Common automation mistake you can avoid.

Posted by Joe Amick on November 28, 2023

So you looked into automation and are going to take the next step. You get some offers and talk to folks and now you need to make a choice. You have two quotes you like and the only real difference is one of them is "turn key" where the other is not. Turn key sounds like it will be much easier as they are responsible for nearly everything and I wont have to do as much. Well this is the common error many make with automation and I will try to explain why.

The turn key option will end up costing you far more in the long run. Put yourself in the position of the person selling you the automation under the turn key example. The seller is responsible to deliver the automation and make it work in order to get paid. The seller is not going to want the buyer messing with anything at all as they are responsible for every aspect. So the seller might lock out much of the settings and adjustments to avoid issues for himself. The seller will not spend a ton of time doing training as the seller wont want the buyer messing with anything they will have to fix. So the seller slaps on the largest training wheels possible to try and protect himself. The company getting the new equipment gets a machine that works and are happy so the seller gets paid and leaves. 3 weeks later they have a problem they have no idea how to fix so the seller has to go back. The seller sorts it out as fast as he can and leaves. Then a month later there is an issue with the parts changing. Well the seller has to go back and adjust the system again as the buyer doesn't know how to do that. This cycle will just continue on and on until you cant get people to answer your calls or they start charging for visits.

On the other side if you do NOT do a turn key you will have a much different experience. The seller has to deliver a machine and prove that it performs the task it was bought for. You are going to be responsible for the programming and adjustments in this situation not the seller. Well for the seller to prove it works it will need adjusted and programmed. So they will need to teach your staff how to do the steps needed to make it work so they can get paid. This is where you get a blessing in disguise, yes you have to do more but the staff is learning what will be needed to be successful over the life of the equipment. They will need shown how to adjust nearly every aspect and troubleshoot all manner of issues. The day to day small tweaks that improve a process become possible in this case. You are also far more self sufficient when it comes to part changes or any other issue that may come along. This means you get a machine without massive training wheels on it and staff that know how to use it. This puts you in a much better position long term to get the absolute most from the purchase. The seller in this case has a genuine interest in the staff being equipped as well as possible to make any and all adjustments. After all if the staff can not make the machine work the seller is going to have a hard time getting paid.

Turn key sounds like the great solution on paper I get it. The reality is that you are not doing yourself a single favor here. Yes it is more work and time to get involved from the start that is 100% true. The truth is once the machine is installed and running you are going to be left alone with it. What do you do now? What is that blinking light? Why is it not turning on? Why is the part quality not what it was 2 days ago? No matter what you get any new process is going to have issues in the beginning. It is a classic case of you don't know what you don't know. Being equipped as much as possible to deal with issues quickly and fully understand the new process is key. Off loading these aspects might make the start a bit easier but you are also dependent on someone else to solve all your issues. You should be supported and have help available to you but you don't want to be 100% dependent on it. Just as you have more than one customer so will any machine builder. Having to wait for an answer to a simple problem is not ideal as the system needs to be working to pay for itself. Being involved from the first step and not offloading key aspects puts you in a far better position long term.

I have walked away from some very large companies and contracts over this. I am not going to put a company in a position I know is not going to serve them well. There is always going to be someone willing to agree to just about anything. They will just hope they can figure it all out later and just cross their fingers. That is not how you set yourself up to be successful and get the most from the time and money invested. The simple truth is I give a shit. Sometimes giving a shit comes at a cost and I can live with that.

I hope this shed some light on the topic and as always feel free to reach out with questions as I am always happy to chat.


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