Thursday, March 12, 2009

Beware the hockey stick graph!

We’re all familiar with the projections that consultants and sales managers like to flash up on the screen: sales are dropping now but starting next year we’ll see N years of strong growth. That’s what they call the “hockey stick,” and there’s a great example up on the AIA’s website, “2009 Forecast; ‘Gut Check’ Time, Not ‘Give Up’ Time.”

But look carefully and you’ll see that the low point of the curve was back in 2002-3, so this particular graph is based on real data. What it’s showing then is that in the long term the prospects for the machine vision industry are good.

But for there to be a long term we’ll need to survive the present, and that’s where I disagree with Paul Kellett’s projection. He shows 2009 as broadly the same as 2008, with growth resuming in ’10, but based on what I see and hear, this is optimistic. People are conserving their cash and delaying all but the most urgent expenditures. I project that this year the machine vision business will shrink by maybe 10% compared to ’08. That means there will be some consolidation and some vendors will fail.

But this is the Darwinian nature of our capitalist system. Those companies that survive and thrive will be those that come out with new solutions to old problems and ‘must-have’ products. 2010 will definitely be a good year.

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