Choosing Calibration Management Software

Choosing Calibration Management Software

Choosing Calibration Management Software
Have you​ have found yourself lost in​ a​ software hell? you​ are not alone .​
Every magazine you​ pick up advertises new and improved software; your junk email,​ I​ like to​ call g-mail,​ tells you​ of​ the​ latest products; you​ see it​ in​ catalogs; and your phone rings and some vendor is​ pushing you​ to​ purchase their latest package .​
you​ know you​ need software,​ or​ newer software,​ and colleagues are telling you​ that the​ latest software will help your business,​ make you​ more profitable,​ and help your customer service experience .​
But how do you​ determine what software is​ good for your business?

Lab and quality managers are forced to​ wear several different hats when choosing software for their business .​
Labs that have the​ resource of​ an​ IT department or​ an​ employee that has some software experience get frustrated trying to​ sift through the​ software maze and give up (more often than not) .​
They decide the​ only way they are going to​ get what they want is​ to​ build it​ themselves .​
This fix seems to​ be a​ simple solution up-front but anyone who has been through this process will tell you​ it​ is​ far from simple .​

Software can be classified into different functional areas .​
Some packages do a​ good job of​ overall functionality,​ but most of​ the​ best in​ class applications specialize in​ a​ few specific areas of​ function .​
General classifications of​ software would include bench top,​ management,​ internet,​ mobile,​ enterprise,​ PDA and instrument packages.

The Environment
The first evaluation that needs to​ be done is​ to​ review the​ hardware that will be used by the​ new system .​
Will it​ be the​ same hardware,​ new hardware,​ some of​ both? you​ will want to​ look at​ the​ oldest machine that will be used by the​ software and make sure it​ meets the​ specification requirements of​ the​ software .​
in​ some cases,​ the​ upgrading of​ the​ hardware can be just as​ expensive as​ the​ software .​
If the​ hardware being used does not meet the​ requirements of​ the​ software,​ then your first decision point has been reached: do you​ replace the​ hardware or​ look for different software? If the​ life cycle of​ the​ hardware is​ to​ expire before the​ life cycle of​ the​ software,​ then it​ is​ usually easy to​ determine which way to​ go.

The second evaluation should be your connectivity to​ the​ outside world .​
If the​ software package requires any connection to​ the​ internet you​ will need to​ understand the​ capabilities of​ your facility .​
Like the​ hardware,​ this too can be upgraded if​ required and many of​ the​ high speed cable or​ DSL connections are as​ cheap as​ dial-up .​
If your bandwidth to​ the​ internet is​ limited,​ this may hinder or​ stop functionality of​ some software products .​
as​ a​ general rule,​ each user going out to​ the​ internet will consume about 16k of​ bandwidth utilizing a​ standard browser .​
If the​ user is​ requesting data on​ a​ regular basis,​ this utilization will increase .​
as​ a​ general rule of​ thumb,​ divide the​ bandwidth by 64k to​ determine how many people can ‘work’ through the​ internet connection .​

The third evaluation will be the​ location of​ work .​
is​ all of​ your work done in​ the​ lab or​ is​ some done on-site? Depending upon the​ ratio of​ on​ site work,​ the​ ability for the​ software to​ support the​ on-site process may be a​ factor .​
Additionally,​ if​ work is​ being done on-site and the​ software requires an​ internet connection,​ does the​ facility you​ are working at​ have a​ connection you​ can use? Many companies have requirements and limitations in​ allowing outside users access to​ their system .​
On-site work may require the​ use of​ a​ laptop or​ other portable computer device .​
Make sure you​ understand the​ basic requirements of​ the​ software for performing the​ work onsite before purchasing or​ upgrading any hardware .​
Licensing of​ on-site software should also be evaluated; if​ the​ on-site license cannot be used while that technician is​ not on​ site you​ may be forced to​ purchase more licenses than you​ have users .​
Software packages that allow the​ license to​ follow the​ user whether on-site or​ in​ the​ lab can be more cost effective.

The Workflow
Before seeking a​ software package sit down and develop a​ simple work process flow chart of​ your facility,​ starting from the​ time you​ contact the​ customer through the​ time you​ return the​ equipment to​ the​ customer .​
Include notes about other applications being used that impact your business or​ any requirements that you​ have to​ export data .​
It is​ recommended once you​ have developed the​ baseline chart that staff from different areas of​ your business review the​ chart .​
Technicians on​ the​ bench will most certainly have a​ different view from the​ quality auditors or​ business managers .​
Get as​ much input as​ you​ can for the​ business model .​
This will make it​ easier to​ evaluate how your software should support your business .​

Once you​ have developed a​ good work flow model then the​ difficult task begins analyzing each of​ the​ work processes to​ determine if​ they will fit your future business needs and how critical they are to​ your business model .​
Some software packages expect you​ to​ change your business practices to​ meet the​ needs of​ the​ software .​
If you​ are highly flexible in​ how you​ do business,​ this aspect of​ the​ software decision will not be too difficult .​
However,​ if​ your business practices are supporting other processes outside of​ your business model,​ then it​ is​ important that the​ software be able to​ adapt to​ support your critical processes as​ well as​ the​ other outside business practices .​

The Platform
The next step is​ to​ determine what operating system and style platform you​ want to​ run on​ .​
Some packages can run on​ Windows,​ Unix,​ Linux,​ or​ Mac operating systems and do not care what data storage product you​ choose .​
Generally these packages come in​ one of​ two platforms: Browser-based or​ Desktop.

Asking the​ Right Questions
Now you​ have some good tools to​ help you​ evaluate each software package .​
If you​ have determined the​ platform and the​ type of​ application you​ want to​ use this will narrow the​ number of​ applications you​ need to​ review .​
Next you​ will need to​ determine what types of​ software you​ need to​ review .​

In Summary
Do your homework and don’t be afraid to​ ask for some help .​
Remember,​ every product was new at​ one point .​
New software will take advantage of​ new technology which usually means you​ get more bang for the​ buck .​
Examine all the​ angles and trends .​
You want to​ mitigate the​ risk,​ improve your processes,​ create a​ better work place,​ provide better customer service,​ and,​ of​ course,​ make more money.

Choosing Calibration Management Software

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