eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

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Gary Urlacher
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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby Gary Urlacher » Tue, Nov 04 2008, 9:01AM

I have to agree with Kerry on his statements.

I do think that e cabinets has something over other machine software. Router Cim is not available without a komo machine.

I bet lots of people got their machines becouse of e cabinets. You could say it was free with the machine or you could say it came
with the machine much like Router Cim and Komo.

My vote would be to keep it a Thermwood Machine product. Perhaps have levels, One free to people to develop skils with the software
and a version for machine users with some further development in areas that people who use it for machining would use.

I do not know how hard that is to do but my guess is that something could me locked out and you need a pass key based on a valid
machine serial #.

Gary

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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby Iain Ramsay » Tue, Nov 04 2008, 4:48PM

Gary Urlacher wrote:
I am from western Canada and for me, I could not justify purchasing hardware from the US. Both for shipping, wait time, and now more so
the exchange.

Gary Urlacher
Alberta Canada


I have also felt this, even though I wanted to support you guys and North America.There was an example of a price for a hinge plate previously stated which I also felt was a lot more that I could swing along with other products before I even added the exchange rate. I saw this quite a while back. I could go to the local hardware stores here in Canada and buy the same hinge or runner, ect for far less than what they were priced at in the software(before I even added shipping/exchange). I sure liked the idea of the whole thing though. I actually get tired of playing phone tag with distributors. Sorry you guys had to shut it down Ken.
I know the software is meant to be free but times change and maybe that needs to as well(a can't believe I said that :lol: :lol:). I don't know how much you guys are looking to generate. It is too bad the program is so big(though it sounds like you guys have time to condense it now) to download a free trial of the full version with limited capabilities but offer the full version for a reasonable price. I have no idea whether sending a CD out to everyone who fills in the form would be cheaper than paying for bandwidth. When it comes to software I generally will only install software that is try and buy. I rarely install a program if it is totally free for the reason I know there is gonna be a catch somewhere. I'm sure you guys have considered this already. I'm sure it is more complicated than this on your end plus how strongly you guys feel about keeping the software free.

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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby Joe Dusel » Wed, Nov 05 2008, 10:49AM

Ken,

Thanks for the update.

Personally I think that purchasing hardware and such through the eCabs software is a slick idea. I hate ordering on the phone. I really believe the the reason that this is not succeeding is the lack of local vendors in the system. When I first started using the software the prices for the items I was purchasing through the system were very reasonable, but then there were huge jumps in the prices. For instance, Blum Tandem slides in the system are about $36 each compared to the $23 I pay through my local vendor that has next day delivery. Obviously for a kitchen job with about 30 drawers my cost would be about $390 more - plus shipping! Unfortunately the prices of almost everything through the system are much, much higher that what we professionals pay. The system prices are more in line with the prices hobbyists pay at Rockler. If I tried to pass that on to my customers I would not get any work.

Not only is the cost a factor, but the time it takes to get stuff shipped out to the West Coast is a big problem. As I mentioned, I get my hardware next day delivered and doors take about a week from the day they are ordered from businesses like Decorative.

I do appreciate all of your efforts with the software, but I think the online ordering could have been one of the most powerful and desirable features.

Joe
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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby Joe Dusel » Wed, Nov 05 2008, 11:54AM

Okay, here's my latest idea.

Let's have eCabs setup to use a database for all of the sheet materials, lumber, hardware, drawer boxes, doors, drawer fronts and whatever else we need to make cabinets and furniture. The database would contain information about this stuff - like type, size, descriptions, prices and such. It would also contain information fields for all of the vendors that we use including names, addresses, phone and FAX numbers, email addresses and of course our customer codes.

Something like a hinge or a slide would have all of the usual info on manufacturer, part number, price, description and such; but it would also contain a preferred vendor field. Doors would have to be setup to allow us to setup the door styles, species, finish, sizes and such. When we design a job we would have all of the information for all of the hardware and such that we need for the job created as it is currently. Now when we are ready to start the job we just select a Process Purchase Orders button for the job and it would automatically send out FAXes or emails to ALL of the vendors we have selected. Instead of Thermwood negotiating prices with these vendors you could just charge us a small fee each time we use the ordering process. This process would save us a lot of time not having to place orders by phone, so I think members would use it, and Thermwood would make some money off of it. It takes me something like 15 minutes to place a door order, so paying a few bucks for an automatic order would be a great savings.

Joe
CFT411 http://www.cft411.com
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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby Iain Hall » Wed, Nov 05 2008, 1:05PM

In my case the software worked as planned I started with e-cab because I was just getting going and it was free. I have spoken with Andrew and met with him and will be getting a Thermwood CNC in the near future. I brand new to the cabinet software program and have made a desicion that I will try and stick with E-Cab 100% start to finish. When it comes to pricing I have started giving people prelim. drawings and pricing manually I would very much like to be able to price everything in the program. It is alost impossible to get skilled help here so if I could streamline the estimate process so that an employee could properly estimate and render new jobs it would allow me to get in the shop where I belong.

