Tag Archives: MES implementation

Manufacturer’s Guide to Software Implementation

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

In a recent survey, Automation World and ARC Advisory found that MES systems were critical to compliance, cost reduction and profitability. They go on to talk about the importance of implementation. While that seems obvious, implementation is sometimes the last thing that prospects talk to us about. Implementation should be discussed early in the vendor selection process as it may be the single most over-looked and critical project requirement.

A Close Look at Manufacturing Software Implementation

Implementation can drive quick returns or bury you in cost. Ask questions of your potential vendors to assess their product approach. Consider how the product structure will affect implementation.

In building a software tool for your shop floor, you have to consider what you will build after you finish it. Why? Because it determines how you actually structure the tool. Let’s break this down a little further and see what it all means.

Software can be a single platform with a single login or a series of smaller products (modules, nodes, apps) tied together. If your software vendor uses or refers to the use of “implementers,” they use the second approach. The sales pitch for a module-based platform is you don’t have to pay for what you don’t use. That is true in the licensing, but my experience tells me the services are so much more expensive that you’ll end up paying more for less.

Platforms that come as one unit or product are often referred to as “out of the box” or “standard” software tools. This simply means you pay the vendor a licensing fee to get a license key that turns on the functionality you purchased. You have every right to expect this product will work without any broken links or pieces, even if you didn’t purchase the whole system.

Module-based platforms are exceptionally difficult to upgrade. This is important to know if you plan to implement new, updated software as the vendor builds and releases it. (These updates should be part of standard support and free if you pay for support.) While it seems unlikely, we do have customers that prefer to stay on a version and not upgrade. This is a great choice where it is difficult to change work practices or train your workforce for various reasons (contract workers, labor contracts, seasonal workforce).

Out of the box software may also be difficult to upgrade. You really need to ask questions of the vendor to assess this. Sustainability and obsolescence are the keys here. Need more help with this? Call us, as that could be another whole blog.

Data Management for Manufacturers

Industry Week joined the conversation with a posting around data management. Just like the implementation concerns above, data management is a fancy word that can really drive up not just the original system costs, but repetitive ones as well. The key to data is making sure it’s available to you where you need it. That could be anywhere from the point of production on an operator’s workstation to a database you can access to see how your workforce is doing.

Whether you’re looking at a standard product offering or a module-based one, take a look and be sure to ask questions of the system’s data management capabilities and approach. What can you see and how do you get it? Reporting on this data is a key task for any organization from aerospace to office furniture. If you don’t know what’s going on right now on your shop floor, then you will never know if you will be able to meet your metrics for on-time delivery, on-budget costs or the more sophisticated analysis of profit margins.

A Critical Assessment of Software Vendors

So, while compliance, cost reduction and profitability are serious benefits to an MES offering, I would suggest you use implementation strategy, speed and cost as a measure against which these benefits could be judged.

Need more hands-on help? Here are important questions you should ask your vendors to see if they meet your requirements.

  • What percent of implementation costs for your software will be services?
  • How many man hours do you expect to spend on my implementation?
  • How many of those days will be on-site?
  • What kind of relationship do you typically have with your customers?
  • How do you maintain this relationship?

Good luck with your first steps in this process and please call us if you need any help. We’ve been doing this for more than 20 years in discrete, regulated businesses. We can share a thing or two to make the process a success.

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Who Owns the MES Project?

Many times an MES or Paperless Manufacturing implementation becomes an internal political struggle, which leads to production consequences that may take years to recover from.

By Brandon Mendenhall, Product Support Engineer for CIMx Software

Are your hurting your company by not sharing ownership of your shop floor system? Image by www.colourbox.com

Are your hurting your company by not sharing ownership of your shop floor system? Image by http://www.colourbox.com

From our experience, most MES and Paperless Manufacturing implementation projects begin with a specific problem the customer needs to solve. This problem may be a failed audit, a quality escape, or even just out-of-control paper records. One person or group may be determined to solve the problem. They will drive the project, attending the implementation meetings and demos, and drafting the list of requirements. Even so, they may not be the ones LEADING the project… That may be an entirely different group in the organization, which can be a serious problem for many implementation projects.

Maximizing the Benefit

With technology changing at a rapid pace, shaping all aspects of enterprise operations, it becomes a challenge to determine who owns information systems such as MES.  In the past most assumed IT supported/owned all technology, but today those lines are blurred and we need to question those assumptions. So, the question remains, who is responsible for Manufacturing Executions Systems (MES)?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one size fits all type of answer. Consider this – the goal of systems like an MES or QMS (Quality Management System) is to improve production, so is IT best positioned to select and implement MES and QMS functionality?  Is Operations or Sales and Marketing best suited to maintain and upgrade the system over the life of the installation? The idea that a single group should have full ownership of a system is dated and inefficient. As complex and integral as today’s enterprise software is, joint ownership is necessary. User groups need to have an active role in supporting and maintaining the system.

