Welcome to “Ask Deb from QA,” a new column from MxD.
Every week, Deb from QA — with decades of experience on the factory floor — will answer your questions to demystify and explain the digital manufacturing industry.
Please submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
My company is open to digitization but our old equipment works fine.
Why do I need to take the leap?
Let me tell you a story: My husband and I used to take turns vacuuming our home with our old Hoover. It took an hour to clean our home from top to bottom! Last Christmas, I decided we were going to get one of those Roombas. And now we’re getting back that 60 minutes every Saturday — my husband with his vinyl records, me with my prickly pear margarita.
Listen, if the equipment in your facility is working fine, don’t get rid of it. If you want to add digital technology just for technology’s sake, I’ve got an igloo in the Arctic I’d like to sell you. In my (ahem) many years in manufacturing, I can’t tell you how many companies I’ve seen make that mistake.
The world is becoming increasingly digital, and it’s easy to be seduced by its spell. Who doesn’t want the latest, shiniest model? But you need to remember the sole reason manufacturers should update their analog equipment is this: It should improve your company’s return on investment.
Digitizing will involve putting money into equipment and software, as well as the likely loss in productivity given the downtime for installation. But if digitizing means that instead of $1.10, you’re getting $1.25 back for every $1 you put in? Now it’s something you should consider.
There’s another important factor in deciding if you should digitize your analog process. If you’re going to spend all that money on equipment improvements, you’d better make sure your current process isn’t the problem. If your existing process isn’t as efficient as it could be, don’t dive into digital just yet. It’s the difference between pouring gasoline on fire, versus pouring gasoline on the pavement.
Lastly, you should explore the options, because there are now very inexpensive ways to add technology that digitizes your decades-old equipment — and it’s only getting cheaper. That’s right, you don’t need to replace your machines that are working just fine; you can add to them. For example, say you’ve got an old-fashioned gauge that measures air pressure. You can literally buy a $75 webcam that stares at that gauge, which you connect to a low-cost desktop computer. A dashboard app can then monitor the gauge 24-7.
So yes, there are inexpensive options to digitize, but I’d suggest that you: 1) Look through your current process to ensure it’s as efficient as it can be, and 2) Make sure your digital investment yields a good ROI.
No one likes a company that fritters away money, and ol’ Deb wants to work for one that can help her pay for three more Roombas.
Deb from QA wants to hear your questions. Send ‘em to DebfromQA@mxdusa.org and she’ll answer as soon she gets off her shift.