SaaS or SSaaS? Why You Need to Add an Extra 'S'

By: Kyle O'Reilly

December 18, 2020

Scalable Software As A Solution (SSaaS)

Do you work for a Fortune 500 company? If so, this article may not be for you. By all means, feel free to keep reading, I encourage it! But the reality is that most companies aren’t operating at the same capacity. Let me elaborate.

As the Director of Sales here at VKS, I spend a large majority of my time each week speaking to companies of all different shapes and sizes, from active customers to prospective, job-shops and enterprise organizations spanning across every sector under the sun.

One thing these companies have in common is that they are all interested in digitizing their manufacturing operations. The biggest difference between them is to what degree and where to begin.

One quick Google search using today's biggest industry buzzwords such as Industry 4.0, Smart Manufacturing, Industrial IoT, just to name a few, can garner an extensive list of software platforms. Each features the ability to deliver a tantalizing glimpse at what the future state of production could look like in the future. It would simply be untrue if I said that some of these software packages were not really well-made and can provide a lot of added value to a company's bottom line.

The underlying issue usually isn't within the software itself, but rather, with its fit and applicability in the environment it's designed to be used in.

Nowadays, the majority of companies need a vision and path towards achieving the status of self-proclaimed Smart Manufacturer. In this way, smart manufacturing companies become customers that attract more business by reputation alone as well as supplies that get talked about with great distinction.

This is exactly what we try to do here at VKS. This initiative also sets us apart from any other software company out there right now.

VKS is the only modular-based digital work instruction platform on the market. This is a business decision we made internally in the beginning for a couple of reasons.

For starters --and this brings me back to my Fortune 500 comment from the beginning,- not all companies can afford 100-200 thousand dollar software packages. These types of investments can be too much for a lot of small to medium-sized businesses. Not to mention, it’s not always a great fit!

The VKS Lite module is designed to be extremely affordable and allows for any company to begin their paperless transition in just a couple of hours.

Another reason, which has become incredibly important for our customers, is that it provides different starting points for companies in different stages of their Industry 4.0 revolution.

Rather than looking at digital transformation as a massive mountain to climb, Industry 4.0 breaks that mountain into smaller more easily achievable hills or milestones.

An MES Within the SaaS Model

Using VKS EnterpriseIf a company is further along in the revolution, our Enterprise module acts as a full-blown MES system. This includes the capturing live quality data, tracking operating efficiency in real-time, and generating reports for managerial traceability. All of this also allows for full IoT capabilities through tool, machine, and ERP integration. The best part about VKS is that the Lite and Pro module can be applied for instant benefits and to resolve that dreaded pain-point or bottleneck that had your team searching for a work instruction solution in the first place.

Since our software provides a platform for our customers to grow with, the purchasing and approval phase is then streamlined. The entire implementation phase of venturing into more advanced Industry 4.0 features also becomes much easier.

Each VKS customer is assigned their own Customer Success representative from a team full of manufacturing experts who know how to apply VKS in any type of environment.

This approach takes the pressure off our customers' shoulders and allows them to focus on the big picture, while we help them with the smaller details.

How Our Customers Have Scaled Using VKS

When companies use VKS, they usually turn paper in-process production instructions into digital versions using our Lite module.

Once they have established a process for creating new digital work instruction, they switch to VKS Pro. Our second module allows companies to add forms for in-process inspections and monitoring which operators performed these inspections. With the Pro module, companies can also view the amount of time taken by operators to complete a job, the amount of units completed, etc.

From then, an opportunity to streamline processes in an automated way is then identified and companies switch to our Enterprise module, which connects our API with their ERP system.

This integration allows for the pushing and pulling of work order information, non-conformances, live & dynamic BOM attachment and more correlated data through summarized reporting.

ERP System

Using VKS for Training

As a result of developing a software as a service (SaaS) for work instructions, we also identified a need for improving training and onboarding. Before its deployment on the shop floor, the VKS software can also be brought in as a training tool for HR's onboarding process as well as for operator training. This enables an efficient and intuitive way of creating and maintaining all training material through VKS Lite. The implementation of the Certifications feature also ensured that only qualified and properly training employees would work on specific, highly-controlled jobs.

