Value vs. Cost - A Question of Productivity

Allen M. Cary, Sales & Marketing Manager, Ophir-Photon LLC

By Allen M. Cary, Sales & Marketing Manager, Ophir-Photon LLC

When compared with the cost of Plexiglas blocks, burn papers, or even IR cards, a beam profiler may seem expensive. Almost anyone who has sold test equipment, at one time or another has heard the complaint from a potential customer, "It's too expensive!" In fact, almost anyone who has ever sold anything has heard this lament. In most sales training courses there is an extensive section on overcoming objections, and the most prominent objection discussed is always the "it's-too- expensive" objection.
When discussing a commodity product, such as bricks, copper ingots or corn flakes, there is price that is set by the market. With very little differentiation between one load of bricks and another it is difficult to justify any price difference between competitors. There is an entire world of marketing that exists to figure out how to differentiate one competitor's commodity products from another's to justify price differences. The designer water market (e.g., Evian, Perrier, Crystal Geyser, etc.) is living proof of that it can be done, though. For high technology capital equipment products the process can be easier, but understanding the value of a particular product is essential to success.

Figure 1. Photon's Goniometric Radiometer

Analytical instruments are generally sold to engineers. If you are an R&D engineer, price is often not the issue. R&D budgets can be generous and if a project is funded, performance is the overwhelming criterion for your purchasing decision. When the sale shifts to the manufacturing arena, the issues change dramatically. As a manufacturing engineer or manager, you are always looking to remove cost from your processes. Any new instrument initially represents a cost that you would
rather do without, and it is only if that instrument is necessary to the manufacturing process that you would even consider purchasing it. If the instrument in question is something new, then it must reduce the overall cost of the manufacturing process substantially to have a chance of your interest. Many instrument manufacturers make the mistake of assuming that a new product that does something "better" will be adopted without hesitation. This is simply not true.
A new instrument represents a change that, in the short term, will increase costs due to requirements for training, retooling, and the inevitable disruption of the current flow of production. The "better" must increase productivity. It must speed up a process that is a bottleneck restricting the current level of production; it must reduce waste by reducing scrap and rework; or it must create a product with a new level of performance that gives you a demonstrable competitive advantage. If it does none of these things, it is not "better." Speeding up a process that is not limiting

production, does nothing to reduce costs or increase productivity. No manufacturing manager will ever adopt a new technology for its own sake.

Figure 2. Ophir-Spiricon's BeamGage® shows CO2 laser with optical misalignment

Because of their relentless search to remove cost from production, manufacturing engineers and managers often look at the cost of test equipment as fixed. Any new
instrument that costs more than what they are used to buying is by definition "too expensive." However, if that new equipment can increase the speed of a process by tenfold, for instance, it can replace 10 of the older instruments. If it is not 10 times more expensive, then in overall cost it is not "too expensive." In fact, it may be considerably cheaper than continuing to buy the older technology.
Purchasing a laser beam profiler can seem like one of these 'too expensive' items when compared with other methods such as simply using a power meter or even burn papers. Nonetheless many manufacturers have found that a NanoScan or Spiricon CCD beam profiler can in fact save them considerable time and increase productivity dramatically.
An example of this can be seen at one customer who needed to align lasers over a long distance. Their traditional technique was to sight the laser in on a target 100m away and make the adjustments. By using a NanoScan, with its very high pointing accuracy, they were able to shrink this test fixture down to the bench top, thereby saving both time and space, and increase their productivity dramatically. Similar results can be seen in numerous sites where the beam profiler provides rapid feedback for both alignment and beam size. Laser scanners, laser printers, marking machines and many other laser systems where the beam size, shape and position are critically important to their operation will benefit from the use of a beam profiler.
Because as a manufacturing manager or engineer, you have been trained to reduce costs and therefore are inclined to react negatively to a higher priced product. However you are also attuned to a credible argument about increased productivity. The increase has to be real and measurable, and result in a true reduction of the overall unit cost of production. If it does, you should be very interested, and you will have the ammunition to argue for the necessary funding from the corporation.