Volume 48, Issue 2- February 2013


Fabricators Find Software Selection Process Can Be Full of Challenges

Westeck Windows and Doors, a Chilliwack, B.C.-based fabricator, had a problem. The company needed a way to improve the process of selling its products for multi-family, industrial, residential and institutional projects. “We had a software system that we were very unhappy with,” explains Casey Kerkhoff, CEO and general manager of Westeck.

Finally, enough was enough and the company began the process of seeking an alternate system for creating quotations and contracts. The process of finding a new supplier would take about a year, followed by another six months of implementation.

Coastal Industries, the Jacksonville, Fla.-based shower door manufacturer, knew online ordering software was simply a way to help customers do business quicker and more efficiently through a streamlined quoting and ordering process. “It provides our customers with real-time pricing and instantaneous order entry, giving them an edge versus their competition,” says Ray Adams, Coastal’s president.

And for GLASSource in Grand Haven, Mich., new software was a way to pull together a fragmented group of programs into one software package that would be simple for all employees to understand. “We had many different standalone systems, and even some software we had written for us, but it required multiple entry’s into each respective component. Since they were different, employees had to learn very different entry formats and procedures. It was time-consuming and difficult to maintain,” says Jim Arnold, president of GLASSource.

Software is a critical component of any glass shop, as it can make or break a company seeking to handle multiple orders, from sale to delivery. As a result, selecting new software can be a lengthy process, not just in the implementation but in the selection of a solution that adequately meets one’s needs.

All three of these fabricators have spent roughly a year in the process of updating their software.

“Last spring we met with Glassco [Solutions] and signed an agreement shortly thereafter. We were looking for a solution for 3/8-inch shower estimating and order entry and they have been able to provide one,” Adams says. More than that, Adams found that his software supplier of choice was one that took time to fully understand what product Coastal needed. As Adams advises other fabricators, “Choose the right partner who wants to take the time to understand your business.”

GLASSource began its research about three years ago, finally settling on FeneVision ERP in January 2012. “We extensively surveyed several other software companies, but our criteria determined that control of CNC machines, ease of use and a progressive and growing company were paramount,” Arnold explains. He notes that a factor in choosing Fenevision was the company’s annual user conference. “It is a multi-day event in which they educate current software users but also have seminars on other current industry trends,” Arnold explains.

Testimonials were a critical decision-making tool for Kerkhoff as well. Before he decided on a new program, knowing that it would vastly impact all areas of the business, he wanted to make sure the software would perform as expected. “I called quite a few fabricators that were already using the product,” he says. “There was not a negative comment from any of them.” That research and outreach to other users was a huge part of Kerkhoff’s decision to implement a solution from 360 Innovations.

Another factor in his decision was the depth and detail to which the software supplier went in explaining how to fit the new program to the company’s sales process, “going into minute details,” Kerkhoff recalls. “It’s also something that other people did not do, at least to the same extent. [360 Innovations] sat with us to look at all of our needs and how that would fit with our system. They did a lot of upfront work.”

For Arnold, the biggest challenge of the year-long installation process was simply gaining employee acceptance and ensuring their training on the new system. “The main challenge to getting up and running is to make the time for the staff to learn, develop and implement the system,” he says. “You definitely need a project leader to ‘champion’ the project, and get the buy-in from the rest of the staff. We were very fortunate to have just such a person on our staff; without our office manager’s dedication to this project it would have been much more difficult.”

While surprises are more likely than not for companies making a significant change to their way of doing business online, an on-time delivery can truly stand out. Since the software installation process began in November 2012, Kerkhoff has been pleased and says the transition has been smooth.

And although the GLASSource system has been up and running for about a month, Arnold says the impact already has been noticeable. “Already we are getting positive feedback from the office and the production floor. Being able to track a part at every station, and enter part sizes only one time will significantly reduce our overhead as well as our production time.”

Arnold advises other fabricators looking to make this significant investment to first take a look at the way their business runs today and accept the changes that need to be made to improve. “I think before undertaking such a big change in your business, be sure you have documented your current work flows and pricing structures and understand them well, and that you can make the time for the implementation. But probably the most important [factor] is to be willing and open to consider changing the way you look at and do some things within your company. It is easy to want to bend things to match the way you have always done them, but often there are better and simpler ideas,” Arnold says.

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