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Wednesday was quickly starting to feel like a Monday. Luke Niels, the Plant Manager at Progressive Turning, Inc., had a fresh headache to deal with: it looked like the company’s aging calibration management software finally turned in its resignation. There were some problems with the system for a while but today it was “crashing” every few minutes – it just was not usable. It was November, and there was no budget to upgrade the software this year. To make matters worse, an ISO 9001:2008 audit was coming up next Monday. Another “pressure cooker” situation was all set.
Progressive Turnings, a precision CNC job shop in Aurora, Illinois is ISO 9001:2008 certified. The company was founded in 1979 and was originally run by a father, Larry Niels, and his two sons Dave and Ken. Today, while having grown over the years, the company is still run by the founding family, a third generation of machinists, and produces components for a variety of industries including pumps, hydraulic valves, furniture, locking systems, and laboratory equipment.
After hearing about the failure of the calibration software, Luke knew they would need to get a new product rather than getting an updated version of the current system. The issue again, as in the past, was the cost of the update – it was painfully expensive and almost as much as buying the same product again. Later that Wednesday Luke made a short list of must-have software features and started an internet search for calibration software products. On Thursday, after he got all the usual daily issues out of the way, Luke started making calls to the few software companies that appeared to have the required features and looked affordable.
One product that stood out was GageManager from Altegra—it offered full calibration management system functionality but at a very attractive price. The cost of the new system would be less than half of upgrading the old; they could make it work. During the phone call Luke explained the situation: the current system was failing, they needed a replacement, and it had to happen very quickly. To avoid being pressured on price, Luke decided to not to talk about the audit that was coming up on Monday.
During the phone call Altegra confirmed that the GageManager had the features Progressive Turnings needed and the price, in fact, would be what was listed on the website. Luke went over the list of key features and then went over the support (what happens if the software crashes?), updates, and training. One of the features Luke was looking for was automatic calibration scheduling – yes, it was included. Luke asked for the verbal answers to be backed up with an email.
Shortly after the phone call Altegra followed up with an email containing a quote, answers to questions, and screenshots to illustrate the scheduling capabilities in the software. It sounded good but it was just a glimpse of the product. There were a still a number of important questions. Were all the key features really there? Were the screens clearly laid out? Would the software be quick to learn and easy to operate? It was time for a demo, which was scheduled at 11 am the following morning. It would be on Friday before the audit.
A small team of Progressive Turnings employees gathered for the GageManager demo. The live webinar took about 45 minutes. Altegra representative demonstrated the features Progressive was interested in and then answered questions from the team. Luke looked around the table – everyone was on board. If they had more time, they would have preferred to do a product trial but there was no time – they had to go for it now. They also decided not to import the data from the old system in to the new; Altegra could do it but there was no time.
The next step was to schedule the installation of the system; it had to be done ASAP. This being just before noon on Friday, Altegra offered to do the install on Monday. That’s when Luke revealed the absolute urgency of the situation: the audit was on Monday, the install had to be done that afternoon.
Altegra rep paused for a second and then asked: when will you be ready? He was going to move another meeting to make room for the urgent install. The installation was scheduled for 2pm. Luke still had to arrange for their IT contactor to get to the plant, just in case there was something he could help with. If any obstacles were to come up during the install, they had to be resolved on the spot. Live, on-line training was scheduled to start immediately after the installation.
Altegra emailed links to download the software; the email also included installation instructions in a PDF document. While getting ready for the 2pm install, Luke downloaded the installation files.
The installation took about 30 minutes and went smoothly but getting the IT contractor available proved to be the right decision: there was a network access issue that he had to deal with. If the IT contractor was not available, the installation would have to be moved to Monday. Getting all the right people in place was key. And the company “spared no expense” on the installation services: both installation assistance and training from Altegra were free.
A 45-minute training session started right after the installation, and at 3:30 Friday afternoon the lead users were ready to work on the system. At 3:42 pm Luke sent out a quick email to Altegra: “Software is great. Thanks for all of your help today.”
Alex Zaks, the president of Altegra, commented on the implementation of the GageManager at Progressive Turnings: “We are often under pressure to help customers implement the system on a compressed timeline. But going from an initial contact to a fully deployed system including training in less than 3 days was a record. A challenge like this can make for an intense day but it also makes work fun. And it is very satisfying to see your product help customers solve problems.”
Progressive Turnings passed the ISO audit on Monday; there were no problems with the company’s calibration management software. From a crashing old system on Wednesday to a new, operational calibration management system on Friday —it took less than 3 days and with no previously allocated funds in the budget.
The key to success were a clear and focused definition of required capabilities, precise execution, and finding a software vendor that had the right functionality, the right price, and dedication to service.