP fails you completely when it comes time to adjust workflow or automate processes to mitigate production disruption.

Sure, with custom-built tools, complex integrations and savvy coding, the ERP can be linked to shop floor machines.  A unique screen can be added so operators log in, tracking when work starts.  An ERP offers the illusion of workflow control, but it’s a shiny veneer on shallow functionality.

Most systems like this quickly fail under the pressure of supporting production, and the shop floor is forced to develop homegrown work-arounds. We’ve seen shop floor workers holding dirty plastic folders with the actual work instructions on a supposedly “paperless” shop floor supported by an ERP. It’s even worse with job shop software that uses email as the vehicle – nothing like putting the fate of production in the same tool an email spammer uses!

These systems simply weren’t designed to support workflow processes or the shop floor, and putting in a request for manufacturing functionality with an ERP implementer who doesn’t fully grasp the complexity or requirements of production is setting the whole team up for failure. Having an ERP company go out and buy an MES so they can market itself as an “all-in-one” solution is basically letting the ERP vendor charge more for a solution they don’t really support.

The Benefit of an MES

Only a system built to handle workflow can optimally support manufacturing.  The system has to connect the individual steps in a rhythm that can be redirected, rescheduled or rerun as things change, and it has to minimize complexity.

3d small people with a checklist

What can MES and Paperless Manufacturing do for you? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

If the software has separate modules for Work Instructions, Data Collections and Non-conformance Management (all critical components of a shop floor system), then there isn’t a natural connection between these processes, and it’s likely operations will need to develop “work-arounds” for the missing functionality. When you start connecting modules for processes with other modules for functionality, the complexity grows.

When a company licenses, sells, and implements modules independently, you know it’s either a modular MES (lots of problems and costs there) or an ERP trying to be an MES. The core system doesn’t have the functionality you need.  The modular MES vendor will build it for you; the ERP vendor will try to cobble together some solution to sell you.  Both will fail. Neither will give you the flexibility you need.

Manufacturing has different needs than the front office. You wouldn’t ask Human Resources to use a CNC machine, and the sales team isn’t going to use a dynamic scheduler, so why are you asking Operations to use the same tool as Procurement? If you consider manufacturing the core of your business, the profit driver, shouldn’t you give them a tool designed for their unique needs?

An ERP is great for the front office, but it will never offer the same benefit as an MES for production.

Want to learn more, or see how paperless manufacturing can help you?  Call us and ask questions.  We’re always willing to help.

Manufacturing has different needs than the front office. You wouldn’t ask Human Resources to use a CNC machine, and the sales team isn’t going to use a dynamic scheduler, so why are you asking Operations to use the same tool as Procurement? If you consider manufacturing the core of your business, the profit driver, shouldn’t you give them a tool designed for their unique needs?

An ERP is great for the front office, but it will never offer the same benefit as an MES for production.

Want to learn more, or see how paperless manufacturing can help you?  Call us and ask questions.  We’re always willing to help.

How to Find an MES Solution You Can Trust

Don’t be “wowed” by software solutions that aren’t addressing the challenges facing your shop floor. Learn how you can find the solution that’s right for you.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Don't be fooled by manufacturing software with fancy packaging. Look for a product that addresses your core requirements to build an ROI.

Don’t be fooled by manufacturing software with fancy packaging. Look for a product that addresses your core requirements to build an ROI.

Ever watch late night TV or infomercials for the latest inventions offered to the unsuspecting public?

Consider the Flowbee hair cutter system. For just $79.99 (or $114.90 with the Super Mini Vac), you can have a razor attached to a vacuum cleaner that will safely cut your hair to any length between ½” to 6”. For that low-low price, you’ll never have to go to a barber or hair stylist!  Is it worth it? Apparently, many think so…

How about cola-flavored wine? Ever heard of pet-dating services?  Infomercials are full of products offering questionable value.

