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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Vive le ROI

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By Kristin Lewotsky

In today’s competitive business environment, capital outlays require detailed justification. It’s not enough to show that a technology will improve performance or enhance the product. If you can’t point to bottom line improvements and state conclusively why and how a system will pay for itself, you’re not likely to get the money to buy it. “Let’s face it,” said Nello Zuech, president of Vision Systems International (Yardly, Pa.), “the general criteria for how you spend your money is, ‘Are you going to reduce labor? Are you going to improve production in some form?’ A plant manager has to sometimes make decisions between investing in quality technology or investing in capital expenditure technology.”

There is little argument that a machine vision system can improve quality and efficiency, offering a host of tangible and intangible benefits. The key, then, is distilling down those benefits into a cogent argument for return on investment (ROI) — and making good on the promise.

Making the Case

Machine vision systems range from about $5,000 for a low-end system, to roughly $15,000 for a mid-range system. High-end systems such as the types used in semiconductor manufacturing can run from several hundred thousand dollars to a million or more.

So how do you justify the numbers? In some industries, like semiconductor manufacturing, the work simply can’t be performed without machine vision. In others, for example medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturing, it’s considered part of best practices and required to remain competitive. Outside of such industries, you need to approach the question more analytically, focusing on tangible savings.

Ultimately, making a solid case for ROI comes down to understanding and measuring your business, said system integrator Ross Rawlings of Radix Controls Inc. (Oldcastle, Ontario) “ROI increases when companies can quantify the cost of downtime, poor quality, final product scrap, or re-work and warranty.”

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