When I have some free time, I like to go to electronics stores to check out the latest equipment since I really love electronic gadgets.
Such "window shopping," however, is a dangerous habit for me. As an example, for several weeks before my wife and I purchased our last VCR, my gadget fever was running a little on the high side, right up there with Tim Allen of Home Improvement.
When it came time to buy the VCR, I told my wife I really needed the slow motion reverse and the ability to program multiple recording times. My wife (she's the smart one) told me I was wasting our money and that I would never use any of these high-tech features. Two years later, I could throw away 97% of the VCR and be happy, since all I do is push in a movie and hit play.
Due to my "vast" experience of buying technology, I urge you to beware of features when purchasing equipment for your plant.
So, how do you avoid purchasing a system that has features you don't really need but has benefits that can make your finishing line or company better? The first step is to evaluate your needs. Make a list of what your company needs now and what it might need several years down the road.
The second step is to research the available technology. Trade magazines and the Internet can provide valuable insight into how others are using a certain technology and what benefits they have received. Consultants can provide a more detailed look at the technology, as long as you know their affiliations and connections. Research institutes and universities are another good resource, since they can keep you informed of what technology may be available in a few years. Why do you need to do all of this research? Any supplier will tell you that the hardest person to sell is an informed customer.
In the third step, you finally talk to some suppliers. The suppliers will want to point out the many features of their equipment. But, because you have your list of needs and done your homework, you will be able to determine what features you really need. Remember, a feature is just a feature unless it makes your process better, reduces your costs, etc. At that point, it becomes a benefit. The more benefits you buy, the better the system will be for you.
So take some advice from one who knows—buy benefits, not features.