I’m not arguing there isn’t a market for the Flowbee.  As funny as it may seem, many (especially parents) love their Flowbee. Unfortunately, I believe these products are sold more for the “wow” factor than actual functionality, leading to a sharp pang of buyer’s remorse once the product arrives.

The WOW Factor in MES purchases

The wow factor is alive and well in the software industry. Some MES customers feel the same buyer’s remorse once their system is installed. Our industry is filled with products sold for the “wow” factor, not actual manufacturing solutions.

This is why many demos feature a “similar” product without actually showing your work instructions. Vendors sell functionality that isn’t even in the product yet. Many MES vendors make promises their software developers aren’t ready to fulfill. Once it comes time to implement, new code has to be written. A simple project explodes with service costs and an expanding implementation schedule. As the vendor struggles to fulfill contractual obligations and promises, your shop floor suffers.

Companies quickly discover the buyer’s remorse, similar to the oenophile (wine connoisseur) who discovers coca cola and wine don’t mix.

Seeing Past the WOW Factor

When selecting an MES or paperless manufacturing solution, start with a focused project requirement list.  If your list is pages and pages long, you’re setting your project up for failure.  Focus on those requirements and your shop floor challenges, not the wow factors vendors offer to finalize a sale.  Consider this:

  • Modules do not make a better software product, and more modules do not make an even better solution. In fact, each one of those modules will require an integration and some customization, which can quickly add up to a more complex, and expensive, system.
  • Offering a bazillion versions of the same product doesn’t mean the one you finally select is any better than other solutions, or other versions of that software. The core software isn’t likely to change, no matter how many different names you slap on it.
  • Counting the number of KPI reports on your super-cool dashboard should not be a core criteria for your software selection. Reports are easy to design and write. A scalable, functional solution designed to improve production is more important.
  • An ERP is different from a PLM, which is different from an MES. Each serves a unique function in the production process, and anyone selling you an “integrated” solution has either bundled three different software products together so they look the same, or is offering you a less-than optimal solution for each.

Building Trust in your Vendor

The success of any MES project is determined by how well the software solves production challenges.  Illustration by www.colourbox.com

The success of any MES project is determined by how well the software solves production challenges. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Your requirement list may change as you begin selecting and down-selecting vendors, but the core challenges facing production won’t change. Features and function that don’t address those core challenges should not be a key factor in your selection.

Look for a vendor you can trust. As counter-intuitive as it may sound, you need a vendor willing to tell you both the good and the bad.  Any vendor who isn’t willing to say “no” when it’s necessary doesn’t see your business as a long-term partner, just another commission.

Don’t be dazzled by the Flowbee of software solutions. Make sure you have a solution and vendor you can trust. Want to know more, or see how paperless manufacturing might benefit your shop floor? Give us a call and let us see what we can do for you.

Is Your Shop Floor Hammering to Make It Fit?

Most manufacturers know quality and efficiency would suffer if they asked their shop floor to use the wrong tool, but all too often that’s what happens when a shop floor uses an ERP to do the work of an MES.

By Kristin McLane

Do you hammer to fit your shop floor operations? Clip art by Microsoft.

Do you hammer to fit your shop floor operations? Clip art by Microsoft.

Hammer to fit.  It’s a term we use at CIMx to talk about the inevitable moment in manufacturing when you realize your sub-assemblies don’t fit properly, or a part is a little bit off.  Many times, the solution is to tap, bang, press, cajole or weasel the part back into place.  It’s not a best practice, and I’m sure no credible manufacturing expert ever proudly claimed to be the best at “hammering it in place.”  But, if you’ve ever been on a manufacturing shop floor, you know there’s not a lot of time to stand around (or at least there shouldn’t be).  Many times you do what you can to keep the process moving, but hammer to fit is NOT the optimal manufacturing process.

Here’s the point… in the low tolerance, highly-engineered world of discrete manufacturing… or, to be honest, all manufacturing today, I don’t think anyone ever wrote “hammer to fit” in the work instructions.  There is always a solution for making the parts fit and the customer wouldn’t accept something that was done any other way.

