Reader Feedback: A Different View on Vision; Little Big Vendor

Readers Find Value in Machine Vision System Video and Small Vendor Tells Secrets on How to Compete with the Big Guys

A Different View on Vision

Your recent video about your market research about machine vision system integration is very informative and a valuable brief summary.

From your market research, it shows that the first choice for automation and control projects are smart cameras for machine-vision applications in this industry.

Ned Lecky effectively argued for the cost benefits using wireless networks. Cables, connectors and labor are very expensive, he indicated.

The same argument also supports the use of smart cameras, as they are compact integrated units, requiring significantly less cabling and fewer connectors and boxes. Further, they reduce size, requiring significantly less space. Power consumption is also significantly less. This argument supports your findings about the high rate of smart camera solutions in this industry.

As Lecky pointed out, there are many smart-camera products for which the supplier defines a specific subset of functions, but only those.

There are, however, other smart camera products on the market that don’t fall into this category. We offer smart cameras that can be programmed freely for any application by the user. Smart cameras are not limited in their applications anymore, although it sometimes continues to be presented that way.

Please keep on generating these types of materials using new fresh media.

Endre Toth, director of business development,
Vision Components

Little Big Vendor

I’m one of those small vendors Dan Hebert referenced in his cover story [“Can Small Vendors Play Big?” Nov08, p24]. We win business away from the giants for two reasons.

  1. A business relationship works best if there is a reasonable size and culture match between partners, especially if it is a genuine partnering relationship. One of our small-company customers nearly went out of business because it entrusted the manufacture of its key mechanical component to a major auto parts maker that went into Chapter 11 and simply lost interest in them.
  2. A smaller company can offer a level of service and personal attention that the big boys have no hope of matching. When a machine maker in Atlanta called our office in Melbourne, Australia, he got straight through to a company principal, a very seasoned engineer who instantly understood his problem and proposed solutions on the spot. If the customer had called a biggie, he likely would have had to work his way through several layers of salespeople, junior technicians and engineers before finding someone to understand his needs. We now make hundreds of controllers a year for that customer, and they outperform any off-the-shelf solution at about a fifth of the price.
  3. If there are reasonable quantities involved — for us that’s a few hundred units — we can custom-engineer a fully integrated solution that is way more cost-effective than a mashup of off-the-shelf products. I know that one billion-dollar controls company won’t let you bypass its distributors, let alone actually talk directly to a product designer, for fewer than 10,000 units.

OK, that’s three reasons, but we often over-deliver. That said, we do sometimes come up against the problem of a potential customer being obliged to use a Brand-X PLC. We accept that’s how the world works and there sometimes are good reasons for end users to standardize on a brand of PLC.

While we classify our target customers as OEMs, rather than as machine builders, the distinction is somewhat blurred.

The main difference is that we seek out customers who will be making multiple, identical copies, be it tens, hundreds or thousands. The level of support we provide would not  be viable for “onesie-twosie” business.

David Stonier-Gibson,  managing director,
SPLat Controls

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