Ch-ch-cha-changes

Joe Morrissey, the product manager for Germantown, Wis.-based machine builder Conflex, tells quite a story in his recent article, "A Machine Renaissance," about how his company decided it was time to move away from a PLC and motion controller-based control scheme and embrace PC-based controls for its shrink-wrap packaging machines. Until a last-minute opportunity arose, Conflex felt it was stuck with an iteration of its existing scheme. “It was an acceptable motion controller with PLC functionality, but didn’t have all the programming and design flexibility we hoped for,” recalled Mark Lorenz, Conflex's electrical applications engineer. “We just accepted that we had to put more time and effort into the design than was ideal." "Some machine builders are concerned about whether using PC-based controls ties you to companies such as Microsoft, and whether additional overheads in new operating systems could even overwhelm the processors," wrote Morrissey. "Those machine builders wonder if a migration could be forced when the OS no longer is supported, and that could happen much earlier they want. " More than that, what do you do to make sure your customers are ready for a change that some of them might view as earth-shaking and fraught with those potential operating system problems? Morrissey makes it clear that the change produced a machine that's much easier for operators to learn how to operate and troubleshoot. Is that the winning argument? How do you resolve the capability of clear user benefits in the face of resistance to change? We've all been there. What's your plan?