Operations platforms vs. point solutions: A quick overview
When it comes down to it, you might not care whether you use an operations platform or a point solution. The thing that matters most is that whatever you purchase solves problems as it promises
There are appreciable differences, however, that can help you minimize stress in the long run.
The primary difference between an operations platform and a point solution lies with both scalability and flexibility. While point solutions are designed to tackle a single, specific problem, platform solutions offer a robust foundation that can address a number of use cases and can be rolled out across multiple facilities very quickly.
In this post, we’ll break down the details of platforms and point solutions to help you pick the option that works for your situation.
Making sense of the operations software market
If you’ve spent any time looking for operations software, you’ve probably come across two types of solutions.
On the one hand, there are tools whose virtue is their ability to solve many problems. On the other, there are more targeted, single-use case solutions.
Both have their place, but it might not be obvious right away which is the right call for your operations.
What is an operations platform?
An operations platform, simply put, is a platform that enables businesses to create solutions that address a variety of use cases across their operations.
They’re tools for improving connectivity, control, and data collection on the shop floor.
But what defines platforms is the fact that they’re generative. You can produce novel solutions that match your unique challenges.
For more information about the different types of platform solutions, check out Platform Buyer's Guide.
Advantages of platforms
Every operation is unique. Even two organizations looking to solve the same challenge may have radically different requirements (integrations, regulations, machine types).
What platforms offer is the ability to tailor a solution to your needs without the huge outlays traditionally associated with “custom” solutions.
By building no-code applications—or, really, just by modifying a pre-built template—engineers can get started with digital transformation fast. And they can add use-cases and scale as the situation calls for it.
What is a point solution?
If platforms do many things, point solutions set their sights on narrower goals. A point solution is any tool or software that aims to address a single use case or challenge that exists within a business.
Whether it’s digital work instructions, machine monitoring, or predictive analytics, point solutions throw the weight of their organization behind a single problem or solution.
Advantages of point solutions
Traditionally, the advantage of point solutions is that they bring a level of focus and expertise missing from a more all-encompassing solution.
The vendor makes the choice to do fewer things in order to focus on delivering their solution well.
Assessing both sides of the argument
So far we’ve covered definitions. Now let’s look at what they mean.
In order to outline the pros and cons of each, we can look at some common concerns manufacturers face early in the buying process.
“We’re looking for something that can get started fast.”
Who isn’t! It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of time-to-value with any new technology.
So it’s natural that this comes up early in the search process.
Here’s something to keep in mind: quick time to value isn’t an inherent property of platforms or point solutions. It’s a question of vendor.
For example, some Tulip customers have seen times-to-value as short as 4 weeks. Other platforms may take months just to implement.
The best point solutions will offer similarly quick ROIs. Others will keep you stranded in pilot purgatory.
There’s a rub, however. If you decide on a point solution, the next time you need a piece of software you’ll have to start the song and dance over.
The important thing here is to look for a solution that can maximize time-to-value in the long run. And look for vendors who can give you concrete examples–based on real customer stories–about solution speed and return.
“We’re looking for something that will minimize complexity.”
There’s a reason manufacturers are reconsidering monolithic solutions.
In the past, increases in functionality led to proportional increases in complexity.
This isn’t necessarily the case any longer. At this point, complexity lurks in many different forms. And if you’re not careful, it’s something you can find with platforms and point solutions.
Complexity can result from:
- Limited or impartial integrations
- Hardware/software incompatibilities
- Ongoing, hard-coded configurations
- Vendor management
- Lack of scalability
With platforms, it’s critical to ask how each solution will manage permissions, integrations, and the addition of new use cases over time.
You should ask the same point solutions, too. But there’s one additional concern: How much of a hassle will it be to manage multiple point solutions?
The key here is to ensure that the decisions you make now aren’t setting you up for a management nightmare later.
“We’re looking for something that scales.”
If there’s one thing that successful digital projects have proven, it’s that scaling isn’t an accident. You have to account for it at the very beginning of a new technology initiative.
So whether you’re looking at a platform make sure they can scale. Can you take your monitoring solution from 5 machines to 500? Will your digital work instructions work in every plant, for every product variant without herculean authoring efforts? Can you configure inventory tracking solutions to new conditions without having to start from scratch? Will it work with your ERP or MES?
The manufacturers who can answer “yes” to these questions are those that will see the biggest gains and the most success in the long run.
“If we want to add more functionality in a year, could we?”
This is perhaps the most important question.
And it’s the one that really separates platforms from point solutions.
In our experience, organizations tend to start small with their digital initiatives. The formula is deceptively easy.
- Pick a sure-fire use case
- Roll out small
- Prove value
It’s what comes next that gets interesting. After you prove value once, do you start the process over? Do you initiate a new search for needs, vendors, solutions, etc.?
With point solutions, this becomes a fact of life. It can mean having a different vendor for work instructions, machine monitoring, inline quality, process visibility, and inventory tracking. (Or building new functionality in-house, which has its own set of drawbacks.)
With platforms, adding new use cases can be as simple as designing a new application or downloading a new template.
No new vendors. No extra spend. No additional complexity.
Platform or point solution? Which will make the difference for you?
Thus far we’ve seen the differences between platforms and point solutions.
You’ve probably noticed that we have a particular angle on the question of which offers the most value. Guilty!
But I hope I can convince you that we’re coming at this from a sincere place. We truly think that our platform does more, better than you’ll find anywhere else.
We’ve seen our platform help customers improve their operations fast over and over. We’ve seen them add use-cases and go places with Tulip that neither of us imagined in our first conversations.
So if you have any questions about how Tulip can help accelerate your digital transformation, give it a shot by signing up for a free trial below.
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