The International Society of Automation (ISA) and Beamex recently sponsored an informative webinar describing how an industrial business can build a case for investment in a calibration system. The topics were wide-ranging, and reminded me of many examples of challenges DryCal clients have faced when building their investment business cases for calibration systems.
The majority of successful business cases for investment in a calibration system are based on a “hard” business need, such as:
- Changes to the regulatory environment, applicable legislation, or key customer requirements.
- The technology of the existing calibration system doesn’t meet current business needs, or it is a legacy system with zero or very limited vendor support.
- A higher level of calibration efficiency would better support business needs – such as a transition into a lean production environment, or eliminating the cost and down time that are a result of sending equipment to an off-site lab for calibration.
- Outdated processes and procedures are increasing operating costs – such as time requirements for tasks required by a lab accreditation, reducing management costs by removing hazardous materials from the production environment, or moving to a paperless documentation system.
In addition to quantifying the costs related to the “hard” business needs, it can also be beneficial to report benefits that are more difficult to quantify into exact financial terms. Tying such benefits to high-level strategic goals can be a successful strategy. For example, the automation industry is facing an ongoing loss of expertise due to the demographics of the workforce.
A new system investment may be easier to support using modern tools and equipment that are well-known to a younger workforce as opposed to legacy (often proprietary) systems that require specific training and experience to maintain. A more intuitive system that is easier to operate can reduce training time for less experienced operators, and make cross-training among workers easier to improve operational flexibility in meeting business needs.
A priority focus on the product lifecycle cost over strict financial measures like the ROI of the initial purchase price will maximize the total value the business gains from the investment. Many factors other than the initial purchase price influence the return on the investment over the installed life of the calibration system. Examples include engineering costs for integration into existing control systems, costs of completing the physical installation, implementation costs like training and updating procedures, and the ongoing operating costs of the system.
In a flow calibration system, such examples are commonly addressed by questions similar to the following:
- How many application conditions need to be considered and controlled to achieve the desired level of calibration accuracy and quality?
- Does the system allow open communications with existing business systems? If proprietary software is required, how easy will it be to integrate with the business system, will the software provide the information desired, and how long will the vendor provide support?
- How much training time is needed for a new operator to reach maximum productivity over the range of calibrations that will be performed?
- What maintenance requirements and costs will the system have, how disruptive are they to the business, and what ongoing support services does the vendor provide?
- What degree of “future proofing” is present in the calibration system that will allow it to continue to support business needs that change in unexpected ways in the future?
For the greatest impact, the proposed investment cost can be compared to the cost of doing nothing. The cost of inaction will likely be recognized and well understood within the business.
If you’re looking for further resources to investigate solutions for a gas flow calibration system and support a business case you’re trying to build, Mesa Labs also recently hosted a webinar discussing Best Practices When Designing Flow Calibration Standards. Feel free to download it here!