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Tips for Selecting a Machine Vision Supplier
Automated Vision Systems Posted 03/13/2000
The following tips on how to select a machine vision supplier come from Perry West of Automated Vision Systems, Inc. He is an internationally recognized expert in machine vision with more than 22 years of experience in machine vision.
Select the Best Equipment Match
The product you select must be able to meet your requirements. In some cases, you only have to consider the one current requirement and its needs. In other cases, you need to consider a range of applications, including some in the future. Selecting either inadequate equipment or excessively complex equipment are both mistakes. In one case, the success of the project is jeopardized; while in the other costs and difficulties increase. Most machine vision suppliers will help you make a wise selection, but only if you clearly communicate your requirements.
Accept Only Realistic Product Claims
All quality suppliers of machine vision avoid making unrealistic claims for their products’ performance. By talking to several candidate suppliers, a purchaser will become aware of what performance is realistic. If what is offered seems too good to be true, avoid it unless a comprehensive demonstration and test can be arranged where you have the ability to challenge the equipment before purchase.
Check into Product Maturity
Where the project requirements are geared toward immediate results with minimum risk, a more mature product, one that has been on the market for at least a year or two with a number of adopters having the product in service, is the best choice. Where the requirements lean more toward the highest performance and longest service life, a newer generation product may be more suitable at the risk of more technical effort to make the project work.
Make Sure the Supplier Has Active R&D
Machine vision is a fast paced technology. Suppliers need to be constantly developing new products if they expect to continue to do business. Look at the spectrum of products offered by a supplier and when they were introduced to the market. See that the supplier has a steady track record of introducing significantly new products as well as improvements on existing products.
Ensure You Will Receive Good After-Sales Support
Maybe you won’t need any technical help after your purchase, but in the event you do, you want your supplier to have qualified people readily available to work with you. Check on who is available, a dedicated applications engineer or the engineer who designed the product. Check on hours of availability. And finally check on modalities (e.g., phone, fax, web, e-mail) and costs.
Look Closely at the Real Value
Value relates benefit to cost. The best value analysis compares total benefit to total cost. Total cost includes not only purchase price, but also life-cycle costs such as utilities, downtime (lost productivity), maintenance, technical support, and future upgrades. Costs like purchase price and utility costs are fairly easy to determine. The other costs require judgments and study to estimate. To reach a true assessment of value, all benefits must also be evaluated. Some benefits like labor or scrap reduction are easy to quantify. Other benefits like improved customer satisfaction or improved employee moral are more difficult to quantify, but if left unquantified, the true value of the project may never be appreciated. A good equipment supplier will be able to help you determine most costs. They will also be able to suggest ways in which the vision system will deliver benefits.
Ensure the Supplier Has Staying Power
If you want to be able to count on warranty service, spare parts availability, and the ability to replicate the vision system, then a supplier’s staying power is very important. If the supplier is a public company, you can research their financial records. For a privately held company, get a report from a credit reporting agency. Your purchasing or accounting department can help evaluate this data.
Ask for and check out references. If you have a network of experienced associates, use those people to get a more unbiased report. Beware of the supplier who cannot or will not supply references; it may be because none of their customers have good things to say about them.