In fact, many times there isn’t even a hammer available on the shop floor.  A hammer is the least seen tool in the tool crib.  I’ve seen drills, saws, all kinds of tools that attach or separate objects, but rarely have I ever seen a hammer.  So if we don’t really hammer parts to fit them together (really – most times we take it apart and make it right), then why do many of us try to make our supporting tools – such as software, applications and processes – do things they weren’t built for?  Using the wrong tool for shop floor control and visibility is like writing “hammer to fit” in your work instruction and expecting efficient operation and quality results.

Make sure your shop floor has the right tools for success. Illustration from www.colourbox.com

Make sure your shop floor has the right tools for success. Illustration from http://www.colourbox.com

We’ve been banging on the topic of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) versus MES (Manufacturing Execution System) for a while now.  We started a dialogue on why you need both – and you do – and what each system does.  An ERP system, naturally or through the use of add-on functions, simply cannot do what an MES does. It’s not built to deliver the process control or visibility the shop floor needs.

If you need to track, bill, order, sell or report on something, use your ERP.  But if you need to build, use an MES.  Simply put, the MES builds things while the ERP tracks.  Trying to use one system to do the work of the other is using a tool to do a job it wasn’t meant to do.  You can make it look like it fits, but the solution isn’t efficient and it won’t last, won’t perform, it’s probably costing you money, and it most certainly isn’t supporting your shop floor the way you need it to.

If you need an ERP, there are lots of vendors out there that provide the window into your data an ERP gives you.  If you need shop floor and process control and information management, then use an MES.  Talk to us, we’re happy to help.  Visit us at www.cimx.com.

Overcoming Invisible Stop Signs Holding Your Shop Floor Back

An MES and an ERP are very different systems, and if you don’t understand the role each play, you may be hurting your shop floor.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

We’ve gotten a lot of feedback recently on our discussion of the differences between MES and ERP.  Obviously there is a real need for information out there, and some confusion on the topic.

You may not know it, but if you use the wrong shop floor solution, you may be holding your production back.  Image by www.colourbox.com

You may not know it, but if you use the wrong shop floor solution, you may be holding your production back. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

The confusion is understandable.  A quick search online reveals little information on why it is important for manufacturers to have both systems.  ERP vendors focus on why an ERP is important, and MES vendors focus on their shop floor capability.  Many ERP vendors even market MES offerings or modules.  It is easy to believe an ERP can do it all, leading many manufacturers to struggle with a less than optimal system.

But, as we have said, the ERP and MES play different roles and use different structures.  The ERP is a transactional system.  It logs transactions, one at a time, and creates an ordered system for filing and retrieving the information.  An ERP will use the information to analyze patterns and trends – data tools focused on historical information.

Since the ERP is focused on collecting and analyzing historical data, it’s not designed to process a flow of information.  It sees data points, not operations.  Data points work great in finance, and are necessary for invoices, bills, payments, customers, and other transaction-driven business functions typically handled by the ERP.

The shop floor isn’t transaction-driven, it’s process-driven with a focus on completion of work, not just collecting and organizing information.  Information on the shop floor could include formulas, engineering drawings, safety precautions, quality metrics –process-driven information.  Many of these are inherently if/then processes, which cannot be handled effectively by a transactional system.

For example, think of a non-conformance on the shop floor.  In a transactional system, data would be logged and organized.  In a process-driven system, the information would be logged, and a next step in the process would be activated (if X happens, then Y).  It is an important difference.  An MES offers a clear advantage over an ERP in this case.

Is your ERP designed as a transaction-based system, or for workflow control?  Image by www.colourbox.com

Is your ERP designed as a transaction-based system, or for workflow control? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Here’s another way of thinking about it.  The ERP works like a stop sign on the road.  When a transaction happens, data is entered into the system.  No further action can occur until the data is in the system.  As data is entered, the next car (data) waits until the preceding one is complete.  Think of an invoice.  It enters the system, and until it is entered no payment can go out or funds be collected.  This is an efficient system for invoicing, but the stop sign, starting and stopping will slow shop floor work, and become detrimental to productivity.

