Volume 7, Issue 7 - July/August 2006

From the Publisher

Results of Informal Case Study about Software Choices Prove Enlightening

The results of DWM’s extensive software survey (see September 2005 DWM, page 58), confirmed that software has become increasingly important to fenestration manufacturers. In fact, I just came back from touring a manufacturing plant, in which the operations manager told me that the software program purchased recently was the “central nervous system of the plant.” However, finding that lifeblood can be a feat in itself. 

That being the case, this year we decided to do the work for some lucky subscribers. In our weekly e-mail newsletter we asked readers who were shopping for software currently to contact us. We in turn would approach a number of suppliers and get bids for them. I heard from one person who is well into the process himself, and another who “wasn’t ready” to start this endeavor. This seemed odd, as I would have thought companies such as these would have welcomed the preliminary research even if it were put on hold for a bit.

We selected one reader who wrote back with requirements that I then forwarded to the ten manufacturers. I told these companies that if they needed further information to please contact me and I would get the specs from the manufacturer. Following are his company’s requirements:

“A vinyl window manufacturer with a 15,000 square foot warehouse is looking for a simple software program to be used mainly for cutting vinyl materials, glass and labels. This company is a start-up and the owner says he only needs basic software.”
Here’s where it gets interesting. 

• Supplier A wrote back immediately to say, “we are not capable of delivering this functionality. Our software is focused on sales channel quoting and ordering.”

• Supplier B wrote back immediately to ask for further details:

1. Approximate number of windows the manufacturer plans to make per week;

2. The name of their extrusion supplier (if it is a company we have worked with before, it might reduce the price of the software package);

3. How many product lines they plan to manufacture;

4. How many licenses of the software they would require;

5. Whether they plan to make non-rectangular windows;

6. Whether they need the software to do their pricing and quoting ; and

7. Whether they need links to automated saws and/or welders.

• Supplier C has a spreadsheet to send to potential customers, and also requested further details:

1. What saws/positioners will be used? Will the equipment be able to accept an electronic file from the software?;
2. What glass cutting equipment will be used?;

3. Are we quoting software only or engineering services to develop bill of materials (which will be needed in order to define the cutting logistics for glass and vinyl). If we are quoting engineering services then how many different models of windows do they make?;

4. Do we need to quote hardware (server, PC, printers, etc.)?;

5. Do they want to generate invoices from the software?;

6. Do they want to control inventory with the software?

• Supplier D wrote back saying, “Our software will fit in very nicely with the company that you were inquiring for as it will be able to grow with them. The attached Word document is our pricing structure and also the following is a link to our online demo that takes about 15 minutes. 

• Suppliers E through J never responded to my request. 

So let’s recap. Out of ten manufacturers, four responded, two of whom asked for more information. So while you may be thinking that is a poor showing from suppliers, they weren’t the only ones not responding. After forwarding the requests from suppliers B and C to the manufacturer we never received a reply. 

The moral of the story here is to get started early. To that manufacturer who said he wasn’t ready, it may be that when you are prepared to make a purchase it will take months to gain all the information.

But that’s where we come in. Realizing this is a difficult process, we asked all software companies to give us information on their products (the information from those who responded appears on page 66). Our goal was to give you, the manufacturer, everything in one place. So, even if you’re not ready today, file it away for later use as it will save you time and energy and at least serve as a starting point.

Good luck!

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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.