Decisions, decisions, decisions

Don’t let indecision get in the way of a sound investment

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Don’t let indecision get in the way of a sound investment

Two anecdotes, both true, relate to making a decision. These happen to be in the laser sheet metal cutting market, separated by a couple of years.

Company A, a maker of metal enclosures, decides that laser cutting may offer them a more efficient and cost-effective way to make penetrations into the enclosures at locations different than that of standard products. Because the volume of these custom products is low and timing of orders is variable, they do not stock part numbers, preferring to manufacture to order. The manual customization process is time consuming, labor intensive, and production schedules are interrupted by the randomness of the orders. Their solution is the purchase of a laser sheet metal cutter to handle the custom orders and to backstop the punch presses normally used to make holes in standard products.

So far so good, a smart decision is made and all that remains is to find the laser cutter that meets their needs. A junior engineer surveys the market, identifies competent vendors, and reports his finding back to management. However the capital investment committee is not satisfied with the thoroughness of his report and another engineer, several months later, is assigned the same task, with the same result, even though his report was more detailed. It seems there is always another laser vendor to check out, another machine to be viewed at a trade show, and another round of checking references to ascertain capability. The result: two years pass and the manufacturer is no closer to making a buying decision than when they started.

Company B, a job shop, decides to bring in-house all the laser cutting that is being subcontracted to a laser shop. An engineer sorts out the available products and recommends the best one for the company needs. He does an extremely thorough analysis of all the venders, producing a matrix chart that compares all aspects of laser metal cutters from several leading suppliers. It is an extremely detailed piece of investigative work. The decision should therefore be simple, but isn’t. A round of reference checks, followed by another round, followed by more indecision slows the buying decision. Months after the project is started they are finally ready to buy, when a company financial officer asks a question: what are these fiber lasers he has read about in the Wall Street Journal? The result, the process stops while fiber lasers as an alternate to CO2 lasers for sheet metal must be evaluated. Results, as we go to press, no decision is made yet.

The decision to purchase by Company A came after more than two years of procrastination during which thousands of dollars could have been saved in the countless hours of planning, days of delay in filling custom orders, and the aggravation associated with each of these factors. Simply stated, this was a case of indecision on the part of a company that should have known better. Today a laser cutter is on their shop floor sitting next to a second machine just purchased. One of the engineers recently recalled that at no time was it an investment problem, simply indecision.

I saw the Company B engineer at a trade show and he shook his head as he stated they had wasted thousands of outsourcing dollars so far and that the purchase was still months off.

This is our Job Shop Buyers Guide issue, which features more than 275 job shops, all of whom invested in lasers, many of them several times over. Indecision played a small role with them, as has been noted in countless ILS features that chronicle how they decided to add laser capability. Summed up, it makes good economic sense.

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David A. Belforte
belforte@pennwell.com

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