How Should You Pick a Production Scheduling Vendor? (Part 1)

The benefits of advanced planning and scheduling and production scheduling software can be immense. However, production scheduling software is not a commodity. There is no guarantee that any advanced planning and scheduling software you chose is going to deliver all the benefits that you are hoping for. In other posts, we talk about how to pick the best production scheduling software for your company. Your evaluation needs to start with the advanced planning and scheduling / production scheduling software itself, and how well it fits in your environment.

As we’ve advocated elsewhere in this blog, we feel it is important that your vendor work with you to develop a sample scheduling model that shows how the software would map onto your real world situation. It is the only way to know for sure that you have a fit. Let’s say you’ve taken this step. Also let’s say that you have worked with more than one vendor to map advanced planning and scheduling / production scheduling software onto you environment. What if the software looks very similar to you? How do you choose?

Your next step should be to concentrate on the vendor. You need to pick the vendor that will be your best partner to help you unlock the full potential of advanced planning and scheduling software. The questions below might help in this process:

  • In the process of building the sample production scheduling model, how well have you and the vendor worked together?How well you work with vendor staff members prior to the sale is a strong indicator of what it will be like to work with them after the sale. This is particularly true if the same staff will be working with you pre and post sales. You might want to ask yourself the following questions:
    • Does the vendor put your needs first? Is he or she curious about fully understanding your needs and goals, or does he or she fixate on functions and features, a good many of which won’t even be relevant to you?
    • Does the vendor seem knowledge about production and operations environments or is he or she a “software geek”? Deep production experience is important in properly applying planning and scheduling software. The more real world experience the vendor has the better.
    • Does the vendor seem reliable, or do your phone calls and emails go unanswered for long periods of time? If a vendor isn’t responsive before the sale is made, they will only be worse after
    • How much continuity will there be between vendor pre-sales and post-sales staff?You may really like your vendor’s sales and pre-sales consulting staff, but there are no guarantees that you will get to work with them after the sale. While maintaining the same staff pre and post sales is clearly in the best interests of the customer, most software companies have their most senior staff work only with prospective customers. In their minds, more is at stake. After the sale, they turn consulting and implementation tasks over to more junior employees. Unfortunately, you as the customer will often then have to devote time (and money) to bringing the new vendor staff up to speed on your application (usually while paying their consulting rate).
  • You also may find that promises made by sales staff are “forgotten” when new implementation staff take over.If you suspect there is going to be such a hand off, you might want to ask the following questions:
    • What are the backgrounds of implementation staff members?
    • What is the sales team going to do to educate the implementation staff on my account?
    • Who is going to be my point of contact? What level of access might I still have to pre-sales staff?
    • How do we resolve potential discrepancies between the positions taken by vendor pre and post sales staff?

Look for additional questions for vendors in our next post.