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Golden Nuggets – You Want Fries With That?

I read a monthly computer magazine – it’s the real thing, paper and everything. It costs a fiver, but these kind of magazines are usually full of good stuff, aren’t they?  There are columns on various PC related subjects by the experienced, news, reviews, articles, a how-to section and lots and lots of ads.

How much of this though do I actually read? The news can be interesting, but I tend to only read the headlines. To me, news is not really news when you see the same things happening over and over again. Boring. The columns are usually focussed on mobile technology these days, making a drama out of something that is not exactly “prime-time” from my point of view. The articles often talk about things that are not really relevant for me, so these get flicked through too. The ads are mostly pictures, attractive, but little to engage with. What is it then that I am looking for, why am I reading this magazine?

For me, it is the reviews of the latest hardware and software. I like to know what is available. What are the latest, biggest, fastest USB sticks, which chipsets are coming up, what performance gains are on their way. The latest features of software, updates, all very interesting. I could also look on-line for this information, but for me on-line is mostly for shopping, once I know what I want. On-line sites, not bound by physical limitations, are often plagued by an order of magnitude of what I would call “rubbish”, the thinsg that don’t interest me. The physical magazine for 5 minutes each night is all I need, and to be honest, that pretty much sums up the extent of the content that is of interest to me.

If you think about it, it is a quite a low utilisation of a resource, something that I think we all experience in many aspects of what we do and own. It is not limited to newspapers and magazines, the principle also applies to many things that we own and perhaps do not use in our daily lives.

We use only a few percent of the actual content that we pay for, and we seem happy with this, continuing to pay the asking prices. The fact is that the “golden nugget” we find is in itself worth the money we pay. You could lose 95% of the magazine that I read in terms of cost and content, and I would still be happy. Different people however would have different views about which content is the golden 5%.

The same logic extends to software. In Microsoft Office for example, an excellent piece of software, incredibly sophisticated now, I struggle to find more than 5% of it useful. Many of us use Office, so it looks as though 5% content of value is worth the overall investment. Pretty much all of the software I use at home or at work is the same for me. The key issue here is that as with the magazine, the 5% portion of value is different from person to person. The core features I expect everyone uses, the peripheral functions are rarely used, but at that time are absolutely needed. It could be possible for Microsoft to create a bespoke version of Office for every customer, so that each person gets just what they need, and no more. The perception may then be that we are paying only for what we need. The reality however is that this is not practically possible. Though in software we don’t have the physical wastes of over-supply of features, the effort to manage all of the individual configurations would be more than the effort to create the software itself. The decision is then easy to understand. We would end up paying more for less. No takers on that.

How about a really significant investment in software, like an MES system? Surely as things scale up, the need is to find a higher proportion of the software from which to earn the return on the investment. From a recent survey, we have found that the 5% Golden Nugget rule seems to persist even in generic MES systems. It is simply the same reasoning again. Each manufacturing site has different needs, each will use a different sub-set of the system’s capability. What then is the issue?

As with prices, there is the “sticker shock” effect. Having so many features and functions available makes the specification of MES systems look really complex and difficult to understand. People create detailed spreadsheets to try to map their operations to the features of the MES systems trying to make sure first of all that their existing operation can cope with the system and secondly, yes, secondly, then looking for ways to make improvements.

This is where the generic MES systems lose ground. Being generic across many industries makes them less of a good fit for specialist industries such as electronics assembly; especially SMT. The generic MES golden nugget is small and tarnished. Eyebrows are raised in the board-room. MES gets minimal traction.

More specialized systems, like our Valor MSS suite, see a much better return on investment, since they are designed specifically for the role that they will be used in. I would not say that 100% of the system will be of value, but it will be a great deal more than the 5% of generic systems, which translates immediately into a much faster and dependable return on investment.

When considering MES systems, don’t “go large”. Bigger is not always better. Focus on the Golden Nugget – judge the system by the specific value that you get from it. Do you want fries with that? Now, I really don’t care……

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About Michael Ford

Michael FordMICHAEL FORD SENIOR MARKETING DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, VALOR DIVISION, MENTOR GRAPHICS Michael started his career as a computer software and hardware engineer in 1982. Working for Sony in the UK, Michael became one of the first successful adopters of computer technology into the manufacturing shop-floor, going on to manage in Japan Sony’s global Lean Manufacturing solutions. Joining Valor Computerized Systems in 2008 gave Michael the opportunity to apply his experience into the main-stream of the industry. With almost 30 years’ experience, Michael’s key strength is the instinct of finding solutions and opportunities where there had been challenges and problems. Michael is currently working as part of the Marketing Development team within the Valor Division of Mentor Graphics, focussing on the realisation of real and practical solutions for manufacturing based on the application of Lean Thinking, end to end, from design through the entire manufacturing process. Visit The Michael Ford Manufacturing Blog

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