Tips for Sharing Ownership

Each group in a company has different priorities and different requirements for a new software system. IT may require ease of implementation and a low-maintenance system, so they may look for an additional module or add-on to an existing system, rather than a whole new implementation. For management, it may be analytics, and for sales and customer service it may be a real-time view of production. Operations may need data collection, or elimination of paper build books.

For the software, there are two key factors that must be considered when selecting an MES. One would be the infrastructure, and the other would be the functionality of the system.  IT is best suited to manage the infrastructure requirements. They should already be monitoring and maintaining the infrastructure for the company, which makes them a key asset to ensure that the MES can be implemented and function on the organizations current infrastructure.

The second key factor is the functionality of the system. For most manufacturers, production is the key profit driver for the company. Since an MES directly impacts production, plant operations should at least guide the functionality requirements. The users utilizing the system to manage and improve production need to influence the final selection of the system. Other users may have different requirements, but the primary requirements should be focused on production needs.

Putting All the Pieces Together

Understanding that multiple groups are dependent on the success of an MES helps build a stronger relationship between departments and more easily allows support and functionality to scale as the company grows. IT can best determine when to change or upgrade the infrastructure of the system, while Operations can guide the adoption of new functionality to meet the changing needs of production. Even Management and sales and marketing should provide input in the direction of the system.

In the end, an MES is a critical foundation for the enterprise, and each department needs to provide input to maximize the effectiveness of the software.

Organizations run into issues when there are barriers between departments/teams. It’s crucial to understand that not just one person has responsibility for an MES, but all groups impacted must take ownership of the requirements, maintenance and implementation. When you begin the project with this goal in mind, the silos and barriers that once crippled a company can be eliminated as the system becomes the foundation for improved processes across the enterprise.

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.

Overcoming the Shop Floor Grinch and Finding MES Success

Many paperless manufacturing projects fail not due technology, but cultural or personality problems.  We show how to overcome the problems and find success.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

Don't let a Grinch hold up your MES project.  Illustration by www.colurbox.com

Don’t let a Grinch hold up your MES project. Illustration by http://www.colurbox.com

We’ve done a lot of MES and paperless manufacturing implementations over the years, so we’ve also heard a lot of excuses as to why a digital shop floor would never, ever, work. “That’s not how we do it,” is one that comes up a lot. Most often, that’s quickly followed by. “It’s never going to work,” or “I can’t use that.”  We often also hear phrases, like, “Why do we need that?” or, “That won’t work.”

There are times when those phrases are uttered out of fear – fear of change or fear of the unknown, but other times those phrases are a sign of mistakes made early in the process.  They are often uttered by the grizzled shop floor veteran. He (or she) know their way around the shop floor, and have worked out the “best practices” for their job. A new system, even one that automates many of the most annoying and time consuming tasks or eliminates the errors that cause quality escapes or scrap, can’t (and probably shouldn’t) replicate the processes they are comfortable with.  Maybe they’re afraid of what the new system will mean for them?

Many times, when you start pushing them to change their ways, adjusting their work station, or forcing them to log in with a user name they don’t want, people can get grumpy, stubborn. This time of year, you could say they become Grinch-like.

It’s going to happen. The grump, or the Grinch, will make an appearance any time you make a major change on the shop floor (even a positive change) and you haven’t positioned your team for success. You can’t ignore them, and you can’t let the Grinch hold your shop floor back, so what do you do?

Never fear – here four steps you can take to give your Grinch-iest a dose of the paperless manufacturing spirit:

  • Identify the shop floor leaders, and get them involved early.

Before you even select a vendor or start configuring a solution, identify the shop floor leader(s) and bring them into the project. Bring them in early. If the (potential) Grinch really does understand how the shop floor works, and knows the processes, they can add value. Plus, by giving them a stake in the solution, they have an interest in ensuring the project’s success and can help overcome resistance from other workers.

  • Introduce the system through a phased implementation.

Many implementations fail when the shop floor tries to take on too much change withoutconsidering the needs of the end users. With a phased implementation, you select what parts of the project to tackle, and when you tackle them. Start with areas more receptive to change. Early success will make the transition easier.

  • Conduct training on the shop floor.