An MES and paperless manufacturing work more like a traffic circle or roundabout.  Shop floor work should move at a steady, continuous pace.  The roundabout will manage traffic and movement.    Progress is managed, visible, continual and controlled.

Don't sacrifice productivity and quality with the wrong workflow control system in place.

Don’t sacrifice productivity and quality with the wrong workflow control system in place.

Shop floor processes operate the same way.  Work progresses evenly throughout the day and across the floor, with the MES not only collecting data and marking progress, but driving and controlling it.  Different groups or individuals may need to come together to work on a specific process.  Work will speed up or slow down naturally as the work orders come in and are filled.  The MES will manage the process.  It continually provides directions for each step, one at a time and as a whole.

Stop signs are a detriment to progress, and are the least efficient way of moving processes and work.  They may keep things from running into each other, but they aren’t going to increase productivity.  An ERP is designed to manage, record and analyze business processes, while an MES is designed to boost productivity, deliver shop floor visibility and manage shop floor processes.

Any ERP that promises to do both is either fooling you, selling you two individual systems, or not fulfilling either role effectively.

How Do You Steer the Shop Floor? The Difference Between MES and ERP

Struggling to understand how an MES and Paperless Manufacturing will help your shop floor?  Look no further than a parking lot for an easy-to-understand answer.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

We often turn to the familiar for help explaining the unfamiliar.  This is why we often use the line, “It tastes like chicken,” when struggling to describe a new food.  We know chicken, and it creates a comfortable, easily relatable connection.

Who is driving your shop floor?  Photo by www.colourbox.com

Who is driving your shop floor? Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

This may be why so many of us see an ERP and MES system as interchangeable, never seeing the critical difference between the two.  An ERP is familiar.  We understand ERP – accounting, payroll, billing and records.  MES is the shop floor, the heart of manufacturing that can be a confusing hurricane of machines, tools, processes and materials.  We turn to the familiar and make a connection (maybe even sub-consciously) between ERP and MES.  The roles and systems become mixed in our mind.

But it doesn’t work that way, and trying to force an ERP to do the work of an MES usually has a negative impact on your business.  I’m going to take a different approach this time, and turn to the familiar to explain the difference…

Think of your manufacturing business as a car.

An ERP works like the windows and mirrors on your car.  It offers a convenient way to view, track and plan your business.  With an ERP (or a rear view mirror) you can track where you have been.  You use the windshield to see where you are going.  Look out another window to see where you are.  Orders come in, money goes out, old employees retire and new ones arrive as you track customer data, create invoices, look at expenses and more.

But a car, and your business, isn’t just windows and mirrors.  You need an engine to move the car, and a way to guide and control the engine.  An MES is the dashboard and GPS of your organization, giving visibility and control of the engine, the shop floor and manufacturing, to you.

With a good dashboard and GPS, you have the directions and maps (visuals) to where you need to go.  You have a wheel, gas pedal, brake and more to give you control over the engine.  You can track progress and receive warnings when something goes wrong.  By organizing and transmitting work instructions digitally, collecting shop floor data, tracking quality, and controlling production, you control the heart of your operation.

Pushing a car is like running a shop floor without MES - You could do it, but there is a much better way. Photo by www.colourbox.com

Pushing a car is like running a shop floor without MES – You could do it, but there is a much better way. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

Sure, you might be able to find the local mall without a map, and if you point the car VERY carefully, you may never need to turn the wheel, but life is much easier with a good dashboard, GPS, and a car you can steer.  An MES delivers the drawings, blueprints, details, inspections, directions and other information you need to build your product.  It doesn’t just hand it to you in a heap.  It organizes it, just like a GPS or dashboard.  It provides turn-by-turn assistance, then tracks real-time data during production and gives you control of the process.

