The majority of good ideas fail because of improper implementation of the ideas rather than the idea itself being flawed. Take, for example, implementing a new software system. A company purchases some high-end design software; rightly, it is expecting to use it to its fullest potential to get maximum return on investment. The company employs its best experts and brightest brains to plan and start the implementation of the software. The team calculates how much time it saves an individual design engineer and how it would speed up the design process. A grand presentation is made to the top management of the team’s intentions to automate the existing process. The plan passes, because it is perfectly aligned to the business objectives.
However, it is crucial that software implementation plans are aligned with the process rather than just the objectives. The cable manufacturer in our example, had an objective to deliver quality product design service at the lowest possible cost, and the quickest possible time. The company put a new process in place twenty years ago that involved the recruiting of an army of design engineers to work tirelessly to produce very high-quality datasheets to a very high level of completeness. The process worked very well, and the company gained good market share because of the quality of customer service it provided.
However, few years later, the cable industry changed. The cost of design engineers increased dramatically, which also increased the design engineers’ mobility, and increased the cost of their recruitment. This fact made the model above highly inefficient, which also made it highly misaligned with the business objectives.
Due to the high turnover of engineers, the quality of the customer service reduced. The inexperience of the new engineers lead to design and datasheet errors. Each design had to be checked to eliminate engineering mistakes. This increased the design department’s costs as well as the length of time it took to produce a design.
This scenario is a clear example of how, on presenting to the board of directors, the automation of the process will appear to be the correct solution. However, in this case, the correct solution would be to realign the design process to the business objective with the aid of automation.
By improving the process, the benefits of the software are much greater. It is not only able to cut down quotation time, but it will reduce maintenance time, improve the professionalism of the datasheet, and reduce mistakes that can lead to very expensive scrap.
Let us look at the solution. The existing process needed to be simplified. Only a small fraction of customers require all the calculations currently being presented in datasheets. Each calculation requires time and therefore costs. Reducing the complexity of the datasheets, reduces the amount of time needed to check and maintain them. Customers who require a full complex set of calculations on their datasheets, a drawing, or special instructions are less than 5% of the general market. Therefore, their cases will be treated as exceptions, and extra effort will be needed only for these customers. The calculations can further be automated with software to reduce the engineering effort in making new designs and maintaining old ones.
A solution is also needed to retain engineers in order to improve consistency and maintain long term relationships with the customer. Engineers are inherently creative. Using automation, engineers are freed from the mundane hand, or Excel calculations. Their talent can now be channeled into value-adding activities, such as product development and improvement, which must surely be high on the business objectives list.
The example above also highlights an important fact. The circumstances, and sometimes the objectives, of the company are very likely to change. This fact needs to be taken into consideration when selecting and implementing a software system. A software system that gives you the greatest flexibility should be selected, and an implementation approach that takes into account the changing nature of the process would be ideal.
Automating any business process using software should be a task that is undertaken with the aid of the software supplier. The supplier will bring fresh thinking into the procedure, which can be especially valuable when considering the automation of traditional processes, like cable design, sales, logistics, etc. It is therefore important to pick the right supplier, or implementation partner, who is able to bring this insight to help align the process to the business objectives and the software system to the process.
To find out about the implementation of Cimteq’s design and manufacturing software, please email Katy Harrison, Marketing Manager, Cimteq at [email protected]