Face it, online training modules and the peace and quiet of a classroom will never compare to training on the shop floor. There is a big difference between an online lesson and the noise, speed, sound and pace of actual production. Until your workers can see the system in action, in the environment where they will be using it, they may not fully grasp the benefit.

  • Eliminate unnecessary complexity.

Manufacturing is the heart of your business. No matter what software you purchase, you need to make sure it enhances production. Some systems, especially older software requiring integration of multiple modules, will create unnecessary complexity or hinder work. Take a moment and actually listen to the concerns of the Grinch – make sure the system is providing the intended benefit and not hurting efficiency.


In the end, with any new MES or paperless manufacturing system there will be those that fear change, or are reluctant to embrace a new way of working. Recognize potential problems early in the selection and configuration phases of the project, and address the concerns of the Grinches and Grumps early.

Success in an MES or paperless manufacturing project is dependent on the culture of your shop floor as much as the technology that provides the foundation of the system. Address the culture needs early, and ensure the project is seen as a benefit to your shop – not just the latest toy for the front office.

Questions, or want to see how paperless manufacturing can benefit you? Let us know and we can have a project engineer review your shop floor for a system.

5 MES Misconceptions That Are Hurting Your Business

Don’t get suckered in by MES and Paperless Manufacturing misconceptions, especially when reality can deliver so much shop floor benefit.

By David Oeters, Corporate Communications with CIMx Software

You misconceptions regarding manufacturing software solutions may be holding your company back. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

You misconceptions regarding manufacturing software solutions may be holding your company back. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Perception versus reality…

CIMx has been serving manufacturers for more than 18 years, and we’ve seen, heard and learned a lot.  Occasionally we come across industry perceptions that are totally, completely, and utterly detached from reality.  It’s the perception versus reality conundrum… many cling to a false perception so much it becomes a reality.  Problem is, their perception is hurting their business and costing them money.

Let’s take a look at our top perception issues in paperless manufacturing, and see what a little “reality” medicine can do for you…

  • Perception: An MES has to be a massive, risky project that will take years to implement.

Reality: Nope.  If you use a modern system built using the latest software tools, you can implement in less than two months.  With a flexible system, you reuse your existing work instructions.  Migrate the files into the system, map your current shop floor processes to the software, and with a few hours of training you can be using an MES.

There are monolithic software systems out there built on code written 15 to 20 years ago.  They will require teams of developers working for years to get it to fit your processes.  I’m sure it will have features piled on features… but, in the end, the reward is never worth the cost and risk.  If someone tells you the project will take more than a year to implement, it’s time to look for another vendor.

  • Perception: The Shop Floor will never accept an MES or a different way to do work.

Reality: This is just silly.  One of the major benefits of an MES is improving production and driving shop floor consistency.  If the system you install doesn’t improve production and make it easier for the shop floor to complete work, then you don’t have a good solution.

In our experience, if you install the software at a single station and let the shop floor see how much it makes their job easier, everyone will be excited to get their hands on the system.

  • Perception: Using an MES means I can’t use my current processes, and they’re working just fine now.
Understanding the truth about manufacturing software solutions will help you unlock the potential of your shop floor. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Understanding the truth about manufacturing software solutions will help you unlock the potential of your shop floor. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Reality: First off, as long as you aren’t using an older, template-based system, you should be able to map your current processes to the new system.  Next, every paperless manufacturing installation should be based on a clear ROI.  If you find an ROI, then you’ve identified potential improvements.

And, let’s be honest, there are savings and benefit everywhere in an MES.  How much will you save on paper and printing, or on non-productive time delivering plans to the work stations?  How important would a real-time WIP dashboard be to you?

  • Perception: I’ll get better customer support from a bigger company.

Reality: Okay, I’ve been seeing this one out there with all the “market consolidation” going on… but let’s be honest, in any other industry do you seek out a massive corporation because of their exceptional customer service?  Big companies need to consider the ROI for service.   All those employees need to be paid, so they will throw any resource at a project they can as long as you can pay.

Truth is, if your software solution needs all those resources, then there is something fundamentally wrong with it, or the company is intent on making money on service charges.  Unless you are planning on an expensive, complicated and risky software installation, then look for dedicated support and a company you can trust.

  • Perception: The only way I can get the MES I want is through customization.

Reality: In the past, manufacturing software tools were much more specialized – using templates and forms to recreate shop floor work instructions and travelers.  The templates created “buckets” to store specific information, and utilized rigid processes to map the work flow on the shop floor.  But, what worked for one company didn’t work for another, and any change required a fundamental change, or customization, of the software.

