In a movie, the hero is always accompanied by a supporting cast of characters. They spend their time working to help the hero get the girl (or guy, if such the case may be), save the day and ride off into the sunset. Sadly, their assistance is usually forgotten by the time the credits roll.
Much like these supporting cast members, software’s contribution to a business’s heroic struggle to survive and thrive goes unnoticed. As such, software is generally seen as a luxury item for fabricators, and often finds itself taking a back seat to new materials and tools.
But materials are gone once they’re used, and blades and bits grow dull over time. Software, by contrast, can live forever, continues to grow more efficient as time passes and actively pays for itself by saving money and generating revenue. This makes software a necessary investment in a business’s future, the kind of investment that may mean the difference between a fairy tale ending and an unfortunate plot twist.
‘I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.’*
The HAL 9000 computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey may have taken its job to the extreme, but it was the ultimate expression of software’s first and best duty: to prevent mistakes that will ultimately be very costly.
Even a tiny math error can snowball into lost time, money, materials and goodwill, which can make or break a profit margin. Customer goodwill is especially expensive, and unlike a software package, customer dissatisfaction does not come with a payment plan. Software reduces the chances of these gaffes in two ways.
The first is through accuracy and reliability. It will not forget to carry the one, is not prone to fatigue, does not confuse numbers in a moment of dyslexia and will always be consistent in its calculations. Moreover, software does not come prepackaged with the emotional baggage of a human being. Software does not work more slowly or less efficiently when it is unhappy and does not sit around commiserating about not being paid enough or recognized for its talents. It is not distracted by chit-chat or problems at home. It needs only a functional computer to do its work.
The second defense software provides against mistakes is disciplines that prevent its human users from making unintentional slip-ups. Software forces people to work in habitual routines that make errors so glaringly obvious that they can be caught before they become a problem. What’s more, with its own predefined rules and built-in error checking, software looks over the shoulder of users to catch them before, during and after they’ve made a potential blunder.
Software’s ability to play “big brother” also stops employees from exploiting the business for personal needs. For example, a salesperson looking for an easy commission can’t sell the job lower than the estimating software allows, and materials would be much less likely to go “missing” if they need to be applied to a specific job in the inventory management software.
Software’s big red eye is always watching.
‘Must go faster. Must go faster.’*
Software is the gasoline that fires a business’s commercial engine. Without it, the hungry, salivating T-Rex that is the unyielding pressure to be faster and more efficient will catch up and tear a business to pieces. Every minute wasted doing complex tasks that could be automated and simplified with software is another minute not spent generating new revenue, reducing costs and improving the quality of the finished product.
Software speeds up business activities by reducing them to simple, repeatable tasks that people can do swiftly. It stores and indexes information to make it more easily accessible and it zips through calculations that would take a human a considerable amount of time. With each of these improvements, employees and business owners are liberated from tedious and complicated chores to work on other, more important things.
The boosts to speed and efficiency have the added benefit of making the business more responsive. Estimating software allows the fabricator to bid on more jobs than they normally could. Scheduling software allows the fabricator to maximize the amount of work done in a week. Accounting software helps keep bills paid and revenues collected in a timely fashion. Inventory management software ensures materials get ordered in time for production.
With the right software in place, fabricators can squeeze every dime out of every minute of every day, while others get trampled under the feet of wasted time.