Understanding “Vendor Vision”
Vendor vision (unlike Marvel’s Wanda Vision) is very real and will have a long-term effect on your fabrication business. With new tools, technologies, and techniques, manufacturing is constantly progressing. Organizations in reactionary mode will always be losing ground in the race for contracts, efficiency, and profitability. Today, more than ever, it’s critical that your software solutions partners understand, anticipate, and plan for what’s ahead.
Do you remember the 80s? We kept our valuables secure in a fanny pack, recorded a cassette music mix tape, dressed like MC Hammer, and thought that Excel was “totally rad”. But for today’s fabricators, these spreadsheets – along with many other trends – have (some would say “fortunately”) gone out of style.
Today, companies are embracing automation and intelligent software systems throughout the business – from the front office to the shop floor. For a growing number of metal fabricators this means replacing Excel with fabrication estimating software.
These systems accelerate and add value to the process doubling or even tripling the number of quotes that can be generated in a day or week. Over the course of a month or year, this exponentially increasing quote quantity and quality results in more opportunity for winning and profitable sales.
If you implement, or are considering, such a system – then you’re essentially hitching your wagon to the vendor of that software. And you had better be comfortable with the direction that company, and your wagon, are heading.
Talk to your current or prospective software solutions provider and make sure they are taking steps to protect your long-term investment. Vendors with a finger on the industry’s pulse take steps to help them identify, validate, and anticipate trends.
Here are some things to consider:
· Does the vendor have a structured approach for collecting and interpreting industry information?
· With what third-party business and manufacturing software vendors, equipment OEMs, etc. do they maintain active relationships?
· Are they active in industry groups, forums or consortiums?
Your software partner should be thinking ahead and making plans to evolve or introduce next generation products to integrate with or leverage other manufacturing and business applications, equipment, and emerging technologies. In short, they should have some realistic insight of what the fab shop of the not-to-distant future is going to look like.
History is littered with companies who “failed to see it coming”. (Remember Kodak, Blockbuster, and Blackberry?) Talk to your current or prospective software vendor and ask their plans for five, ten years and beyond. Understand who they have relationships with, where and how they get their information, and their roadmap for future releases and new products.
Be Curious – Not Obsessed
Look, it’s OK if your vendor doesn’t have all of the answers. Don’t panic. If it were that easy no company or product would ever have become obsolete. Besides, you want your software provider focused on enhancing today’s product – not distracting you with futuristic promises.
At the same time, don’t sit around with your fingers crossed hoping that you’re both thinking along the same lines. An occasional “Hey, I read about this. What are your plans in this area?” call or e-mail exchange with your vendor representative can create some healthy dialogue.
The Bottom Line
Simply put, you want to be secure in knowing that your software provider is protecting your investment by taking steps to remain in the loop with the short and long-term direction of the industry; and has a plan for what that will look like.
Remember, they are the domain expert and you’re entrusting them to keep you current. After all, the last thing anyone wants is to show up at that next party wearing parachute pants.
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