Today, there are systems that don’t use templates or forms.  These systems offer tools that work with your work instructions, and support your optimal work flow.  You don’t need to customize the software when the core functionality is adaptable and flexible enough to meet your needs.  Any company “customizing” a solution is likely using core software written years ago, and the customization is more likely just to get it to work right than “optimize” it for you.


There you have it… a few of the market misconceptions that may be costing you money.  Before you select a solution or make a decision about your manufacturing software, get the truth.  Want to know more, or see how paperless manufacturing can help you?  Contact us for a free evaluation of your shop floor processes.

Why Not Now?

Paperless manufacturing and the digital shop floor are changing manufacturing for the better, but there are still companies reluctant to embrace the future.

By Tony Cuilwik, CEO of CIMx Software

You will implement a paperless solution on your shop floor.  It will happen.  Manufacturing, the market and technology are changing too quickly to continue supporting old, inefficient paper-based processes.  The move to paperless will save money and improve your competitive position.  So why not make the move now?  What are you waiting for?

With paperless manufacturing, if you can improve production, remove errors, and see and ROI within 9 months, why not make a decision now? Illustration by www.colourbox.com

With paperless manufacturing, if you can improve production, remove errors, and see and ROI within 9 months, why not make a decision now? Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Every company that has moved from a paper-driven environment to a carefully planned paperless one has saved money, improved worker morale, improved productivity and increased quality.  Paperless manufacturing delivers shop floor visibility and manufacturing control like no other product.  Companies eliminate errors, increase productivity and increase profitability with a paperless system.  Even purchasing a simple system with limited functionality is better than relying on error-prone paper.  One aerospace manufacturing company executive remarked that the purchase of a paperless solution was the best return on his money in many years of shop floor purchases.

As obvious as the choice may be for us, there are legitimate reasons for waiting and “making it work” with paper for a little longer.  I understand that, but let’s take a look at some of the reasons:

Money

Money (or the loss of money) is a good reason for any company to wait on implementing a project.  But, a good paperless system will deliver an ROI in less than 9 months.  Some companies report an ROI in less than 3 months after implementation.  The positive return on a paperless solution ranges from 3 to 10 times the initial cost annually.  As you research paperless solutions, keep these numbers in mind.  As long as you find a solution that makes sense financially, the project will pay for itself.

Risk

Any capital project carries a risk, and for many paperless manufacturing is an even greater risk because it impacts the profit driver of a manufacturing business – the shop floor.   There is a risk with any project.  For example, the promised or expected benefits won’t materialize, the project is never finished, and the money is wasted.  This is a valid concern, because in overly complex projects, projects with a massive requirement list, or a custom system, project cost and schedule overruns are common, and many companies end the project early to cut their losses.

On the other hand, many times the company will discover more benefit than initially envisioned.  They will expand the use of the technology into all corners of the plant.  The key to mitigating risk and ensuring benefit is to manage the choice of solution carefully.  Roll the project out in smaller phases, and initially focus on fewer requirements – ensuring you tackle the key project drivers before rolling out nice-to-have items.  Large, complex, and expensive solutions are a much greater risk, regardless from who they are purchased, because there are many more factors to manage in the project and heavy costs for any small change.

Fear

Following a few simple tips, you can position a project for success. Image by www.colourbox.com

Following a few simple tips, you can position a project for success. Image by http://www.colourbox.com

Fear is closely related to risk, and with good reason.  Moving to paperless manufacturing is a big decision, and it will impact your business.  If you are the one tasked with making a decision, the wrong decision could be embarrassing or worse.  Software solutions are being sold with inflated promises, and when you don’t achieve the desired results, even a successful project can look like a failure.

Once again, you can minimize fear with a simple phased project utilizing small, inexpensive phases to meet bigger goals.  Rather than create a massive requirement list, make a focused list with clearly measurable ROI benefits after each step.  With a phased project, you have more control.  After each phase, evaluate the results and make changes as needed.  Look for a vendor willing to offer guarantees on price, schedule and results to further eliminate the source of fear, risk or hesitation.

Getting started on your paperless manufacturing project

Paper-based manufacturing processes are error-prone, inefficient, needlessly expensive and aren’t suited to meet the demands of modern manufacturing.  As more and more shop floors move to a paperless system, paperless manufacturing will be the new standard.  But, there are risks to moving to paperless, and as of now there are many still unwilling to implement a project.  We understand that.

