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Benchmark studies can save time and money

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Tech Talk by Peter Mate
Peter Mate is co-owner and president of Planit Canada, a software and services company devoted to servicing the manufacturing industry. For more info email peterm@planitcanada.ca

Raise your hand if you love investing in technology!
Whether you do or not, we all wish we could do it right the first time around. It’s expensive, it takes time, resources, and there’s nothing more frustrating that thinking ‘did I make the right choice’ in the middle of the implementation. Can you be sure? It’s hard. One thing for sure, bouncing back from a bad decision in a software investment is costly and difficult.
There’s something that can help you tremendously with making sure you pick the best software solution for your business and you clearly understand how it will end up working at the end of the implementation and training. It’s called a benchmark study.
Benchmark studies help better understand where the challenges will be, how the process will flow, how long each process will take and what compromises you may need to make, if any. It does this well before the actual implementation and even before a vendor is chosen. It helps decipher some of the key nuts and bolts issues and ensures the theory in a PowerPoint and the actual are in line. Anything can be spiced up in a sales PowerPoint, but the rubber hits the road when the implementation begins. A benchmark study gives you a taste of the implementation before committing to a full order. Typically benchmark studies will cost a fraction of the price of the full software system purchase and most of the work done during the study will move forward towards the actual implementation.
Setting up a reasonable and informative benchmark study is key. A good aim is to see how the entire process from A to Z will play out. So, if you’re looking at design and manufacturing software, you may want to see how the software will design something and perform the design-related tasks you need. Things such as renderings and pricing, etc., and then see how the job gets broken down into manufacturing information. This should include connecting to CNC machines if applicable. Then, once assembled, you see the finished job or assemblies in front of you. That’s the process from A to Z in relation to design to manufacture software. Different software types would have different mile markers.
Determining the complexity and size of the benchmark job(s) will affect the benchmark duration and cost. It doesn’t need to be complex or many SKUs, it just needs to show the complete process. This is where unexpected things are uncovered, things which can affect decisions with regards to timelines, resources, costs, or even whether to award a vendor the order.
If a vendor doesn’t perform well in a benchmark study, chances are that they will not perform any better during the implementation. These studies still have a cost, take time and resources, but a fraction of what an actual implementation would require.
Too often we feel confused with technology investments. Each vendor has their own lingo, methods and agenda. Often we end up jumping in with both feet and make big commitments without really being convinced. Benchmark studies can help clarify the investment and the gains before the purchase order is awarded. Vendors with integrity and confidence will welcome the opportunities to showcase their solution in the real world, rather than just in a boardroom PowerPoint.
So dip your toes in first to see how the water is, then decide whether or not to jump in!

Peter Mate is co-owner and president of Planit Canada, a software and services company devoted to servicing the manufacturing industry. For more info, email peterm@planitcanada.ca or visit planitcanada.ca

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