Guide to Purchasing Software
Ask questions that are important to you, not the sales person.
Software Representatives practice their sales presentation to perfection and are trained to keep control of the demonstration. Ask questions as they come to you during his demonstration. For example, while you are looking at a beautiful 3D rendering of a room filled with cabinets, point to one of the cabinets and politely ask, "How would I change the material for this one cabinet, raise its toekick one inch, and change the drawer guides and drawer boxes to some other style?" Once he shows you how to do that (or other changes you may want to see), ask if the cutlist, pricing, and CNC code has been appropriately changed. And of course, ask to see the changes.
Beware of deceptive answers.
If you ask a company if they provide free training, and they answer, "yes", but you find out that their "free" training consists of generic video tutorials, did they give you an honest response when they knew you were referring to personalized one-on-one training? Or if a company tells you that their technical support is totally free of charge, and then you find out that they charge for their program updates, do they really give free technical support...or are they simply calling their technical support charges something else? So be careful to make sure sales people answer your questions directly, without deceptive inferences.
Ask about technical support.
What is the charge for technical support? How does the company provide technical support? Is there a charge per incident? If you are required to purchase another program to generate CNC code, will you need to pay additional technical support fees to that other software as well? Our technical support is FREE under all circumstances, whether or not you have chosen to purchase program updates.
Are the company's rentals a better option than purchasing?
Just about all software companies in this field offer rentals, including our company, Cabinet Pro LLC. Find out all of the hidden costs, such as training costs, technical support costs, initial one-time-fees, etc., and then compare two years of renting with an outright purchase of their software to see which is a better deal.
Do not put too much importance on references.
References are fine, but generally they are hand-picked by the vendor so you already know you will hear a positive recommendation. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as you know what to expect.
Make sure your questions are answered, not bypassed.
Do not expect a salesman to know the answer to every question you ask, but ask them anyway. This is to be expected because of the diversity and custom features built into programs designed to accommodate all cabinet shops. But those questions he cannot answer should be responded with something like, "I don't know how to make the program do what you are asking, but I will find out and get back to you." That kind of response is honorable and should be respected without affecting your opinion of the software you are investigating.
Ask about program updates.
What is the charge for program updates? How often does the company update their software? If you have an idea for improving the software, how likely is it that your idea will be implemented in an update?
Ask about specific capabilities that are of interest to you.
We have compiled a list of capabilities that you may want to use when you compare software. Use this list as well as any other items that are of interest to you, and ask the Representative how his software handles those particular areas.
How does the company handle computer crashes?
What happens if your computer is stolen or crashes beyond repair? Will you need to pay a fee or pay for a new program? If you are provided with dongles, or keys, to operate your program, what cost of replacement can you expect if you lose or break a dongle? Make sure you get the answers to these questions because it is almost guaranteed that you will have computer or dongle problems in the future.
Ask how you are expected to learn the software.
Is there written documentation? Video tutorials? Classes to attend? Onsite instruction? What are the costs involved in learning the software? What is a realistic timeline for you to be up and running?
Know what your needs are before inquiring about software.
Do you need design capabilities? Shop Drawings? Bidding? Cutlists? Door Reports? Face frame and/or Frameless? Do you need CNC support? Do you need panel optimization? How many computers do you need to install the software on? Do you need Automatic Inventory control?
How much will it cost if you want to upgrade?
What costs are involved in upgrading to a higher version of the software later on? For example, if you are thinking about purchasing a CNC router in the future, can the software grow with your business as well? How much would the upgrade cost? Would you have to purchase the program all over again? Would you have to purchase another program to generate CNC code?
What are the computer requirements?
Find out what kind of computer you will need. How much memory will you need? Disk space?
How is the software protected?
Are "keys" or "dongles" used? If so, what is the charge if they are lost or broken?
How will you edit cabinets or doors?
After a cabinet is totally finished and placed on a floorplan, how easy is it to change every aspect of that cabinet? What about global changes for all cabinets?
How are reports customized?
Don't just view the reports that are generated by the salesperson demonstrating the program. Ask how they can be customized to your liking.
Ask to see the CNC process from start to finish.
If you are investigating CNC, ask the salesman to design just a single machining operation on a cabinet part of a newly created cabinet style that was not already existing in his library. Then ask him to generate the actual g-code for the part. You will be able to see the steps necessary to setup your machining, as well as how the CNC files are made. Do not be satisfied with the DXF files that are made, for these are simply graphics files with embedded machining information. Make sure you are viewing the actual CNC files containing code that will be sent to the CNC router itself! This way, you will see the entire process, and not be surprised later.
Make sure the software will generate the code your machine requires.
If your CNC router requires code that is something other than G-Code, such as Woodwop (Weeke & Homag), Biesseworks (Biesse), HOPS (Holzher) or Xylog (Morbidelli), make sure the software you are investigating supports those languages.
Do not ask the sales rep to compare their software with others.
Don't ask a sales representative to compare their product with those of their competitors. That is an unprofessional question and places the salesperson in an awkward spot. A salesperson will know the software he/she is representing, but will not be familiar with a competitor's software. Remember: it is the representative's job to present their software, while it is your job to do comparison shopping.
Ask a question to which you already know the answer.
For example, find out at least one capability that you know the software you are investigating does not perform, and then ask the salesperson about that capability. You will be able to conclude a lot about the salesperson and the company from his answer.
Get a total cost of the software.
Are there hidden costs, setup fees, post processor fees, technical support fees, etc.? Are there extra costs for face frame vs. frameless construction? Is there a charge if you change your construction method for all your cabinets or even for one particular cabinet?
Ask how one-of-a-kind cabinets are handled.
What if they require a totally different construction method than your usual cabinets because they are built very uniquely? Can they be saved to a library? Is there an additional cost to get them configured? How does the software make unique cabinets?
Ask about specific methods of construction.
Just because a program advertises it supports faceframe construction, does not necessarily mean it supports your method of constructing face frames. Show the salesman your method of making face frames and ask the salesman to reproduce it for you to see. How does the software handle vertical dividers of different dimensions existing in the same cabinet? In like manner, make sure the software can be customized to reproduce your method of frameless construction, if you build frameless cabinets.