But, if you’re ready, there are a few simple steps you can take to overcome fear, lower the cost and reduce the risk.  If a positive financial outcome can be shown and the expected project results can be documented and guaranteed, then “why not now?” Why wait?  Every day you delay making a decision is another day your shop floor loses money, struggles with errors, and works to overcome an inefficient system.  Make the move to paperless manufacturing or at least research your options.

Want to know more or talk about how paperless manufacturing can help you?  Give us a call or leave us a message, and let’s see what we can do for you.

3 Must-have Insider Tips for Selecting the Right MES Vendor

Selecting the right MES vendor for you and your business doesn’t have to be frustrating.  Here’s how you can save time, money, and solve your production challenges.

By Kristin McLane, President of CIMx Software

Recently, a company in Poland announced an MES Application Maintenance service for companies around the globe.  I have to admit… this one came as a shock.

Following a few simple tips will help ensure you have the right MES or paperless manufacturing in place. Illustration by www.colourbox.com

Following a few simple tips will help ensure you have the right MES or paperless manufacturing in place. Illustration by http://www.colourbox.com

Think about it… companies purchase an MES, then hire another company to maintain the software!  Does it mean the original vendor can’t support their own software?  Are they too expensive?  Is the second company better at “maintaining” the system?  Does the software need an entire “service” to keep it working?  What does this say about the MES industry?

If the company that installed your MES can no longer support you, or has become so expensive you’ve stopped using them, perhaps a “service” company is the band aid (or tourniquet) you need.  If you haven’t installed a system yet, take a moment and learn from this sad situation…

Companies say they implement Manufacturing Execution System (MES) solutions.  Some companies build the tools they sell; others acquire the tools through a merger or acquisition to quickly fill a void in their functionality.  Once acquired, the tools may be loosely integrated (or not), and the complete package is sold to the unsuspecting customer as a package.  Other companies call themselves consultants and offer to research, buy the system, then implement.  They act as the middle man for your MES, offering a huge catalog of tools to ensure you are getting just the right one (yeah, right!)

It’s no wonder the process of evaluating vendors is such a time-intensive and frustrating process, but it doesn’t have to be.  Here are 3 simple tips that will eliminate much of the work and frustration:

  •  Who wrote the software?

First, eliminate companies offering a software tool they don’t own.  The reason is simple – if you purchase software from a vendor who doesn’t own the original code, maintenance, testing and upgrade will be expensive and risky.  You increase the risks of losing support for the software if you need it, and in software support is a must since your processes and company are always changing requiring modifications to the software to match your new work flow.

Many companies call these tools from third-party vendors “modules” or “apps.” Companies that sell and install software they didn’t build cannot consistently provide the same level of support as the company that built the tool.  In fact, many times they are offering you an older version of the third-party software to cut down on the cost.  When you start connecting these modules with other platforms, apps or tools from other vendors the risk and cost dramatically increases, especially over the life of the installation.  The integration between the modules is custom-built as the implementation is put together.  The initial integration won’t be cheap, and maintenance costs are going to be shocking.

  •  Ask difficult questions.

Next, ask about a warranty.  I don’t know many companies that offer one, especially for software.  As you consider a vendor, ask for their license agreement upfront.  The process of getting the license agreement from them, and the content of the document, will tell you a lot about how the vendor does business.  Potentially, this can identify vendors that don’t match the way you do business.  Once you have the license agreement, ask for the warranty.  Asking difficult questions in the beginning will give you a clue to how they will handle your challenging questions later, and will quickly eliminate vendors who aren’t being honest with you.

  •  Review the selling process.

Before you see a demo or sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) review the sales process with the vendor.  Ask what steps they will take during the sales process, and how it will help you to make a decision.  If the vendor has a distinct sales process focused on servicing the customer, chances are good they have a process for software support, customer care, product development and other areas of their business.

While you are talking to the vendor, ask about software support, customer care, and product development.  A company with robust, customer-friendly or customer-centric internal processes will describe these very quickly.   It will give you a good idea how these processes will benefit your business in the future.


 

I admit – I love my job.  I love helping manufacturers, and watching as software and technology optimize the shop floor and help people do their work better, faster, and with fewer errors.  I love to see the benefits of a project blossom as people realize how powerful the solution will be for them.

That might be why it drives me crazy to know there are companies struggling out there to make their MES work.  The problem is so bad they need to hire another company just to maintain the system.  That’s NOT how the system should work.

Don’t let yourself get trapped in a difficult situation by buying the wrong software solution.  Take the time to ask a few questions of a prospective software vendor to ensure you’re purchasing the right solution.  As always, give us a call or send a message if you have questions.  We may not be the right vendor for you, but we’re happy to answer questions or guide you in the right direction.