When you run into an issue (and who doesn’t on the shop floor), an MES can help.  A GPS offers advice on avoiding construction and adjusts the arrival time based on your current speed.  An MES provides workarounds for production problems, re-routes work around machines not functioning, and gives you real-time access to product ship times.  To put it simply… windows don’t give you that level of control.

And just like a car, I wouldn’t want to drive (or ride in) a car with no windows.  It’s not pleasant to travel with no idea of where you are going or where you’ve been.  I’m also much happier driving with my GPS and a reliable dashboard giving me visibility and control over the engine, direction and speed of the car.

Make sense?

When asked, “What is MES?” I’ve heard people start quoting ANSI/ISA-95 standards, or listing system functions and features, but it’s not until I imagined riding in a runaway shop floor (or a fast-moving car) with no brake or steering wheel did I realize how critical MES was for a manufacturing operation.

How to Get the Paperless Manufacturing System You Want

There are numerous options for companies researching MES and paperless manufacturing, we take a close look and evaluate two of those options.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications at CIMx Software

Ensure your paperless manufacturing solution solves problems, and doesn't create them. Photo by www.colourbox.com

Ensure your paperless manufacturing solution solves problems, and doesn’t create them. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

It is much more difficult to build a car than buy one.  So, even though I’m annoyed by side view mirror controls that dig into my wrist, and I bang my head when I put my daughter in the car seat, I won’t re-engineer the work involved in current car designs to build my own (even though a robot vacuum to clean up after the kids is simply brilliant).

Build versus buy is not only a question in cars, but also MES and paperless manufacturing.  As businesses research the benefits to production, quality, and data collection found in paperless manufacturing, each must decide whether to build their own system, or buy from a vendor.  There are advantages and disadvantages to each option.  For this blog, we’ll look at points to consider as you make your own evaluation.

Design

The ability to design a paperless manufacturing system and control the final product is often the primary reason a company will build rather than buy.  Every manufacturer is different, with different processes and unique needs.  Incorporating internal processes and needs at the beginning of development helps ensure a better product.

Ensure your paperless manufacturing project isn't one best left to the experts. Photo by www.colourbox.com

Ensure your paperless manufacturing project isn’t one best left to the experts. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

To successfully build your own system, you must understand those processes and needs before you begin.  Determining the system requirements can take 2 months or more, and requires significant input from the manufacturing team (pulling them from the shop floor), and management.  You should also assume some slippage in the project timeline.  No matter how much planning is done, you can’t plan for everything once the code begins flowing.

Any items not included from the initial system requirements will exponentially increase the cost in time and resources for the project.  You also need to consider that every requirement you identify for the system will add to the cost.  If you have the stomach for the time and money it will take to complete the system, you’ll have the system you want.

Making changes to a system you bought can also be costly.  A risk companies run into is creating a “custom” system that will be more difficult to support.  When purchasing, make sure to do your research and ask for demos using your current work instructions to see how the installed system will work on your shop floor.

Implementation

Implementation involves taking the initial design and writing code for it, then installing it on the shop floor.

A system built internally begins with the 2+ months to determine the system requirements before programming and development begins.  In addition to programmers, the project requires an expert in User Interface to eliminate unnecessary complexity, and a Data Base Administrator (DBA).  Specifications will also affect the final cost of the system.  Consider the database and platform, and plan for a product that will work not only now, but in the future for your business.

There are ways to lower cost, such as removing functionality, minimizing testing, or utilizing internal resources, but there are costs associated with these measures, and could affect the long term viability of the system.  Evaluate the return and cost for each decision before making choices you may regret.

System integration is another point to consider.  Manufacturers and businesses use a number of different software systems and databases.  Ensuring those systems work together smoothly is often overlooked in planning. 

How much risk and cost can your business manage for a paperless manufacturing .

How much risk and cost can your business manage for a paperless manufacturing .

Purchased systems offer a much lower cost for implementation.  Today, there are paperless manufacturing systems that can be installed and integrated in less than two weeks with no disruption of shop floor processes.  However, you will not have the design control you have in a built system.

