The software industry offers many solutions to manufacturers. Which ones are suitable for you?
As manufacturers assess their needs, they have two main pitfalls to avoid. The first is assuming that the tools they are currently using are sufficient. There’s an appealing logic to “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but this mindset can also catch manufacturers flat footed when the industry shifts. It can leave them blind to places where their system is broken—they’re just so used to compensating for the failures they don’t’ notice.
The second pitfall lies in creating redundant systems through repeated incomplete integrations of a range of software solutions. This happens when manufacturers are aware that they need to make a change, but never fully commit to what they already have, or otherwise fail to explore its full range of capabilities. As a result, they view each new software piece as a potential silver bullet that will lay all their frustrations to rest, and are continually disappointed in the results while also creating an ever more bloated ecosystem of products for their employees to use.
If you’re considering your own situation, consider these four questions to determine what your business’s manufacturing software needs may be
1. Do you still rely on paper or other manual processes?
As out-of-place as it may seem in our digital age, many manufacturers still run their operations using analog techniques such as printed job packs or magnets on dry erase boards. Those that have taken a step toward software solutions may have stopped with a basic spreadsheet, which still requires manual updating.
These systems pose many problems for manufacturers hoping to run a more efficient shop: they’re cluttered, they create opportunities for human error, they make it difficult to collect and store records, and they don’t allow manufacturers to track and capture data easily.
If you’re assessing manufacturing software solutions, your paper trail is a strong hint at what you most urgently need to address.
2. Are you replacing a legacy system or supplementing what you currently have?
If you’ve already eliminated many of your paper processes, the next question to ask yourself is about how dated your current systems are and whether they’re accomplishing what you need them to. Legacy systems may carry old processes that you will have to take out of your workflow to ensure the complete adoption of your new solution.
Similarly, you may have a current system with capabilities that overlap with your new system. Many ERPs, for instance, come with basic scheduling modules, but lack the more precise controls needed to create reliably accurate schedules. Don’t assume that just because your current software has a tool labeled “production scheduler” that you don’t need a purpose-built scheduler.
3. What is the driving force behind seeking a new software solution?
Most manufacturers don’t add a new software tool to their production process without a compelling needs. Understanding the main issue the new solution is intended to resolve can keep you focused on finding software that meets your needs and prevent you from settling for a solution that offers some fancy bells and whistles but only half meets your real needs. Some of the driving forces we’ve encountered include:
- Gaps in communications. Do your shop floor operators have clear priorities about the jobs that need to be run? Are your top-level decision makers able to communicate changes in priority clearly and efficiently?
- Competitive pressure. Are your sales slipping? Are missed deadlines damaging customer trust? Do you need new ways to demonstrate your capabilities?
- Lack of tracking data. Do you know the current status of your production orders? Are you able to give customers accurate estimates on their project completion?
- Lack of operation insight. Have you built a record of manufacturing data that allows you to pinpoint bottlenecks and improve estimates for future orders?
4. What are the greatest pain points of the end users of your solution?
Finally, talk to the people in your organization who will be using the new software. What features are on their wish list, or what are the baselevel requirements the new system would have to meet for it to be an acceptable solution, and not another source of pain?
Buy in from this group is especially important, as resistant workers can inadvertently sabotage a new tool’s effectiveness if they don’t use it. When you do decide to introduce new software to your team, set aside time to showcase its advantages to the ends users and train them in its use.
For our customers, these advantages look like:
- Owners: Improved on-time delivery rate, reduced overtime costs, raised bottom line.
- Managers: Real-time insight into production status, what-if scenario planning.
- Schedulers: Robust scheduling tools, more accurate capacity forecasting.
- Operators: Reduced confusion about projects and reliable productivity record.
We can consult with you on your Manufacturing Execution System (MES) needs.
As leaders in the MES space, we have decades of experience in helping businesses understand how our manufacturing software fits into their current ecosystem—from integrating with their ERP and MRP to implementing the machine monitoring programs that can finally give them insight into the live status of their factory floor.
If you’re interested in learning more about how our software can meet your business’s manufacturing software needs, request a demo with one of your team today.