Price, speed, accuracy, footprint, service, and support. Those are the most common features considered when it comes to purchasing a linear saw. And, yes, they are important, but a linear saw is nothing but powder-coated steel and a blade until it’s told what to do. That’s why what is on the inside is what really counts—the software.
The applications, the scripts, and the program that runs the saw are where the real intellectual property exists and where you find the brains of the saw itself. So, if you are in the market for a linear saw, here are some pointers and advice for navigating your way around the software.
“Hardware: The parts of a computer system that can be kicked.”
“Software: The parts of a computer that you wish you could kick.”
When considering a linear saw, consider your operators who will be using the saw day in and day out. If the software is not user-friendly, you might find your operator unfriendly.
The software program needs to be:
- Easy to navigate—having to click 4 or 5 times for one action is not acceptable.
- Accessible—common actions, such as CUT, need to be readily apparent.
- Intuitive to the user—it should feel obvious what needs to be done to complete a task or operation using the software.
- Aesthetically pleasing—although this is superficial, it’s true that a program needs to “look good” for people to enjoy using it.
Q: How did Microsoft break Volkswagen’s world record?
A: Volkswagen only made 22 million bugs!
Software is evolutionary in nature—an existing system will never be complete and should always be evolving based on user functionality, requirements, and maintenance. But what should the general expectation be?
- New versions of the software should be released every 6 to 9 months. Software life times are similar to dogs—12 months is equal to 7 years.
- New versions should include new features that will improve the way your machine functions, such as new cuts or new printing abilities.
- Bug fixes are common and show that the provider is actively working on their software and willing to listen to the users and adjust accordingly. Bug fixes should be free for the life of the product and not restricted to only active subscribers.
- Releases of new software should come with documentation and information for users. The changes need to be clearly communicated so that all can benefit. Ask suppliers for documentation, if they have them, from previous versions they are actively developing and working on the software.
Help & Support
Support: “Press ANY key to continue.”
Customer: “I can’t find the ‘ANY’ key.”
Software is not just about the application or program itself. It is also about the embedded help system that is within the program and from external sources. So, what is the benchmark?
- Support within the software that is easy to navigate and functions properly.
- Support with easy instructions that can be followed by the operator.
- External support systems that are easy to contact at any time and knowledgeable. Ideally the systems should be set up with a web support system for self-help and the option to speak to someone if needed.
Customisation of Software
“Programming today is a race between software engineers
striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs,
and the universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots.
So far, the universe is winning.” (Rick Cook)
Software can be customised—in other words, your software should be customised to how you want to cut. You should not change your cutting or processes to suit the software. Customised software is an important feature that any manufacturer of automated machinery should accommodate.
- Ask for examples of customised software that have been completed.
- Tell your supplier how you want to cut and then get examples. Don’t simply take the sales rep’s word that it is possible. More importantly, don’t let them talk you out of it. In the future you might decide to change the way you cut, but that needs to be YOUR decision and not mandated by a software program.
- A good software package will have several levels of customisation options and, for simplicity, many or even most of these will not necessarily be immediately obvious. Ask questions about unique approaches used by other customers that highlight the configurability. The idea is to try to get a gauge for how flexible the software is. In the early stages of ownership, you will likely not use or need some of these features, but they can really become a point of difference once the honeymoon period is over and it’s time to start getting down to business.
Now you know some clever software puns, but what exactly does the software on a linear saw do?
Simple answer: The software runs your saw, it takes a few components, mixes and matches them, and works out what length of timber would be best for cutting them.
More relevant answer: The software optimises your cutting of members to ensure flexibility, speed, accuracy, and decreased waste. Simply put—the software increases your profit margin.
- Software will give you flexibility in your cutting order.
- Software will determine how much input from the operator is needed. The more the software relies on human input, the poorer the results will tend to be. Sorry, but it’s true… A computer is far better at hard computations!
- A good software package should have specific tools that will help you work out things, such as what lengths of timber you should stock and the impact of the cutting order on timber efficiency.
- Software is nothing without reports. Good software should integrate with your production software, produce statistics on outputs, daily, weekly, and monthly summaries and details and real time files—just to name a few. Again, the reports should be user-friendly allowing you to understand the information.
- Software should allow flexibility about where and how optimising can be performed. Some businesses prefer to optimise at the saw. Others prefer the office to be responsible for minimising waste. A good optimising solution will provide efficient means of doing both, including the ability to lock files that have been pre-optimised. The software should also make it easy to optimise several files at once and automatically print off and/or save necessary files and documents, such as pick lists for example.
The software program on the Vekta Razer Saws is called “Simple” – and, while that may sound like another pun, it really is simple to use. And yet, we’ve spent more than 20 years developing the abilities, features, and algorithms of this software, which means it is really far from simple.
However, for the end user, it ticks all the boxes—user-friendly, regularly updated, extremely well supported, and customisable for your cutting needs and processes. If you are in the market for a software program that can turn a blade and powder-coated steel into a money/time/timber saving machine, then it is simple – contact Vekta – firstname.lastname@example.org