Trust Software Companies to Make Software & Cabinet Companies to Make Cabinets

A manufacturer’s worst nightmare is when you (the dealer) drop their line.  When a manufacturer fights so hard to sign you up, it’s awful when you leave and go with another brand.  It destroys years of relationship building and investment by the manufacturer.

When the market is down like it is, companies get very protective about their customers.  Sometimes to a fault.  AT&T does it with contracts and penalties – but it still doesn’t stop the droves of people leaving to Verizon, who are apparently leaving AND taking their bandwidth with them judging by the amount of dropped calls I’ve had in the last week.
At best, companies can make it difficult for you to change.  And cabinet manufacturers are no different.

5-the dealers council cartoon - root canal

Apparently cabinet manufacturers are now software companies judging by the amount of software which is being dumped on the dealer channel lately.  It’s free of course (and still nobody is using it), but it made me think about the reasons why cabinet manufacturers are all of the sudden software junkies.

I think it’s about control.

Here are my top 10 reasons why using cabinet manufacturer software may not be in your best interest:

  1. Software quality. Cabinet manufacturers build really good cabinets but that doesn’t make them a software company. Software they build for their dealers is usually designed poorly, rarely tested, updated a million times throughout the year to correct the million bugs you told them about, and poorly documented.  This means it’s an absolute bear for your staff to try to learn it, let alone use it.
  2. Rekeying. It’s a win for the manufacturer, but not a win for you.  That’s because even though it’s free, you’re the one that has to rekey all their orders.  Who pays for that?  Hint: you do.  Nothing is really ever free, right?
  3. Confidentiality. Are you really going to key in your hard earned lead and customer detail into your cabinet manufacturer’s system?  I’m all for close relationships, but what happens if things go south?  Make sure to have legal review your confidentiality and non-compete agreements with your manufacturers if you’re putting sensitive data like customers and leads into their software – especially if the manufacturer has a history of going direct.
  4. Negotiation. You could lose negotiation power.  Once your staff starts using it, it will be more difficult for you to switch to another brand.  If you ever have to offer a take it or leave it position at some point in the future, your manufacturer knows that you’ll be facing a training issue (and extra costs) if you switch.  You may not be able to switch at all, and your supplier will know that.
  5. Dealer process gaps. Cabinet manufacturers aren’t dealers.  By definition their software will be created from their perspective.  That means it isn’t going to fit into your operation very well and it certainly isn’t going to improve your margins.  Think about it this way: if a dealer tried to create manufacturing software, how well do you think it would work?
  6. Security & performance. In the world of software, it is top priority to address security and the performance of the application.  Otherwise, the software will be slow and any employee (yours or your manufacturer’s) with a little curiosity can access your sensitive data. Software created by your supplier is either going to be slow, accessible by prying eyes — or both.
  7. A whole solution.  Your supplier isn’t going to create software that works for competing brands.  That means you need to use one software program for each brand.  How many brands do you carry?
  8. Support. Cabinet manufacturers aren’t known for their software architecture skills.  That means the software most likely runs on your employee’s laptops with a dated infrastructure.  Whose responsible for keeping your supplier’s software up to date?  Hint: you are, usually through your local IT provider.
  9. Backup & recovery. If you’re data is in your cabinet manufacturer’s software, how is it backed up and restored in the case of an emergency?  Disasters don’t just strike smaller companies.  If your cabinet manufacturer has a disaster, how will that affect you and your business data?  What is their guarantee to you on response & recovery time? (Hint: there’s probably no guarantee since it was free so you might be down for days with permanent loss of your precious data).
  10. Accessibility and flexibility. If you switch brands one day, what happens to your data?  Do you get it back?  I hope this was discussed in the beginning of the relationship when both parties were in love and not during the divorce proceedings like in War of the Roses.

Whether or not you decide to “throw down” with cabinet manufacturers in the Wild Wild West of their software, be sure to look at it from the longer term perspective of running a successful cabinet operation.  And be sure to do your homework on the real costs of using any manufacturer’s software.

Will you get gunned down by your supplier’s software?  Or will you recognize (like the more successful cabinet operations out there) that maybe, just maybe, it’s time to leave the Wild Wild West for greener pastures? Let us know in the comments!