When is it appropriate to build something custom or buy the next best thing that will get the job done? Manufacturers are constantly faced with this problem in one form or another.
Some large manufacturing concerns have huge scale in numbers of units. Many beverage plants have to ship over 1,000,000 drinks a day. In order to be successful, they focus on the product they are making, not on the machinery that makes the product. It sounds strange, but the Coca Cola company not in the business of creating filling machinery. Or labeling machinery, or capping machinery, or packaging machinery to get pallets of Coke products onto trucks. Coca Cola is in the business of making Coca Cola beverages, and that’s what they do.
Large manufacturers contract machinery to specialty machinery makers that traditionally supply the machinery that is needed. Fillers, cappers, labelers, palletizers, and all the equipment it takes to make a Coke product, for example. If a company makes hard disk drives by the millions per year, then read write testers, for example, are sourced from a specialist that make that machine. Memory platters are coated with magnetic layers using vacuum deposition equipment made by semiconductor machinery specialists.
This allows the manufacturer of the primary product to choose between the best manufacturers that make the specialty machinery. Hundreds of man-years of development are captured in the decades of development that has gone into machines that make things. Manufacturers in all fields benefit.
When the company is a specialty machinery company and they sell their equipment to large users, like Coke or Western Digital, the companies don’t generally have the scale to afford customized motor and control system solutions. Instead of a million a day or a million a year, they may need between 100 to a 1000 a year of some of their major control system components.
This creates a dilemma for suppliers of motors and control systems. Each machinery builder has certain unique areas of performance that dictate features they need designed into their control system. Perhaps their motor control requires using two end of travel markers and a unique home switch on machine power up and manual operator push buttons. This might require 9 or 10 discrete inputs to the controller just dedicated to a motor controller. This tends to push the envelope of “standard” controls, but is perfectly within reason when considering the application. Some of the inputs might have to be replicated internally as logical inputs for other aspects of the control software.
Manufacturers of motors and control systems make hardware that is designed to handle as many applications as possible with a single device. This is because it is important to achieve economies of scale in order to make enough money to support selling the motor or controller that is purchased by the OEM.
We need to find a way to satisfy the needs of OEM customers and find strategies that allow manufacturers to be profitable at the same time.