Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Where are the (machine vision) virgins?

Sure, there are always engineers getting their hands dirty with machine vision for the first time, but they’re invariably working in companies where the preferred machine products have already been selected. This means the newbies never get the chance to shop around to buy the vision product of their choice.

I haven’t done a scientific survey, but I don’t think there are many places out there in the wide world of manufacturing that represent virgin territory for machine vision vendors. Most companies already have their favorite products – DVT was perhaps the best example – and they are loath to incur the time and expense of getting up to speed with a completely new product. They might look around from time to time and realize that the vendor they’re not using has a slightly superior product, but they know a new release will be coming soon, and besides, there’s always more than one way to skin a cat.

And is this organizational inertia a bad thing? Well compare it with the lanes of equally slow moving traffic on a city freeway. Does the guy who keeps switching lanes make faster progress? Sure, he keeps busier than the rest of us plodders but his net gain is usually next to nothing.

And so it is with each level of sophistication of machine vision. Yes, moving from smart cameras to PC-based products will give you extra capabilities, but switching from one smart camera make to another achieves very little.

So what does this mean for the vendors? How can they grow market share when we’re all quite happy with what we have now thank you?

I wish I had an earth-shaking answer but I’m afraid all I can offer is that trite business school saying of “Innovate!” I think what I’m really saying is, if you Mister machine vision vendor, want me to adopt your product, it has to offer a real step change over what I have now, and unfortunately that just doesn’t seem to happen.

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