How do we break the cycle that swings from lowest cost to highest quality?
The replacement power transmission component market in the UK seems to be locked into a buying cycle that swings from 'lowest possible purchase cost' to 'highest available quality' on a regular basis. Derek Mack of Tsubaki UK looks at the reasons for this, and why breaking the cycle would be good for UK industry.
Every couple of years we seem to swing between the predominant request in the replacement market being for 'lowest possible purchase price', and 'best quality, highest performance - with longest life'. We all know the old adage that it is impossible to have it both ways, but there has to be a happy medium where a power transmission product is selected for an application based on its technical suitability for the job in hand and the commercial reality of its operating circumstances. The right decision has to encompass the considerations of quality, purchase price, ROI, performance and opportunity for improvement of output or process efficiency.
Working for a company that produces an almost infinite range of roller chain means that there is good reason for me to want to champion 'finding the right product for the job'; because the variation available means we can select to match requirements very closely. We are by no means the only company offering a wide portfolio of products and providing solutions, but there has to be a culture change within the UK industry in order for it to benefit. Tsubaki's drive to manufacture innovative products is making this decision easier.
Having spent time in Germany, and with knowledge of the Japanese manufacturing ethos, I have direct experience of engineers in these countries; they are far more likely to look at overall benefits, instead of just hammering the point home on purchase cost or indeed demanding unrealistic performance from a power transmission product that isn't specifically suited to the task it is performing. Market conditions do affect and influence price, but recessionary times are often an opportunity to realise total cost of ownership and maximise performance rather than focussing on the lowest purchasing cost. If manufacturing industry is to provide the bedrock of an economic recovery, as the current Government is requesting, then we as an industry need to take a far broader view of the specification and purchasing process, not just for power transmission products, but generally.
With growing environmental pressures for companies in all industries, strategic product specification and purchasing can help to play an important role in meeting the challenging targets that are being set. Tsubaki has a very clear environmental goal and as such understands the importance that is placed on ensuring that standards are met. Specifying the correct chain for the job will often lead to higher energy efficiency in operation and increased operating life of the product; reducing replacement and maintenance costs.
Looking forward, companies are becoming more sophisticated with their sales and marketing techniques; but engineers have a responsibility to stand up for their skill base and insist that companies look more closely at the overall implications of a buying decision. Procurement managers must work with engineers at all times to create realistic targets based on performance facts, irrespective of the economic climate. If we can break the cycle then many other things will fall into place.
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