I just returned from a multi-day, international quality summit where I had the pleasure of speaking with many software companies in the quality assurance and compliance space. Getting out and seeing other QA/QC software solutions in the market is one of my favorite things. It is always fascinating to see how other people solve the same problems differently. I was really surprised this year at the lack of focus in this space. Rather than finding quality management systems targeting specific verticals like healthcare, manufacturing, food service, etc…, almost every vendor told me without the slightest hint of irony that their particular software solution was designed for anyone and everyone, no matter what the industry. Whether they thought I was running a car dealership, a catering business, or a shoe company, each believed that their software was uniquely positioned to help me manage quality within my company’s chosen field. One vendor even told me, very enthusiastically, that their quality management system also excelled at document management and marketing (yes, you read that correctly). I stopped by their booth to get a demo of the all-purpose-software but the guy in the booth only knew the document management and audit functionality. It was clear in under a minute that he was unfamiliar with both quality inspection and precision manufacturing.
In my fourteen years running a successful software company, I have made plenty of mistakes but I have never forgotten for whom my company is in business. InspectionXpert Corporation has always produced software for precision manufacturers. Our customers typically differentiate failure and success by thousandths of an inch and sometimes by the micron. Although our customers make different products, the core best practices for quality and inspection are fairly common across precision manufacturers. There are different considerations by industry (e.g. medical device manufacturers require different compliance documentation than aerospace manufacturers) and run volume (high-mix / low-volume Oil & Gas equipment manufacturers do a lot more FAIs than low-mix / high-volume automotive part suppliers) and those considerations keep our developers and product managers up late most nights. But these differences pale in comparison to the differences between a shoe company working with textiles & rubber and a precision turbine blade manufacturer working with exotic metals.
I have spent almost twenty years learning about the precision manufacturer’s quality challenges and can’t imagine that QA/QC software designed for a shoe company would ever satisfy the precision manufacturer or vice-versa. I wouldn’t attempt to use all-purpose-software to manage quality within a precision manufacturing facility any more than I would pull a water skier behind my SUV or take legal advice from my dentist. If you are in the market for software of any kind, I highly recommend you take a little extra time to get to know your potential vendors before you buy. I would ask them why their company is in business, whom do they make their product, and how many products do they make. The answers to those questions may help you avoid purchasing all-purpose-software.