As far as the store goes I never used it simply because I could not figure it out.

Maybe I am hoping for to much but if I could take a job do it on e-cab and have it spit out an accurate price complete with a list of things to order for each job I would be in heaven. I understand that there are short falls in the program that need to be worked on however if the proposal writer etc. was able to do what I want I am sure you would get a lot more people like me trying to expand or just find a way to spend more time with family.

Now knowing what E-Cab. can do I would pay for updates with no trouble as long as they were reasonable however if I saw this at the start I would not have gone with E-Cab.

Please excuse me if I sound like dumb green horn ---- I IS


Iain

any spelling or grammer typeo's are not errors but are designed to add character to this post
Iain Hall
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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby Bill Rutherford » Wed, Nov 05 2008, 9:34PM

Ken,
I to have to agree with Kerry. While I definetely appreciate the software for free, I have to admit a rather sick feeling in my gut as I started to read your post, afraid you might be considering dropping the software. While I think it is a great idea to do whatever is necessary to continue to offer the software at no charge I also would be very willing to pay before seeing it disappear or cause financial hardship on Thermwood. As for the idea of making the software function with other brands of machines I would be concerned that you are opening yourself to a technical support nightmare. In my mind three things make Thermwood stand out as a company, machine quality, software quality and quality of technical support. If you do wind up with technical issues with the various machines it could put a large strain on resources. I believe in an economy such as the one we are in now that it is important to stick with what a company does best and if possible try to avoid putting large amounts of funds into a new direction but rather shore up existing directions. Personally I also would work on making eCabs the absolute best software on the market for design, shop drawings and machine integration and then sell the hell out of it.
Bill Rutherford
North Woods Manufacturing
Full service CNC Machining
and Edge Banding
http://www.northwoodsmanufacturing.com

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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby Bill Rutherford » Thu, Nov 06 2008, 5:45AM

Ken,
A few more things that came to mind overnight after the last post.

As I indicated, I would rather pay for the software then lose it which is certainly still the case. I am concerned however that making the software a "pay for" product could seriously impact the production sharing part of the system. Production sharing has become a very respectable portion of our business (thank you!). A lot of the shops we deal with are smaller shops with little or no budget for software. If eCabs were to become a pay for product then I think a number of our current customers may abandon it. We are working toward growing the business to the point we need a second machine and losing a chunk of our production sharing would certainly cut into that. One possible way around would be to offer the software on a rental basis to the shops that want to continue to use it - similar to what KCDW does.

Also, a question, With the closing of the stores will anything be done to maintain the carving rental program and or design sharing?

Thanks
Bill Rutherford

North Woods Manufacturing

Full service CNC Machining

and Edge Banding

http://www.northwoodsmanufacturing.com

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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby Ken Susnjara » Thu, Nov 06 2008, 2:59PM

Thanks for all the comments and ideas. We have been referring to them as we discuss our future direction and structure. Right now our thinking is to continue the core program with all the current features as a free product along with free updates to those primary features. This will insure that the smaller shops will continue to have access to great software. We will focus on making it the best product of its kind in the market and making its connection with our CNC machine the easiest and best in the industry. We are then thinking about offering add-on software products to do specific additional functions that might be more appealing to larger shops (complex MDF doors, MRP, real time shop cost tracking, etc.) as purchased products. These products will be sold and will require an annual maintenance fee to receive updates. This will allow the software to provide us with revenue in addition to the resulting machine sales without penalizing smaller shops.

We are examining ways to continue the design sharing and carving programs although they may not be in exactly the same form as they have been. These areas have been moved to a different division within Thermwood and the new folks may decide to offer them in a different form.

We have had more negative views about connecting to competitor’s machines than support and we are starting to agree that the technical problems will likely not be worth the effort. So I think that idea bit the dust.

For those of you who are concerned that we might stop offering the software, please be assured that we have never even considered this. Despite the fact that the web stores didn’t work, the eCabinet Systems program itself is working very well for us. We have a strong and growing market for machines connected with the software and feel that this area offers us a lot of future potential in both cabinets and furniture. We will refocus our marketing and begin promoting a complete solution for cabinet makers which includes the eCabinet Systems design software, the CNC router, tooling and the edgebander. The fact that everything needed to build cabinets comes from a single source and is serviced by a single organization is a compelling story. We think it will help us increase market share and sales. There is no way that we would just drop the software with all the growth and potential it is creating.

