Next generation operator interfaces shorten OEM time to market


Courtesy of Eaton Corporation

Machine builders continually cope with increasingly challenging issues. OEMs, like most manufacturers, must do more with less, offer the latest technology, and deliver high-quality reliable machines. However, the big issue that worries nearly every machine builder and OEM is delivery time.

Minimizing the time to market is crucial for successful OEMs. It seems that as soon as machine orders come in, customers want their machines right now. End users may be under pressure to put their machines to work because of contractual obligations, or they may be eager to start the payback process for the machine investment.

Machine builders need solutions that help them reduce development time, enable easy integration, and accelerate time to market without sacrificing the reliability of their designs or the quality of the equipment they build. Historically, this has been a difficult task. Standardizing on solutions such as operator interfaces that help slash development time can help OEMs meet these demanding requirements.

Reasons for reluctance

Speeding up time to market shouldn’t require machine builders to make tradeoffs—especially when it comes to machine functionality, quality, and reliability. Shortened machine lead times mean there is less time for OEMs to learn the requirements for integrating new operator interface hardware and software into their designs.

Machine builders understand the economics of selling equipment for which they have recovered their initial design investment and development costs. If the margins are good, could they be even better with an operator interface upgrade? Machine designs may still be valid and the equipment may work when it leaves the factory. However, supporting older components and maintaining legacy controls can increase costs and erode those margins.

Having recouped development, design, and integration costs of using the same old operator interface is just one reason that OEMs are reluctant to make a change. Machine builders who insist on using what they have always used may be hesitant to venture too far from their comfort zone. Some may feel that using their existing operator interface technology is more expedient than having to “re-invent the wheel.”

The software learning curve is another barrier. Although the existing operator interface development software may be a nuisance to work with for OEMs, it’s a known entity. Many machine builders are reluctant to put themselves in a position of having to learn yet another new software platform and run the risk of it being problematic or difficult to learn as well.

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