It's a difficult balancing act to move forward with new technology, while taking care of those legacy customers that still make up a formidable portion of your business. Some companies lose their way during these transitions because they forget some of the basics.
The U.S. economy slowly is retaking lost ground from the past four years of downturn, and manufacturers finally are coming around to the notion of replacing old equipment or significantly upgrading control systems to increase capacity and/or improve production costs. Sometimes it seems like the recovery process requires four steps forward and three steps back, but it's progress nonetheless.
Rich Merritt thoroughly examines that "buy new or upgrade" decision process in this month's cover story. It's a difficult balancing act to move forward with new technology, while taking care of those legacy customers that still make up a formidable portion of your business. Some companies lose their way during these transitions because they forget some of the basics.
Rich found a lot of vendors and machine builders who get it right, though. They understand that it's better--and often easier--to keep existing customers than find new ones. So, that technology marketing strategy of yours has to leverage the hard-earned affinity of existing customers, and help them find the path, the timetable and the value of new technology. Along the way, solid "old-technology" support and reassurance has to be evident and demonstrable. You can never neglect what got you there in the first place. If that's the case, that machine builder becomes an important, maybe indispensable, partner in the customer's process of successful change.
The partnership also means making sure that the technology value you provide is reliable and operator safe. As automation solutions become increasingly dependent on third-party, open systems software, the same evaluations you and your customers make about hardware have to translate for the software, as well. As you know, when dealing with software that's not nearly as easy. Industry expert Bill Goble is back this month to address the root causes of software failures, and provide some guidance to help you evaluate software reliability in control system products.
Speaking of ingenious and reliable motion control, did you see the stories recently about Leonardo da Vinci's 500 year-old designs for a self-propelled "car." Researchers in the U.S. and at the Museum of the History of Science in Florence, Italy, spent months to finally figure out his drawings and built a scale model that, it turns out, really works. It was spring-powered and included a simple steering mechanism and transmission.
That's a used car I wouldn't mind having in my garage. Although, it recalls a reliability adage, believed in some circles to have originated from a Chicago DJ in the '70s, which offers this advice when evaluating a used car. "Make sure to press the radio preset buttons. If they're all set to rock stations, watch out. The transmission is probably shot."
OK, I promise I'll stop with the bad segue jokes, if you'll simply do what I next ask of you.
In case you didn't notice the cover wrap this month--it's time for our annual salary, benefits, and state-of-mind survey of Control Design readers.
Please take those few minutes to complete and return it to us. We hear from lots of you who tell us you enjoy reading the article every year. Well, there's a price to pay for some reliable data--data that you might be able to show the boss to support your position that it's about time for a long-overdue raise. The price, however, is contributing to the database.
Let me also encourage you to use the open questions to tell us how you think your corner of the marketplace is doing as we swing into mid-year.
We'll give you all the results in the August issue.