ROI is still an important factor in buying decisions, but qualities like reliability, durability and customer service are moving to the forefront.
The return on investment (ROI) and how long it might take to achieve it is always a key consideration in most purchasing decisions, particularly during the Great Recession when pricing and ROI moved front and center for most specialty fabricators. As the economy has gradually recovered, other factors are moving to the forefront, although ROI is certainly still a key purchasing ingredient. For one thing, people are starting to realize that “sometimes the best price isn’t the best value,” according to Frank Henderson, CEO of Henderson Sewing Machine Co. Inc. Headquartered in Andalusia, Ala., the company distributes 440 different vendor products to the sewing products industries.
Henderson says this growing recognition of the importance of value is becoming more prevalent, driven partly by the “diminishing supply of knowledge in the industry.” As he explains it, in the early ’70s and ’80s, nearly four million people were employed in the textile and sewing products industries. Today, there are fewer than 400,000.
“Consequently, there are far fewer people today who have an intimate knowledge and understanding of these industries,” Henderson says. “This has switched the focus to best value—such as the reliability of the supplier, service, training, support, and so on—not necessarily the best price.”
These factors, and others like ease of maintenance, equipment longevity and cost of ownership, should rank high on a fabricator’s priority list, says Jonathan Palmer, CTO with Autometrix Inc., a Grass Valley, Calif.-based manufacturer of automated cutting equipment and pattern design software. It also helps if purchasers adjust their understanding of ROI, he adds.
“People often think that a new piece of capital equipment needs to be running constantly to pay for itself or they’re not getting their full ROI,” Palmer says. “I encourage people to realize that if the equipment does the job in a fraction of the time it would take employees to complete the work without that equipment, the job is still done and employees are being productive in other areas of the company.”
When it comes to ROI, customers should also take into account how production delays and downtime impact their operations, and the costs subsequently incurred, says Tom Gordon, director of industrial products for Tolland, Conn.-based Gerber Technology, a provider of software and automation solutions to the apparel and industrial industries. What to look at? The value of uptime and the effect the new technology will have on labor costs and material savings are just some of the considerations Gordon mentions.
The good news is that in many cases, prices are coming down, making it much less expensive for many fabricators to take advantage of new technologies and achieve a speedier ROI. But for smaller shops (or fabricators with commitment issues), Palmer offers another strategy that might prove attractive.
“Small fabricators cannot afford to make the wrong decision when it comes to capital expenditures,” he says. “A lease option is often the best decision for them as it allows them to keep their working capital while the new equipment earns its keep.”
Pamela Mills-Senn is a freelancer writer based in Long Beach, Calif.