Excel has many shortcomings as a tool for managing test capacity, or any configurable manufacturing capacity.

Since Microsoft Excel was first released in 1985 (interestingly for an Apple Macintosh), it has evolved into a powerful and ubiquitous tool for many. I probably open at least one Excel file every work day, and even on non-work days. These files might indeed comprise some type of spreadsheet, but just as often might have been created to record a simple list or table. I'm not sure I can say I'm a "power user", but I know my way around even the more sophisticated features, and have even written some relatively complex Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) programs.

However, while Excel is certainly powerful for some purposes, it is limited for others. Specifically, Excel has many shortcomings as a tool for managing test capacity, or any configurable manufacturing capacity. Here are just some of those deficiencies:

1. Work flow. As a general purpose tool, Excel is not well-suited to help the test capacity stakeholder efficiently view and navigate through the information most important to him or her. Buttons and input fields and, of course, graphs can be readily created in Excel, but a web-based framework is a better choice for creating user interfaces tailored to a specific user and/or application.

2. Distributed access. Many distributed computing environments might have instances of Excel accessible by a group of collaborators. These collaborators might also share files on various devices using, for example, Office 360. However, anyone who's used this approach for collaboration on Excel knows that it is, at best, clunky. A responsive web-based interface that accesses cloud-stored data is a much more efficient and powerful approach to accessing synchronized shared information on any device at any time.

3. Flexible and powerful algorithms. I mentioned earlier that VBA can be used in some circumstances to provide custom data manipulation that is not built in to Excel. As I'm sure many have observed, such functionality can be difficult to replicate and manage (e.g., update) across a global user base. Why not provide shared functionality (e.g., algorithms, etc.) using web services and/or application services in a web-based environment? This approach not only facilitates efficient management and accessibility of the functionality, but also enables flexibility in programming languages (e.g., JavaScript, PHP, C++, Java, Python, etc.) used to provide the functionality.

Even with these and other deficiencies, when asked who is the biggest competitor for Chip Nexus, I will often say Microsoft Excel - and a throng of analysts! I was comforted to read in a recent article in DataInformed describing 2017 supply chain predicitions, that the "the supply chain industry as a whole has been notoriously slow to embrace the cloud; some companies still use ‘old school’ methods like Excel spreadsheets for service parts pricing, for example." I guess misery loves company.

Can you afford to be "notoriously slow" in your market by hanging on to the familiarity of Excel? Or, is now the time to move on to a better way to manage test capacity?