Tag Archives: manufacturing support

Good Samaritans, Guarantees and Paperless Manufacturing

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

The core of customer service in manufacturing software is ensuring the system works as promised. By focusing on the sale, many companies lose sight of customer service.

We never really think about customer service unless there’s a problem. It’s too bad, because manufacturing software suppliers are missing out on an opportunity…

I realized this when I lost my FitBit. I was on a bike trail near my house when my FitBit fell out of my pocket.  This was no fault of the device – I put it in my pocket to count steps as I rode, and ended up losing it on the side of the trail.

There wasn’t much I could do but mourn my lost fitness partner. It motivated me to get up from my desk and take extra steps.

Amazingly, a few days later FitBit let me know a Good Samaritan found my lost device and mailed it back to the company, asking if they could locate the owner – me.  And they did!

But the remarkable story doesn’t end there.  Fitbit began testing the watch before they sent it back and discovered it wasn’t working.  It seems humidity or weather caused a problem, so FitBit provided a newly-refurbished model to me at absolutely no cost… not a single dollar!

That level of customer service caught my eye.  How could CIMx make customer service a focus?

Focusing on the Customer Experience

For CIMx, Customer Service starts with the sales process.  Our goal is to solve problems, and not just sell software.

Computer devices around 3d small person.

Fake product demonstrations create confusion for many manufacturers. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Many manufacturers are confused by industry-speak and fake product demonstrations offered by other suppliers.  To demonstrate functionality, some suppliers show a video or use software more like a video game than a manufacturing system.  They have to, because they’ll need months of service work and “configuration” to get their product to match your specifications and expectations.

Consider it the shiny video gloss on an ugly system.  There is a core software product there, but it’s not ready for public consumption until they sell you configuration services.  This leads to confusion when the product delivered is nothing like the system at the demonstration.

The savvy prospect knows this.  We often hear we are the only vendor to show a live product demonstration – planned paths and paths driven by real-time questions.  We recently spent 5 hours going through product questions on a live system.  The prospect told us they had never seen a live manufacturing system until that day.  How many times have you seen a multi-hour software presentation built around live Q&A without a single product failure?  We are proud of what our software can do.

We know manufacturing, software, MES and Paperless Manufacturing. When you work with us, you aren’t talking to just another salesperson, but an expert in the field.  We spend time answering questions and educating prospects because we know how frustrating it can be working with a company so focused on the sale they only tell you what you want to hear.

To be honest, there were times in the past where we focused so much on educating we lost a sale.  These days, we’re still known for our consultative approach.  No, we are not consultants, but we play the role because we know manufacturing and technology so well, in addition to offering an amazing software system.  Consultants are paid for their time.

We help manufacturers navigate the confusing (and potentially frustrating) process.  We help them understand what they really need, and how to avoid pitfalls that could destroy any potential ROI or benefit of a system.

A Guarantee for Paperless Manufacturing

We also guarantee both our products AND our services.  Let me say that again.  We provide insurance for you that what you buy is what you get.  We were the first and still the only company I know in our industry that even comes close to this offer.  When we put a proposal together, we stand behind it.  We will deliver on-time 100% of the time.  We will deliver 100% of what we promise.

To me, that’s the core of exceptional customer service. When you purchase a product, you are investing resources and taking on risk the product may fail, or not meet your needs. Without offering a guarantee like that, the supplier is putting all the risk on you. They are being a salesperson and not a partner.

In my mind, FitBit embodies this concept of customer service.  They promised to be my partner in physical fitness.  And in helping me even when I failed (and lost my Fitbit), they went above and beyond in that promise.  They helped me even when I couldn’t help myself.

I’ll be a FitBit customer for life.

Being a partner in manufacturing and technology is our goal with every customer and prospect interaction, helping create CIMx customers for life.

Want to learn more, or talk to an expert about your manufacturing needs?  Contact CIMx today for a free shop floor analysis and see what paperless manufacturing can do for you.

The Curious State of the MES Industry

Manufacturers shouldn’t expect MES projects to be late and over-budget, but many do. They should expect exceptional customer service and successful data migration, but that’s not what many suppliers offer.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Recently, I was in a Verizon store trying to transfer information from my old phone to a new device.  This is not rocket science.  We should know – our software has helped put the space shuttles, the Delta Rocket, commercial aircraft and satellites into the air.

This is a simple data transfer, moving my applications, names, numbers and other information from an old device to a newer, smoother, faster device.  After a few minutes in the store, I began to doubt Verizon could finish the job.  Could I still use the new phone without my data?  Of course – I could also start over and just copy what I needed, one application or contact at a time, but I didn’t want to.

