Over the last several years, the manufacturing software landscape has changed drastically due to a variety of factors — from increased cloud adoption to the continued blurring of tech stacks. And now, the “triple squeeze” of labor shortages, ongoing supply chain disruption, and inflation of raw materials is driving major budget cuts.

Given these conditions, resilience has become an increasingly critical priority for manufacturers. In order to adapt to the “unknowns” introduced via the latest industry shifts, they need to set forth new software demands — and reevaluate the system purchasing process to ensure they’re asking the necessary questions to identify the solution that’s right for their organization’s unique needs.

What Should You Demand From Your Manufacturing Software Vendors?

As traditional, service-heavy MES solutions have failed to adapt to modern challenges, the way in which you assess, purchase, and adopt manufacturing software must also change. This shift introduces new demands for you to consider throughout the evaluation process.

At a basic level, these demands can be broken down into two categories, the first of which is resiliency. In order to remain resilient in these uncertain times, you should seek solutions that offer:

  • Agility: The ability to respond quickly and update your system as you make any necessary changes to your processes.

  • Faster time-to-value: The ability to achieve immediate value and maintain consistent growth.

  • Scalability: The ability to start small and expand your system over time.

  • Data flexibility: The ability to adjust your data structures to fit your needs — not the other way around.

The second category of demands for you to consider are those involved in streamlining processes for your workforce:

  • An optimized user experience: The ability to provide your frontline workers with simplified guidance and data inputs.

  • Machine learning capabilities: The ability to leverage algorithms to automate tasks and identify improvement opportunities.

  • Citizen development functionality: The ability to allow approved users to develop solutions to meet their operational needs — without previous coding experience.

  • Cloud functionality: The ability to move beyond on-premise installations to a cloud-based solution that connects machines and workers across the shop floor — allowing you to remove data silos and enable the free flow of information among teams.

What’s Missing From Your Current RFP Template?

Once you’ve identified your top software demands, you can be more strategic in the specific questions you ask in a RFP.

The problem with traditional RFPs is that they lack the operational context of how specific solutions can fit into your organization’s own unique processes. As a result, your current RFP template may be missing important questions in a variety of categories — from equipping frontline workers to avoiding unnecessary costs.

Consider incorporating the following types of questions into your template to ensure you’re finding the right solution for your organization’s needs:

Equipping Frontline Workers

  • What does the user experience look like?

  • How easily will users be able to adopt your solution?

  • What does the user onboarding process look like?

  • What types of learning resources do you offer?

  • How easy is it for a new operator to learn how to use your solution?

  • Does your offering empower teams to reliably collect data in a standardized way?

  • How does your solution meet the needs of the modern, younger workforce?

  • What capabilities do you offer to improve efficiency and error-proof tasks?

  • How do you prevent data inaccuracy and mental burden for operators responsible for collecting data for traceability?

Removing IT Bottlenecks

  • To what degree do we need to leverage our internal IT resources?

  • How much do we have to rely on your development team or services team for customization and updates?

  • How does your solution enable the free flow of information among teams?

  • Do you offer cloud functionality?

  • What is your ratio of software to services expenses?

Having an Agile and Low-Risk Implementation

  • Do we need to deploy all of your software at once?

  • Will there be a disruption in operations to implement a new solution? How much time is needed?

  • What does the typical implementation roadmap look like?

  • How soon will we see value from your solution?

  • How easy will it be to adapt the solution as our processes and products evolve over time?

  • Do you offer a free trial? Do we have full access to the functionality during this time?

  • Do you offer a low-risk pilot program? Do we have full access to the functionality during this time?

  • How long will it take to scale your solution across our enterprise?

  • How does your solution empower us to ensure data consistency across our factories?

Having Access to Flexible, Contextualized Data

  • How does your solution enable us to ensure data consistency across our factories?

  • How does your solution empower us to have a holistic view of our operations?

  • How easily will we be able to add new data sources, such as sensors, machines, and cameras?

  • What types of real-time data is your solution capable of providing?

Avoiding Unnecessary Costs

  • What are the upfront and ongoing costs?

  • What are the hardware, implementation, software, and ongoing support/maintenance costs?

  • What types of additional benefits do you provide that we should keep in mind when comparing the value of your offering to your competitors’ alternatives?

Operational Context is Key

The way in which manufacturers buy and implement software has changed forever — and there’s no going back.

Instead of changing your processes to fit a new system, it’s time for you to set forth new software demands when it comes to agility, scalability, data flexibility, cloud functionality, user experience, and more.

Doing so empowers your organization to find a solution that offers a faster time-to-value — while also enabling you to adapt quickly to evolving market conditions.

Disruption is Here to Stay: What to Demand From Your Manufacturing Software Vendor

Watch our on-demand webinar for insights on what you should demand from your manufacturing software vendor when it comes to time-to-value, scalability, user experience, and more.