In these complex economic times it is a good idea to carefully examine what you are doing to see if it is really working. That is what we have been doing here and while certain parts of the program have not lived up to expectations, the overall program itself has been very successful. I have been through a lot of these downturns in my forty years in business and have found that actions taken in turbulent times almost always position you to be stronger, better and more profitable.

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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby Gary Urlacher » Thu, Nov 06 2008, 9:12PM

Thanks for the update Ken. I am glad that you are thinking in the direction you state. This seems like a good way to go.
It is very hard to please everyone who uses the software becouse they all had differant needs for the software.

Add on's make a lot of sense.

Please put custom reporting on your list of add on's. I purchase doors and would love a report that I can modify or what have you
to relate to what my suppliers require for information and layout.

I would love to sit down and creat a real world wish list of items that I think would be very helpful in customizing cabinets as well
as being able to use the software for more of my administration needs etc.

As soon as it slows down a little for me, I will make a short list of suggestions for everyone to review. (Most have been said before)

Again, thanks for the update and I hope that whatever you decide, works out in a most positive way.

Cheers,

Gary

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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby Gregory Hairston » Thu, Nov 06 2008, 9:44PM

Ken and all,
I have been back and forth with Ecab for a year now and I have finally committed to using the software exclusively. I was using KCDw and Sketchup and although there are things that I like about both of these programs that I would really like to see incorporated in Ecab I believe that the pros of Ecab outweigh most of the cons or lack of features.
My decision to stay with Ecab is because the software is FREE and that has also led me to the decision of purchasing a Thermwood Router in the future. I believe that providing the software free does lead to future sales. In fact I have been considering a router for a few months and my only research has been on the thermwood routers. Still not sure which one to get but I will cross that bridge when I come to it. Until I get one I plan to take advantage of another local Thermwood owner's router and have his shop cut parts for me.

As far as improvements I personally would like to see improvements in the LDE before anything else. This is where Ecab really lags behind most of the other software out there. If there was a way to incorporate dimensions in the custom layout for printing that would probably satisfy a lot of peoples needs. I agree with other that the current state of the LDE is too Complex to manipulate and not good enough to provide customers, GC's and Architects.

For now Keep up the good work and thanks for providing us with this AWESOME product.
Successful people do the things others won't

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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby Michael S Murray » Fri, Nov 07 2008, 4:51PM

In my opinion, ecabs needs to concentrate on lde, drawer box part editor, strecher editor, wall editor(radius walls)
I beleive that the job costing, estimating portions should be on the back burner for resource allotment.
NO commercial shop is going to do a drawing to get an estimate. I do not even produce a drawing to estimate on residential other than a quick hand sketch with approx. cab sizes.
Just my opinion.
I thank everyone at thermwood for what has been done to this point, I also hope the carving program is kept active. I dont have much time, but I have done several of the carvings and find it awsome to work with.
Mike Murray
Versatile Cabinet & Solid Surface
mike@versatilecabinet.com
http://www.versatilecabinet.com

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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby Neville Bastian » Fri, Nov 07 2008, 7:54PM

Hi Ken and others,
Having come from using commercial woodworking software programs where you paid for upgrades. I really like the free approach where Ken paid the programmers and my business reaped the benefits.
Being in business I know you have to pay for programmers to develop the program. As business owners we all have our own needs and thoughts on what we wish to have improved in the program and what we are willing to pay.
With my last programs I paid for many years the upgrades but when things got tight or the upgrade doesn't seem to be very beneficial I stop paying them. Once you are a couple years behind its then hard to re enter the upgrade path because of back charge upgrade fees.
The challenge is to produce what the majority want in advanced features and give them enough features for them to want to pay every year for upgrades.

To know what we want could involve the forum users and people with emails being constantly questioned on what new features they want then getting the preference of what is essential to what is non essential. At the moment no one knows what version 6 has included nor has anyone on the forum been asked what they want included. In my case I have been vocal on improving the MDF door designs and machining ability but now I have a alternative. For me to buy this module I would like to have some input on what I need rather than what a group of well meaning programmers think I need. If only 50 Ecabinet users want this improved I would understand that the cost to meet the user requirements is not price justified then the LDE or drawer box upgrade users may win the programmers time as there could be 100 Ecabinet users to pay for that module improvement.

I would like to think Ecabinet users who are willing to pay for advanced features will be consulted on the finished product but not control its direction.

