Monday, April 8, 2013

What To Do Before You Buy Job Control Software

Job control software can be one of the most critical purchases a manufacturing company makes. This software will most likely be used by just about every person in the company. It will also affect the profitability of your company. While much time is spent researching, sitting for sales calls and demos, at the end of the day, most installations fail. I have seen numbers north of 70% for this percentage that fail.

Why does this happen you ask? The reasons are many but boil down to a few key facts.

  1. The client does not know what they really want or need.
  2. The vendor doesn’t, or doesn’t want, to ask the right questions.
  3. Most software is written by non-manufacturing IT folks.

Sounds pretty simple, heh? Well, it's difficult to find vendors that can understand your business and then offer the right package if they have it. Since they inherently don’t have the right thing, they offer what they do have. Kinda like a bait and switch. Maybe not that insidious, but when they demo the software for you, they only show you the things that it will do well knowing that when you want to do something a little off the rail, you’ll find out you can’t get there from here.

The first thing a company needs to do is to have a very firm idea of what it wants to achieve with the software. It may not know all of these goals but a list of must have’s is a good start. Then, let the sharks into your tank and let’em sell. One key ask from them is to provide a list of customers that you could contact in your area that are using the software that you might. Don’t let them cherry pick the couple of “satisfied” clients and have you call them. Make them sweat a little bit and get that list of locals.

Then, make contact with those folks and see if they are really happy with the software. Chances are you’ll find at least a couple that have some issues that aren’t settled. Don’t be surprised. This will happen. You just need to find out if their problem is on your must have list.

After doing this with several vendors, you can know start thinking about the money, time, training and long term cost. As you can see, money bookends the relevant considerations. You probably will have set some kind of budget for this project. However, it is vital that money not be the only consideration. If you spend less now and perhaps even less over the long term, you may wind up paying the difference from another software’s cost every single day and be angry at your poor choice.

The first of the other two considerations is how long it will take to fully implement the software and hardware into your system. Clearly, it may take weeks even months depending on the availability of assets and the complexity of the physical install. Make sure to have them quote a firm date or length of time to complete the installation.

Training is probably the least favorite topic of vendors and yet is one of the key factors in the success of the software package meeting the needs of the client. It is vital that the basic information is loaded into the system. Overhead, machine and labor rates, departments, work centers, machine numbers, basic routing types, purchasing criteria and invoice structure are just a few of the critical items that must be loaded during training. The vendor should not do all the work without showing the client how to modify or add more information.

Once the basics are loaded, then actual operational training can begin showing every person how they will be interacting with the system. Login info, passwords, how to use a bar code reader are some of the types of things to be taught. Printers and backups are also on the list of things that must be gone through and checked out. If these basic functions are not shaken down during training, I can guarantee that as soon as the trainer leaves the building, one of these things will come up and down the slope the install goes.

I have only scratched the surface here but this much is true; garbage in garbage out. It’s a little trite but if the suit doesn’t fit right, you’ll never be comfortable. The same goes for shop control software. If the software is not vetted properly, installed poorly and insufficient training is given, the cost savings will never out way the ultimate cost to your company in time and frustration levels.

For information about this or any manufacturing or process improvement impacting your company, contact me at

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