Quality Magazine

You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

May 19, 2010

In today’s world of fancy phones, fast computers and other new gadgets and gizmos emerging practically every day, it’s easy to forget that all around us are companies and industries that have persisted for decades - sometimes even centuries. These companies have true grit, having weathered not just the present downturn but many downturns. Railroads, welding companies, food and beverage…the list goes on seemingly ad infinitum. They know their product, their customer and, of course, their processes. But there are always opportunities to modernize and improve even these staples of the industrial age, enabling them to deliver their goods or services more competitively and improve their bottom line.

Most successful companies are always looking for ways to improve. Nevertheless, as an enthusiastic, technology-minded employee of such a company, you may feel a little like you’re trying to steer a battleship with a wooden oar when you find yourself sitting in the office of the cynical 30-year-veteran plant manager telling him how many megapixels such-and-such camera has. Trust me, he doesn’t care.

Focus on the results, not the product. The old adage goes something like this: “people don’t need drills, they need holes.” Machine vision is such a technology driven business that it’s easy to get wrapped up in the gee-whiz features of the products and forget that you’re trying to actually solve a problem. Focus instead on the gains in productivity, waste reduction and the other benefits that vision can offer to your company.

Show me. Sales-oriented people are prone to make outrageous performance claims about what their equipment or software can do, and chances are good that your company has been burned by such types in the past. However, no amount of hyperbole can replace a solid demonstration. At my company, for example, we usually take product samples and put together a “knock your socks off” demonstration of what we can achieve, completely pro bono in most cases. It’s usually far more than they expect to see from us, and it certainly instills a level of confidence with the customer that we’ll be able to deliver the goods. So demand that any suppliers you work with be willing to demonstrate their capabilities.

Be patient. Even after demonstrating a strong value proposition and winning the hearts and minds of your bosses, be prepared to wait it out. Rest assured they feel your pain, but they also know your plant is not going to go out of business tomorrow without a vision solution. So what’s the rush?

It may take a lot of effort and time to promote the benefits of vision within your company; there’s no force greater than resistance to change. But in the end, persistence will win out, and the company – and you, by extension – will benefit.