by Daniel W. Kath
It is apparent more window and door companies are looking for comprehensive, effective computer systems as they face increasing competition. Selecting a computer system, however, remains one of the most difficult decisions any company can face.
Software has a critical impact on the way a company performs. When it comes to computers, software and technology, there are issues many window and door companies may not be aware of.
Involving Key People
Gathering input from all major department heads and key customer service and shop floor personnel is encouraged. Have a team of employees create a list of features and functions they would like to acquire in a new system. This will help insure the systems elected are comprehensive in meeting your companys needs. It also reduces the likelihood that a decision will be made solely on price tags and promises.
Previous Approaches and Mistakes Made
For many years, software for this industry has lacked essential features and functions to accurately address the complex needs of window and door companies. Consequently, many have gambled with in-house programming believing they will end up with a custom product that is less expensive than one purchased from a software company.
Many times, they turn to programmers who have no real industry experience or product knowledge. Consequently, it takes a long time to create a system that works properly, if at all.
Some window and door companies have attempted to implement a proprietary mainframe system. There are two fundamental problems with this approach: first, mainframe systems generally are expensive to install and sustain; secondly, the company becomes tied to the mainframe and is limited to the software available for that hardware.
Open vs. Proprietary Systems
Software residing on a proprietary operating system is less likely to easily migrate to a latest industry standard operating system. To safeguard your investment, it is best to align with a software provider offering "open system principles." Open systems based on computer industry standards allow third-party software to communicate with your system.
Window and Door Industry Specific
Its a frequent mistake to adapt software intended for other industries, rather than selecting software developed specifically for the window and door industry. Software developed for other manufacturing environments ordinarily is not adaptable to manage the dynamic changes of window and door manufacture and distribution.
Nearly all non-industry software systems are geared toward redundant manufacturing, not custom building. To benefit a window and door company, software must be able to manage all sizes, styles and options in your product line. To do this, the software must include a rules-based configurator. This allows personnel to enter orders onto the system without needing to predefine a bill of materials for each order.
For window and door companies to compete effectively in this industry, they must automate their information processes now. The notion of manufacturers and distributors having the luxury of competing for business based solely on past performance and loyalty is fast becoming a forgotten concept. In todays business environment, companies must provide competitive pricing, quick lead times and offer value-added features to enhance the end product.
The good news is that there is software available from credible providers that will streamline and integrate all information flow throughout a facility. This type of software can provide a real return on investment for the short-term and real long-term growth of a business.
Daniel W. Kath is sales manager of First Systech International, Inc., Phoenix, AZ, a provider of software systems for the window, door and millwork industries.
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