by Peter Mate, Planit Canada President
I know just enough about wood to be dangerous. The professionals know wood inside out. There are things you learn from years of experience that the home hobbyist might just not know. What I do know well is manufacturing software and I’d like to share some important information with you so that you can save yourself some bad surprises.
1 – Insure your software
If something happens to your software, whether it’s a fire, theft or any other scenario that puts you in a position that you will need to reach out to your software provider to get another license, you should always have insurance to cover the full replacement value of the software you have purchased. Most software companies will try and do what they can to help, but even in the today’s keyless or “soft” licenses, it’s extremely difficult to ensure that the license is destroyed and can’t be used by anyone else. Your insurance is your safety net.
2 – Backup your data
This is probably the easiest bang for your buck. I suggest setting up two or three different backup systems for your most important data. Setup an automatic backup to an external hard drive. Setup an automatic cloud backup. This will save your information offsite so you will have access to it should something happen to your computers at the office or if there’s a total loss. If you have a server, you can also setup a backup there. The key is to make the backups automatic.
3 – Software Sunsets
All software companies have struggles with supporting, debugging, training and installing multiple versions of software. This is a key reason why manufacturing software versions eventually get sunset. Running your manufacturing business on old software might seem comfortable because it works and you know how to use it, but the day it stops working is the day you’ll wish you were proactive. The likelihood of finding that old software and getting back up and running is going to be a challenge. Avoid the headache by running a recent version of software.
4 – Pricing & Maintenance in perspective
Over the years, the price of software has climbed. Back 20 years ago, you could buy a laptop for thousands of dollars and put a few hundred dollars of software on it and be done. Today, the reverse is true. You could buy a laptop for a few hundred bucks and put thousands of dollars of software on it. In addition to the upfront costs, there are typically yearly software maintenance costs. These are fees that go to help continue development of the software. Fixing issues, adding features, adapting to new hardware on the market, etc. These fees in manufacturing are typically 15-25% of the current value of your software. If you have $100k in current value software, your maintenance fee could be $15k-$25k per year. Typically, if you miss a period, there are back fees to cover that missed period.
5 – EULA
That thing no one reads. The End User License Agreement. Usually when you install the software, you accept the EULA. Typically, the EULA protects the software developer from negative effects the software might have on your business, your equipment, loss of income, etc. All software has bugs, the EULA will also protect the developer from the effects of these bugs. It’s part of technology that all software will have bugs and sometimes not work at all.
6 – Pirated software
More and more software developers are able to pinpoint who is using illegal versions of their software. The risk here for manufacturers is big. It’s not only whether the company has downloaded illegal software and is using it, it could be just one employee that did it without even the owner knowing. This is a huge risk. Make sure you have a software piracy policy in place at work and everyone understands the importance of using legal software.
7 – Training is forever
As software evolves, the learning continues. It never ends. You should budget and plan to continuously learn and refine how the software is working for your manufacturing shop. The more you keep up with new improvement and features, the less of a hill you’ll have to climb later. A little training and improvement on an ongoing basis will prevent a huge overhaul in the future.
Software is a big investment and requires ongoing work to use it to its full potential. With the lack of skilled labour, increasing wages, pressure to achieve better work/life balance and more affordable and capable computer controlled machinery, the investment pays out in spades.