Regards

Neville
Neville Australia

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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby BenRatt » Tue, Nov 11 2008, 3:17PM

Ken, I don't pretend to understand the complexity of connecting to non-TW machines. I would like to suggest that you consider charging to connect to other types of CNC equipment. For ecabs to truly become a total solution that shops can grow with, it needs to be able to talk to other types of machines that TW doesn't sell- a CNC beam saw, a CNC dowel inserter, point to point, etc. Retain your lock on CNC Routers, but give the small shop that grows, the ability to start with ecabs and then as they add machines (ie a CNC dowel inserter) continue to use it as a total solution. Keep the software free for those only using it for design or to run a TW router, but charge to connect to some other brand of machine that's not a CNC router. You still retain the huge marketing advantage of free software to those running TW routers, this is why I bought my machine from your company- you let me learn the software for free and then when I was ready for it I got a router. To be honest, I bought a new TW machine that was ecabs compatible because I had spent 100's of hours learning ecabs and I knew I would have zero problems integrating the software to the machine. I was terrified of horror stories of weeks lost getting other brand routers up to speed because of disconnects between design software, optimization software, post processors and all that. Sure enough, within an hour of having power to my machine I was cutting parts. To be brutally honest, if I could have learned ecabs for free, then paid $10,000 for it so that it would talk to other CNC routers, I probably would have done that and bought a machine that was a couple of years old, probably TW's, but possibly not, because I am a bargain hunter. The additional cost of a new machine vs. a used machine that wasn't ecabs compatible was worth it to me because of all the time I had invested in ecabs and because I knew without a doubt it would work flawlessly with a TW machine. As I look to the future and I am hopeful about our growth, one of the largest constraints I will have is the ecabs software because it won't talk to other machines that I can see myself needing. I have to admit I am a little nervous knowing that I have put untold 1000's of hours into learning ecabs and as my business grows and I need to add machines, a beam saw for instance to augment my router, I am going to have to fork out $10,000 to $30,000 for new software that will talk to my router, beam saw, CNC dowel inserter, whatever. Really the cost to purchase the new software is not the biggest thing, the biggest thing is the time to learn new software (or I have to hire someone that already knows it), and the time lost integrating with all the different machines. So I would be glad to pay the going rate of software for ecabs to have the ability to talk to one of these other types of machines, that Thermwood doesn't sell. Thanks for a world class company that I consider a partner in my business!
Ben Ratterree
Blue Ridge Cabinetworks
Spartanburg, SC
http://www.blueridgecabs.com

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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby David Hall » Tue, Nov 11 2008, 4:43PM

Hi Ken,
Production sharing is my business. It is therefore very much in my interest to support any approach that keeps eCabinets free to end users; and maintains a barrier to anyone (with any old router) competing with me. I'm relieved to hear you're currently maintaining this course.

But I understand the need to examine alternate revenue streams so here's my $0.02.

At the risk of stating the obvious, no software can be all things to all people. Although I may agree with 100, or 1,000 users as to what new feature is on the top of the list, each of us will have a feature on our list that no one else thinks is important.

You might consider publishing an API for eCabinets and licensing a developers tool-kit for it. I'm thinking of a model like some of the desktop publishing software companies have used in the past. (Quark Express extensions, Adobe Plug-ins) Where (for a fee) a third party software developer can create and sell add-on features for eCabinets. I believe some of these publishers have required royalty payments from the third party developer to the software publisher, in addition to the purchase of the developer's toolkit. Publisher maintained source code vaults have also been a requirement.

If I, as an end user of eCabinets, really need a feature, I may (within the limitations of the API) be able to have someone (perhaps even Thermwood) write it for me. I may be able to get a substantial discount on the programming if I'm willing to allow the developer to sell the feature to other eCabs users. I may choose to pay someone to develop it and sell it myself. Thermwood may, and probably should, actively promote the sale of add-ons. (like design sharing)

The add-on features might be as simple as changing the drawer slides (boring pattern) and drawer box insets for a cabinet, or directory full of cabinets. Or a "pre-machining" program that gathers all the dado clearance settings in a job and presents a report, flagging those outside my specified parameters. Or anything that a clever programmer might be able to come-up with to simplify, customize, or automate repetitive tasks within the software.

The downside for the third party developers is that Thermwood may and will incorporate these add-on features into future releases as they see fit, rendering the add-on obsolete, and perhaps eliminating a Thermwood revenue stream. A fine line to walk.

Regards,
Dave
David Hall
Hall's Edge Inc.
eCabinets Machining Services
http://www.HallsEdge.com

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Re: eCabinet Systems, the economy, reality and change

Postby DanEpps » Tue, Nov 11 2008, 5:05PM

I agree with you a lot Dave, a published API would be a great way to extend eCabinets without adding to the development cost for Thermwood.

Where I disagree a little is in charging for an API. No software company that I know of charges for publishing their APIs or SDKs. Doing so kills independent development efforts and the intent of publishing the API to begin with is to spur development and make your application appeal to more users.

As for the subject of paying someone to develop software for you then selling it yourself, that may pose an intellectual property rights issue. The courts have long held that computer software code is intellectual property and belongs to the creator of that code unless the creator is in the direct employ of a software development enterprise. There are ways around this contracturally but be sure that you receive all rights to any code that you contract to have developed with the intent of selling licenses to others.


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