Computer devices around 3d small person.

Working with an MES supplier shouldn’t be confusing or frustrating. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

I know how easy the migration should be, because we’ve spent a lot of time, energy and brainpower working with data.  Last year, we introduced a new product offering that transfers data from any platform to any other platform.  We are using it to migrate, move and repair all kinds of data, including embedded data links and legacy databases that haven’t been updated for decades.

So why can’t Verizon move a few apps and files?  From what I can tell – they don’t want to.  They don’t feel it’s worth their time.  It’s an expensive use of their resources in an industry with consumers who have come to accept crappy customer service. For them, there is no value in offering the service.

And that’s when I started to think about the MES industry.

MES Suppliers versus Manufacturers

In 20 years in this business, I’ve never met a manufacturer that doesn’t have existing data they need to move to a new system.  Whether they have 20 years of data, or just 30 months, they need access in order to continue work. As a computer system ages, slowly drifting into obsolescence, access becomes difficult and the system starts holding back production.

Once they see the problem; most companies do nothing right away.  They take time (lots of it) to get everyone together to discuss what they need in their new system.  Prospects end up with requirements that read like a wish list for Santa.  Last year, we had a prospect tell us they had created a “very modest” list of requirements.  They wanted a quick ROI and were tightly controlling the project asks.  The sheet they sent had close to 250 line items (which make me wonder what the “not-modest” requirement list looked like).

Efficient Manufacturing

Are you letting MES expectations hold your project back? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

This has become an industry standard because, much like the ill-fated and poorly equipped smart phone service providers, people have come to expect expensive, overly complex and mostly late projects from the software suppliers in our industry.  They believe an incredibly long and maddeningly-detailed requirement list is a necessity to play the game.  Suppliers are happy to play along, especially since most providers can’t deliver a project on-time or on-budget.

It’s true.  We constantly hear horror stories of projects gone wrong – delivered, but phenomenally over-budget, with functionality missing and a system that leaves the users disappointed.

When working with MES providers, companies create a huge list of asks to help protect themselves and their project.  If they’re going to jump in and spend the time and the money, they figure they need to get the bang for the buck.  Plus, if the project is going to under-deliver, the customer assumes it is better to fill up the requirements.

A Better Way to Manage MES Projects

Bigger projects don’t mean better results.  More service charges won’t deliver more effective software.  Adding another report or another piece of esoteric functionality isn’t going to protect you from failure (in fact, it will add to the complexity, which is never a good idea).  A brand-name (large provider) also does not guarantee success; the delivery may eventually come, but long after your needs have changed.

3d small people with a checklist

Work collaboratively with your MES supplier, and expect them to work collaboratively with you. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Back to Verizon, who broadcast on commercials non-stop how they’re the largest this, the best that.  Offering the largest data network in the world doesn’t do anything if you force the customer to move information from one phone to another.  All that network power does me no good if I can’t access my contacts.  They are making their product less accessible.

Eventually, I did solve the problem on my own.  Shortly after leaving the store, thoroughly disgusted with the time wasted, the service (lacking) and the attitude (the 20-something Verizon rep cited her years in the industry as proof she could get the job done – before she totally failed at it), I was able to move my applications over.  Today, my phone and I are operating smoothly, despite any help from the supplier.

It’s true… the promise of a better network doesn’t mean better customer service. Similarly, the promise of a more expensive and complex MES does not mean a better system or improved production.

Take the time to work with the MES supplier to understand your needs and develop a project plan and requirement list. Together, you can design a project that benefits production, rather than setting everyone up for failure. Develop trust with the supplier and work collaboratively. Want to see what working collaboratively can do for you?  Ask for a shop floor analysis – it’s the first step toward seeing how an MES can benefit you.

Honestly, not every MES supplier can work like this. The focus on massive, overly complex projects using software developed decades ago is so embedded in our industry; some companies see project overruns and missed deadlines as the cost of doing business.  The supplier relies on those expectations and the customer cringes and comes to expect it… which is too bad, because it shouldn’t be that way.

So as not to leave you thoroughly discouraged, there are vendors who do what they say, and companies who believe the status quo isn’t good enough.  We offer written guarantees on price, project and timeline, and we don’t overpromise just to get a sale.  I don’t know another provider that’s out there that does what we do, but surely we can’t be the only one in the industry who provides projects on-time and on-budget?

In the meantime, I’m still looking for an honest telecommunications company who can manage a simple migration between phones.  Let me know if you find anyone.