Configuring, adapting, and integrating the system can take longer.  Also, beware of systems that require that your shop floor processes adapt to the software, which can significantly increase implementation.  Look for MES or paperless manufacturing systems which can reuse your existing work instructions and processes to reduce implementation time and training.

Reliability

A paperless manufacturing system is only useful if it is up, running, and secure.  The long-term reliability and maintainability of the system must be considered in planning.

Every system requires maintenance and upkeep, especially in an industry such as manufacturing where changes in technology and processes are common.

Evaluate the ROI of a home built MES, then work with a software provider to go over the ROI for their system. Photo by www.colourbox.com

Evaluate the ROI of a home built MES, then work with a software provider to go over the ROI for their system. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

With a system built internally, evaluate how much time and resources you will assign to the maintenance.  Will you have access to the team that originally built the software?  They are best positioned to maintain the system.  How will you handle bugs?  How much time in testing, both integration and regression testing, will you accept to repair bugs and flaws in the system.  If you see maintainability as a low priority, are you and your team willing to accept temporary patches, flaws, and workarounds in addition to a slow slide toward software obsolescence?  Is there a plan to upgrade the system? Considering these issues early in the planning process will help eliminate future surprises, and determine the lifetime cost of the system.  

The truth is, many businesses significantly underestimate the resources necessary to successfully maintain a system.  Most times they won’t intentionally underestimate to work required for maintenance, but once they better understand the requirements, they’ll be forced to make sacrifices and the solution will no longer be optimized.

Almost all home built software become “legacy” once the project is complete.  If the team that built the system isn’t on staff, the product cannot be tested and is therefore legacy software.  Future modifications will be exponentially more expensive.

Reliability and support for a purchased system will depend on the vendor supplying the software.  Many vendors offer an inexpensive system initially, and then charge higher fees for service and maintenance.  For example, a consultant will often install a base system very quickly, and then require further services to ensure the system works as promised. 

Look at the product support before making a purchase.  A system with a large support staff will expect customers to help pay for the staff through service charges.  Are there fees for upgrades or patches?  How is the product maintained? 

Many software systems require a license fee, which often includes product support.  Most purchased systems have been installed and used countless times, which can be seen as continual product testing, ensuring a more reliable and error free platform.  The total cost of the software and maintainability is shared by all the customers. 

Reliability in the system helps build the ROI, so take time to make an informed decision.

______________________

As you evaluate paperless manufacturing options, keep in mind a company specializing in manufacturing software systems rely on years of expertise in both manufacturing and software development. They will be marketing the product for years, and will continue maintenance and testing, to ensure the system works.

Choices and options.

Take a close look at the resource requirements necessary for maintainability. Photo from http://www.colourbox.com.

But, building a system internally allows a level of customization and control a purchased system can’t match.  Your evaluation comes down to a simple question – is the benefit of increased customization and control (or other motives driving you toward the solution) worth the increased cost in time, resources, and risk?  Look at not just the initial product, but the long-term investment.  Have a plan in place for continuing to maintain the system and ensuring the design of the system isn’t trapped in an information silo.

There is also risk and cost in purchasing a system.  Some vendors sell systems that aren’t well maintained or supported, or have hidden costs.  paperless manufacturing in the Cloud has associated risks.  You may not have all the functionality you wanted with the system, since it wasn’t designed internally, but you benefit from lower cost and lower risk for your shop floor.

There are advantages and disadvantages to building and purchasing an MES or paperless manufacturing system, and each company must evaluate the options with internal criteria before making a decision.  When building a system, you can get what you want if you are willing to spend the money and resources necessary, and you can mitigate the risk of potential failure.  You also need to be aware that a paperless manufacturing system is not a “one and done” project. It requires ongoing maintenance to continue to meet the needs of your business.

Success requires willingness to pay, a stomach for risk, and a devotion to maintainability. Which is why my brilliant robot vacuum is still a dream, and there are still crumbs in the backseat of my car.

