GageTrak main menu screen is the introduction to the gage management software.
software reflects the fact that ISO compliance is ingrained in the
manufacturing world. Often manufacturers use software built around common
quality standards-such as ISO 9001, AS 9100 and TS 16949-for calibration, gage
management and document control, each of which plays a part in ISO compliance.
not all ISO customers are the same, CyberMetrics develops their software by
focusing on specific elements pertaining to calibration. Source: CyberMetrics
ISO standards affect calibration, the software must allow operators to improve
the business and receive or maintain compliance.
US Calibration (Irvine, CA) understands quality and compliance: the company
grew from a calibration lab and employs experts on calibration management who
developed the software during the past eight years. Previously used in-house
only, the software was released to the public last year. “We’re not software
people that decided to do calibration-we’re calibration people that decided to
do software,” says Jim Simmons, CEO and technical project manager.
Simmons also emphasizes that the software must be easy to use, and should give
control to the operators. US Calibration offers workflow automation software,
which prompts operators to do processes and procedures in the correct order,
Often, people running the calibration program are not necessarily calibration
management experts-they may simply be the person available for the job.
Although they may be hard-working, intelligent people, they may not understand
calibration compliance, Simmons says.
Simmons says US Calibration’s online xTrak software aims to spearhead a change
in thinking in terms of calibration management software. The software should
prompt operators to do the right thing the right way, rather than just provide
forms to fill in, and it should be designed with a process in mind, rather than
compliance only. “Compliance is one thing,” Simmons says. “Helping people know
what steps to take is a whole other level.”
Tools such as drop-down boxes force the operator to do things properly.
“Workflow automation is one of the key benefits of quality management software,
if the software is designed by people who understand quality,” Simmons says.
xTrak helps with efficiency and decentralization of control. Operators can use
it themselves without having to coordinate with the calibration manager. By
cutting out the middleman, companies can avoid delays caused by going through a
single person; the person who uses the equipment controls the status.
Because it is an online system, companies do not need to install any software.
The Web-based system provides customers and vendors with options on how it can
Some companies even give vendors a user ID and password so vendors can input
data themselves when they service equipment. Manufacturers can review the work
online and inspect it, but they do not have to re-enter the data.
This may be a little disorienting at first, as manufacturers may not be used to
vendors entering data into their database, thereby decentralizing control.
However, this method allows companies to better control their business, and in
With increasing numbers of computer-savvy operators, Simmons sees a trend
toward “user empowerment.” The goal is to empower the operators, not just
subject them to the program. They can actually provide input in how things
work. For example, the software allows people to upload as many documents as
they like, in formats from video to Word documents.
software has become more sophisticated over the years, growing from software
that tracked gages to software that now tracks an entire system. Source: US
(Scottsdale, AZ) focuses on gage management, a crucial piece of the quality
puzzle. CyberMetrics’ flagship GageTrak software has been around for about 18
years, and offers all-around gage management-not just
monitoring-so customers can track gages, as well as trace results. If gages are
failing, the software can determine why and when the failure started.
Though some companies still use index cards or spreadsheets to track gages,
auditors prefer to see software that helps with ISO and TS-even a basic
program-to ensure that the companies are doing what they say they do, says
Devin Ellis, director of client solutions at CyberMetrics. When customers put
forth policies, software helps monitor those. Without software, it is akin to
shooting baskets blindfolded, says Ellis. “You don’t know if you are
succeeding, if it’s going through the hoop or not.”
Because not all ISO customers are the same, CyberMetrics develops their
software by focusing on specific elements pertaining to calibration.
“Everybody’s software focuses on specific areas of ISO,” Ellis says. “Gaging is
a very, very small niche. It’s a very small part of ISO, but has a huge effect
if they’re not doing proper gage surveillance or calibration monitoring.
Ultimately your product is affected.”
Over the years, GageTrak has changed a great deal. Originally the software did
calibration surveillance and tracked measurement points. As computers became
readily available, software became more sophisticated; operators were no longer
just tracking due dates, but tracking entire systems. Software changed greatly
in answer to an ever-growing marketplace. “Our software was relevant in more
places than we’ve ever intended,” Ellis says.
The software industry is now poised for another technology change. As customers
become more global, software must work in a international environment. For example, the Beijing
facility must be able to communicate gage information to the Michigan facility.
The software is moving from the desktop to the network.
“As standards and compliance requirements change, obviously we will change our
software to those needs and make sure customers are in compliance,” Ellis
Not only is software evolving, but so too are traditional software providers.
