What is Cheap?


Thread Starter

Ralph Mackiewicz

I have noticed on numerous occassions people looking for various solutions (HMI, PC104, PLCs, etc.) with an important selection criteria being that the solution is "cheap". I know everyone wants to minimze cost but my perception of "cheap" may be different from everyone else's. Therefore, I have no idea if a particular solution
that I am aware of would meet this need. Sometimes I get the impression that "cheap" means "free" especially when the word "really" is used in front of "cheap".

Is a product "cheap" if it's price is less than 50% of the system/effort savings gained by using the product or versus the cost of developing your own equivalent? 25%? 80%?

Or is "cheap" a subjective judgement based upon what the price of the most expensive equivalent product is or the price of the market leader's product?

Does the concept of "value" matter when "cheap" is the criteria?

I'm not trying to be facetious here. I just don't know how to judge if a solution I am familar with is cheap or not when someone asks for a cheap solution without specifics. Most of the good products and solutions I am aware have a significant price but I use them because they return more value than their price.

I am also interested in this issue also as it relates to the open source "movement" for control software. I can understand some of the
technical advantages of this approach but what are the cost/price/value advantages?

Ralph Mackiewicz

Ralph Mackiewicz
6605 19-1/2 Mile Road
Sterling Heights, MI 48314-1408 USA
T: +810-254-0020 F: +810-254-0053
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Hi Ralph,

My very personal view on the matter, not the one one from my company. You find on the market products that seem to have the features that you want. Some selling for 10, while other selling for 1. I will call the latter "Cheap". In that case the vendor of the product selling for 10 has two arguments: Superior productivity, which is always impossible to appreciate, or to tell you that the product can do myriads of other things that you do not need. Point is, you are taking a risk when buying the cheap solutions, since usually it is not a brand name. But the savings can be great. In short, I would put it like this: If you do not have the time and have the money, go for the expensive solution. "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM" was the motto earlier. But if not, testing the cheap solution is worthwile.

Pierre Kohn
ABB Body-in-White s.a.
Beauchamp, France

Igor Caganek

I have also noticed this trend toward "cheap", or better yet "really cheap" products. I do not know how to explain it. Perhaps it means that the product does not have to be very good, just something to mess with. Another explanation might be that the requester has to absorb the cost, would not dare to charge the customer for this
"cheap" product.

Igor Caganek
Automated Sonix Corp.

John F. Vales

I, too, have recently become confused by the "cheap" concept. I'm in a position where my customers (internal and external) are looking for
"cheap" controls solutions in machine automation. This is especially true when the concept of Open Architecture is mentioned. e.g. "Our machines will be really cheap when we install the latest
Flibberdy-Cracket PC controls on it."

I get the impression that there is a HUGE marketing thrust aimed at non-engineering types, making them believe that you simply take their
Control Computer du Jour out of a box, plug it in, and it controls your machinery, talks to your operator, sends you fault and production
information over the internet, and sends your wife flowers on her birthday, all without any programming, engineering, wiring, or assembly.

Any others out there with similar experiences?

just spouting off,

Tanweer Ahmed

Hi John,
The experience you mentioned is really interesting but its not unique. Almost all the marketing and comissioning engineers having direct
interaction with customer, particularly if the customer himself is not well familiar with automation systms have the similar views.

Recently I was working on a project in middle east. After we got the consignment of the hardware and software the Shaikh asked howlong it will take to bring the plant in production. I answered six months to which he was astonished and it was very difficult to explain him the software and hardware of an automation system is not like "out of a box, plug it in, and it control your machinery" but we have to write all the control logics, configure communication network, develop HMI screens and define all the control details. This was very difficult for him to digest and kept on asking why you did not purchase those software you people are developing.

Don't worry this is a common experience to many automation engineers.

Good Luck.

Tanweer Ahmed

Mark J. Walker

As an OEM, we are consistantly required to provide our customers with the most "cost effective" (or cheap) product or solution.

As an engineer, I would love to have the pockets of institutions like NASA in order to provide the ultimate system. As a manufacturer within a very
competitive market, I pride myself in engineering and developing the best system with the funds (the customers funds) that are available. This quest is not to provide the below noted "Flibberdy-Cracket PC controls", but to engineer and provide the best bang for the buck. Any engineer with unlimited funds can provide a quality system. Only a good engineer can provide a quality system under budget, meet the customers needs....and be competitive in the market place.

The trend towards bashing the customers request for "cost effective" products will only confirm the statement, "Take care of the customers needs,
or someone else will"

My two cents.....

Mark J. Walker
R & D Manager
EG Controls, Inc.
11790 Philips Hwy
Jacksonville FL, 32256
ofc. 904.292.0110
fax. 904.292.0119

Roman Railean

In my opinion a "cheap product" is something different from an unexpensive product. At least, most of those whom I know refer to products as "cheap" if those products do not meet their expectations about performance. This usually happens in those cases when a customer has paid much for that product and eventually remains disappointed.