As Seen On TV® on Your Shop Floor

Here’s how you can cut through the false promises and empty guarantees to find a software provider you can trust.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

It’s amazing the things you can discover on late night TV or on the Web.  Have you ever heard of the Pocket Hose, Foamazing or Wraptastic?  As Seen on TV is a cornucopia of the latest “inventions” – items you just can’t live without.  Where else can you find “Call Now!” favorites like the Wax Vac, the Perfect Pancake Pan or Miracle Socks?

The future is shaped by current innovation, including As Seen on TV innovation. Photo by www.colourbox.com

The future is shaped by current innovation, including As Seen on TV innovation. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

I’m not an As Seen on TV expert.  I’ve never been interested in Bluetooth Sunglasses, and since I can cut a hotdog into pieces without help, you won’t find a Dog Dicer in my drawer.  I am interested, and suspicious, about their claims.  Spend a few minutes with As Seen on TV, and you’ll be promised a solution to every ailment, a brighter future, Utopia and more.  But, somehow I don’t think Wraptastic will help my abhorrence of cling wrap (can YOU get it to work?)  Even though it “makes food wrapping super easy,” and “cuts perfectly every time so there’s no waste,” I don’t believe it’s the solution for me.

So what do Wax Vacs, Foamazing, and As Seen on TV have to do with your shop floor?

Recently, CIMx Software turned 17 years old.  In 17 years, we’ve seen software businesses come and go.  Competitors have dropped like flies, either through lack of leadership during lean times, or getting swallowed by large PLM or ERP vendors.  (On a side note – these mergers, historically, have not gone well.  Companies rarely merge seamlessly, and it’s the customers who pay.)

How do you build trust in your customers? Can you trust the vendors you work with? Photo credit www.colourbox.com

How do you build trust in your customers? Can you trust the vendors you work with? Photo credit http://www.colourbox.com

Our customers are the key to our success.  A lot of people put their faith in us over the years.  They trusted us enough to invest.  Our products have become integral to their operations.  We respect their trust and work hard to earn it.  While we provide a guarantee for scope, time and dollars for a project, I know guarantees in the software business are much like guarantees on As Seen on TV.  Building trust with customers isn’t done through guarantees, ads, or promises.

We’re not selling the Groutinator or Magic Mesh (yes, these are real products offering fabulous promises).  We know Lean and Paperless manufacturing.  We know process control, mobile manufacturing, and software.  We’ve rescued customers from the broken promises of others, where months later they were still trying to get the paperless manufacturing or MES functionality they were promised.  (Here’s a tip from an industry veteran – look at the relative size of an implementation staff to determine if a company is software- or services-related.  A services company will have a larger staff and require more services. The work they do will be costly to support.)

While we deliver on our promises of budget, time and scope, it’s hard to make these claims in today’s skeptical world trained to sniff out falsehood.  So how do we build trust with our customers?

Take time with the vendors you work with.  It will be time well spent.  Photo by www.colourbox.com

Taking the time to build trust will be time well spent. Photo by http://www.colourbox.com

In today’s ad-weary world, building trust is about understanding the culture of a company, meeting people and giving and receiving honest answers.  Exclamation marks and a flashy website are irrelevant to your project’s success.  17 years is a long time in the software business.  We thrived where many of our competitors failed because we truly love what we’re doing.  We enjoy solving manufacturing problems.  Technology, innovation, and mobile manufacturing are thrilling.  When you call us, you reach someone who works for CIMx, not an answering service, and we’re excited to answer your questions! (… and that is the ONLY exclamation point you’ll see from me in this blog…).  The guarantees we offer aren’t hard to make because we won’t make promises we can’t keep.  We offer a product that works, and we’re proud of what we do.

Maybe that’s a little old fashioned, and it may not have the panache of a Dog Dicer, Groutinator, or Wraptastic, but it’s the truth.  This is the edge we offer over our competitors, and it is what separates CIMx from the competition.  Want to know more?  Give us a call.  I can’t guarantee a solution to all your problems, but I can promise an honest answer from someone who’s happy to help.