CyberMetrics is evolving from a software seller to a solutions provider. This
shortens implementation time and provides a faster return on investment, and it
affects how the company deploys software and sells it. “For us, it is a much
closer relationship with our customers. We walk away from some deals where we
don’t think we’re a good fit,” Ellis says.
When looking at industry trends, Ellis says it is not about features, but about
recognizing the changing marketplace. Software companies that have survived are
focused more on solutions than just selling software. Today’s customers are
more sophisticated: they have been using computers for a decade, and they have
seen their share of bad software. They
know what they want, and what they do not.
Of course, customers want software that will adapt to upcoming ISO changes. If
the software is not flexible and adaptable, it will not last.
“We make sure that we follow and make the changes,” Ellis says. “The software
helps them document their successes. Our software is not going to give them ISO
compliance. It’s not going to stop tires from blowing up-the bulk of the
responsibility is still on the manufacturer. Software fills a pretty
straightforward role-it is going to give them knowledge of results. Companies
should have a healthy understanding of what software will do to help them
Wolverine Carbide Die Co. (Troy, MI) designs and manufactures high-
precision tools and dies for the hot, warm and cold metal forming industry. The
company uses Plexus software, and became ISO-certified after implementing it.
ISO certification was not a top priority, but their customers demanded it and
with the software, certification was possible.
Wolverine saw the software in action at another company and then asked Plexus
Systems (Auburn Hills, MI) to design a system for them in 1996. “The system was
very effective in helping our company,” says Nicholas Stavropoulos, vice
president of Wolverine Carbide Die Co.
Later Wolverine switched to the Plexus Online Web-based system, and used it to
maintain and enhance their ISO certification. Because it is Web-based,
Stavropoulos likes how his staff can access it anywhere in the world. “I like
how logical it is,” Stavropoulos says. “There’s still a great deal of
customization you can do.”
Several other key modules stood out for him. “The document control system was
awesome,” Stavropoulos says. “It’s one of the key things.” Previously, the
company had used only paper for their document control, and they enjoyed
benefits by switching to the online system. Wolverine says inventory
management, drawing management and the part list were other key modules. He
appreciates the ability to track labor time against production.
Like most companies, Wolverine’s staff initially feared the change, but later
gained confidence working with the system as they discovered what it could do.
Overall, Stavropoulos says it was a smooth transition.
“Our software covers all aspects of the company,” says John Ransford, Plexus
Systems project manager. “Quality is
just one aspect of our system.” During an audit, running the whole system helps
customers demonstrate their ISO work to the auditors.
The software has changed over time to adapt to changing standards and business
needs. Originally, the software was strictly hierarchical, but that has
evolved. Instead of auditing the whole company, today companies can create one
section audits and audit the gage control system. Later, customers asked Plexus
for drill-down capabilities, which were then added.
The software also offers business process flowcharts, which show an entire
process. These customer-driven features allow the companies to use the software
as it best fits them. As a result, audits take less time, down from several
days to one afternoon. Auditors can sit at a terminal and check business
“A big change in ISO software is that companies don’t sit down with a
checklist,” says Plexus’s Patrick Fetterman, vice president of marketing.
“Instead they use workflow-type audits, as the audit is looking for
qualifications all along the way.”
An integrated system can make the audit process smoother and more importantly,
improve business processes. Previously, companies could become certified
without having good business processes in place, but that is becoming harder to
do. Audits now look at a range of factors and can keep drilling down and asking
“The layered process audit is the most dynamic area right now,” says Ransford.
“The old audit used a single checklist, but the layered process audit requires
different levels of control, management, different checklists and schedules.”
With the layered process audit, companies on the leading edge of quality are
often ahead of the standard. When the external auditor comes in, they will take
these ideas with them and try to incorporate it into the standard later.
Auditors today have less and less tolerance for disparate flat files, such as
PowerPoint and Microsoft Word; they want to see integrated database solutions
that emphasize quality, Ransford says.
Computer-savvy customers know that their processes are only as good as their
software. Therefore, manufacturers would be wise to choose a system that
complies with the standards while maximizing results.
more information about the companies mention in this article, visit their Web
Plexus Online, www.plex.com
US Calibration, www.uscalibration.com
Wolverine Carbide Die Co., www.wolverinecarbide.com
Sidebar: Software Selection
selecting software, consider these questions:
- First, do I know what I need? What standards do I need to
comply with? Be familiar with your requirements before you start
- Consider how much you have to spend, and what type of technology is
needed. If you have plants in Beijing, you will need a widely deployable, wide
area network, which knocks out some options. If you just need it on a desktop,
this greatly increases options.
- Look for vendors that ask questions about what you do. Companies that
ask questions recognize that most business is long-term.