First Thoughts

Production Management Software is a site directed towards Small Medium Enterprises (SME) in the manufacturing and small production related industries. It aims to provides useful information and links to assist in the decision making process associated with application selection.

Owning and operating a small business is one of the more challenging ways of being in business. When you are a Small Medium Enterprise (SME) as they are often called there is not the luxury of a large support organization behind you

Many smaller organizations grow to a point where they can usefully use appropriate software to assist with their manufacture or production. However because of their size and the press of daily operations they lack the time, and perhaps the personnel, to give any such decision the attention that it deserves. Even if they have already installed some system the choice of both hardware and software is often made rather arbitrarily with only limited analysis

Early Issues Facing the SME

In the early growth stages production software selection is probably not even on the agenda for the SME. Nearly all the management effort and direction is done by one or maybe two people. As your business grows you find that the time needed for some of those mundane everyday tasks like purchasing, keeping track of the money and invoicing becomes too much. And even if you cannot exactly define why you know that using your time this way does not benefit your business very much.
And the reason for this is that Time and not Money is your most valuable asset. Instinctively you know this but cannot see how to avoid using time in this less productive manner. After all who else knows what is going on as well as you or your business partner?

Another issue for the SME when trying to select manufacturing, or for that matter any, software is the interest and expertise of the vendor. In many instances the vendor is also a small organization with limited resources and capability. They may be able to recommend a hardware configuration with an operating system that suits. But they do not have the application software options or business process expertise to recommend the best solution. Often their knowledge is limited to one or perhaps two applications that will sort of meet the SME manufacturers’ requirements.

The dilemma faced by both parties here is that ‘They do not know what the don’t know’. Or put more colloquially it is ‘The blind leading the blind’. The SME manufacturer only has a limited knowledge of what constitutes an appropriate hardware and software installation. And the system supplier really does not understand the processes and more detailed requirements of the manufacturers’ business operations.

An illustration to round out this section.

More years ago than I care to remember, back in the early days of the now ubiquitous computer, I walked into my local veterinary clinic and saw this heap of computer equipment – cpu, keyboard, software, manuals, printer, cables, paper etc – all lying in the corner of an office. What is this I said in dismay, why aren’t you using it. And his response was – ‘Well some computer salesman came by and told us how great it be if we ‘computerized’ the practice’. It would solve all our problems and we could do things faster and much more easily. The fact of the matter is that we could not get it  to function successfully and I am still paying off the $10,000 loan I took out to buy it!!  And that was back in the days when a dollar was really worth a dollar.

A Common Approach to Software Selection

So there comes a point where it looks like the use of some form of computer software will facilitate the business operation. About now your accountant or someone close to the business suggests that buying a computer and using some software such as an accounting package would help keep track of the invoices, bills and money etc.

So there is a brief survey of options, a few telephone calls might be made and a salesman may visit your site. Hardware and software options are discussed in general terms and a package such as  MYOB or QuickBooks is purchased. Your software is ‘selected’. With the computer comes  an operating system, spreadsheets, word processing, email and all the other associated ‘computer things’ that people talk about. Probably a modem and an internet connection as well.

With good support from your vendor, and they do exist, this will all function quite well. But there may not be any on going support so you have to fend for yourself in a number of new areas. You may have some staff who are quite computer literate so tasks do get done but maybe not in the best or most efficient manner. Spreadsheets prove useful and before long you are using them to keep track of inventory or clients and the like. Then one day you realize that there are inconsistencies in your data and your computer has just become as hard to manage as everything else. The effort level just seems to keep going up.

Software Selection – A Better Way of Doing It

Now the scenarios outlined above may not be quite as extreme in real life. You may have put considerably more thought into your software selection. However you probably had limited support from the vendor and in many cases the selection(s) have been made in isolation from each other. And because Information Technology (IT) changes so quickly there always seems to be another product or option that might do the task better – just after you have committed to the supposed best.

Another factor that is not often discussed in the SME market is that if your existing processes do not function well then the introduction of a computer application will not solve these problems. Often it just makes the situation more difficult.

So what is really needed is help to first analyze your processes and work flows. Then a mapping of these processes and flows so that you can see what is happening within the organization. And then finally these processes need to be incorporated into a software application that is capable of managing these processes. This should result in all the operational and management functions being seamlessly combined.