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Why it is important to check ingredients

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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

I love food and I love to cook.
I gladly do most of the cooking at home. I love grocery shopping as well. After all, the ingredients are one of the most important parts of cooking. This past weekend I was exited to try out a brand new grocery store nearby. I expected an up-to-date abundance of great quality ingredients for me to work some magic with in the kitchen. But as I walked through the store, I was struck by a disappointing reality. This brand new store was full of prepared foods, frozen meals, and ready to eat meals. I struggled to find the kind of good quality, base ingredients that I had hoped to find.
I was faced with the reality that maybe not everyone likes to cook as much as I do. Maybe, most people just like to warm up something or nuke it in the microwave? Is it a lack of time or lack of cooking knowledge?
I’m an ingredient reader. Nothing gets into my basket unless I read the ingredients and read where the product is made. I was surprised when I picked up a pack of dried pasta to read the ingredients and found I couldn’t pronounce half of them. How can this be? Dried pasta. Shouldn’t it only have such simple ingredients as durum wheat semolina and water. As I struggled to read through some of the ingredients of some of the brands, I pictured my wife’s Italian ancestors turning in their graves. I had to pick up a few different brands before finding the simple ingredients I was expecting. My grocery experience was less than I had hoped for.
Although reading ingredients on food packages is quite simple, sometimes understanding what we’re buying is not as obvious with other purchases. I’m sure that everyone who deals with the public has had to highlight the ‘ingredients’ of their products to convince the consumer. After all, do consumers really know to ask about the hinges and guides in a kitchen? Do they know about solvent vs. water-based finishes? From the outside, two offers can look very similar on paper. You can quote the same door style, cabinet configuration, moulding, finish look, etc., but the product can be very different.
The quality of the materials and workmanship will be exposed over the years as the consumer uses their kitchen on a daily basis. Things may start to warp, finishes start to peel or fade, hardware starts to malfunction and the kitchen will ultimately have a shortened life.
This concept is the same for technology, but even more so. Typically the high-tech stuff we buy is recent technology and the knowledge of what to look for and what to stay away from is not as abundant as we’d like. Buying software, specifically, is the trickiest. There is no ingredients’ list on the software package. No assurance of quality. Typically there is no return policy or it is such that it virtually eliminates any chance we have of a return or refund in the fine print.
We can look at feature lists to try and compare, but these feature lists don’t give us the full picture. We make the assumption that both products that do ‘X’  will do it the same way. This is like having a glass of freshly squeezed ripe orange juice vs. orange ‘drink.’ Both can be listed on a label to initially look the same, but they are not. We can see this on the ingredients. So where are the ingredients in the software applications? How do we know what quality of software we are buying?
The best way to get beyond the smoke and mirrors of software is to get knee-deep into it. It’s not about any one individual feature; it’s about the whole application and how it affects your process. How does it fare with what you’ll need it to do? Which is the one thing that matters, namely to make you more money. I’ve talked in the past about benchmarks. These are a great way to get to know the quality and ‘ingredients’ of the software you’re considering. This is where the rubber hits the road and we’re able to cut through the smoke and mirrors to get to the bottom of the nuts and bolts. Some technology vendors may not even go down this route and that may be a big red flag.
Looking at the user base in our industry, the history of successes and failures of the vendor along with a decent benchmark are the best ways I can suggest to get to the bottom of what’s in your technology grocery cart. When I shop for groceries I look for the absolute best ingredients first and then I look at price. If I’m forced to make a concession because of price, I’ll always concede quantity over quality.
Quality is king in my books. 

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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