Then, training can also become more intelligent and interactive using VKS Pro. Storing audits, final inspection, control plants and in-process inspections on paper, often in large filing cabinets, fails to hold up in quality in comparison to storing all of this information digitally. By creating Smart Forms, companies can quiz employees and confirm that they understand the material.

Reports can also be generated on the quiz scores, who is training on what, when operators last had any training, etc. Smart Forms also allow companies to turn these paper documents into digital and interactive forms that collect data, such as measurements, dimensions, temperatures, serial numbers, and more. At its core, VKS Enterprise guarantees optimal quality control.

Data ConnectMany companies have since also decided to connect VKS directly to their QMS System. This switch allows for a seamless transition of the data between the two systems in real-time, which means no more file cabinets!

When electrical and tool calibration tests occur, we also leverage our DataConnect feature to connect directly with the test-benches being used. Once a go or no-go signal is received from the test bench, the VKS software then allows the operator to either move forward in the work instruction or stay put depending on the given result. This fail-safe adds a full new level of process compliance and insights which they are then shareable with customers for traceability purposes.

An Example - Whose Needs Should Be Addressed First?

Let's take the example of a medium-sized machine shop that is owned by a much larger organization, but still operating independently. They're currently losing a lot of their tribal knowledge to an aging and retiring workforce.

In an automated, high-volume environment, the bottom-line is much more reliant on machine up-time than anything else. But what often gets forgotten is that with every machine, there’s an operator in charge of running it.

In this case, the knowledge transfer between experienced operators and new employees isn't standardized and is causing a lot of down-time during the machine maintenance and changeover processes. As it stands, these processes are either in the operators' heads, or in an old dusty binder somewhere.

Learning with Work Instructions

By implementing VKS work instructions, this company can instead standardize best practices by using a visual interface. New employees can now perform their jobs in the same exact way as operators with more than 25 years of experience. Productivity tracking also gives them insights they never previously had. Through this data analysis, they're also able to see a positive increase. Once Corporate catches wind of this positive return on investment, they then decide to add additional locations and users.

Keep in mind that this isn't just a hypothetical example. This is a real life example of one of our customers who then went on to report an ROI of 6.1 million dollars in one year. VKS is now used globally at all of their locations!

So now, let's go back to our original question: Whose needs need to be addressed first?

As you can see from some of the examples above, different groups within the organization may have different needs that spark their interest in searching for a software that could help them solve a specific issue. The QA team may be looking to improve internal rejects, Engineering may be looking for a more effective way to create and distribute instructions, Operations may be looking for a way to track productivity and view bottlenecks, the Continuous Integration team may be looking for ways to eliminate waste and create a more lean working environment… the list goes on.

Everyone knows that getting the approval to bring in a new software supplier is challenging enough in today’s climate. Imagine how much more difficult it is when you need to get approval for 10 different software solutions that do 10 different things.

We don’t take “getting our foot in the door” lightly and we use that as an opportunity to help companies discover other areas of use for VKS while we work with them on the primary application.

SSaaS - Why that extra "S" is Important

If you fall into the category of 90% of manufacturers globally who are either at the start or early phases of digitizing your operations, then it’s incredibly important for you to find a software platform that meets your immediate needs and also meets your future needs.

Identify the problem you are trying to solve today and make sure to ask yourself what future problems you want to solve. Also, think about where you see your operations in the next 3 to 5, to 10 years down the road. Once you’ve done that, find a software that you can form a relationship with and scale your business with to new heights with its flexibility and applicability.

We pride ourselves on all of this, whether you need to scale your module, number of plants or overall user count, our software makes it as seamless as possible for you.

This way, when you ask us the question, “What makes you different from any other competitor out there?” The answer is simple. It’s our software as a service, our team, and our vision that will help you scale your business.

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