Quite a few calls we get are from people who are getting the shaft from their OEM, which is not to say that there are not good OEMs out there, just that these people aren’t working with them. Often times at least part of the fault lies with the client as well. So lets look at the OEM/Client relationship and what the major fault is.

1. The OEM wants to sell the client something.

2. Once the client buys it, the OEM is either done, or wants to sell the client something.

The second proposition is the problem. Once you have the equipment in your plant, the OEM can only make more money off of you by selling you something else. And they already know that you have money (bought their machine, didn’t you?) and what you have. So that makes you low hanging fruit.

3. The OEM engineering department and Bill of Materials change over time.

So the guy who integrated 10 years of their machines with Siemens has retired (or been run over) and the new guy likes AB, or ABB. His solution to fix both proposition 2 and proposition 3 is to figure that any problem with the old stuff means that the client needs a complete control system update. The upper management likes him because he is monetizing old clients and he enjoys putting in the new stuff. The problem hits when the old clients don’t want to pay 10k or 100k or 1m to upgrade their machine. But that’s not a problem, because if they don’t, that means that they don’t have any money and the OEM shouldn’t be wasting their time on them. Or they need a new machine. Either way, it’s a solution of sorts.

So as a client, how do you protect yourself?

1. Backups. Yes, we are back the “Known Good Backup” again. If you have the program and parameters, we can get you going again. If not, you are out of business if the OEM doesn’t have a copy and is willing to give it to you (or sell it, see #2)

2. Get someone who knows the equipment. Yes, it will cost money. It will, however, be cheap. I am working right now with a customer who’s maintenance guy pulled the battery on a DLC card. The program for the DLC evaporated while the maintenance guy was checking the battery with a meter. The OEM thinks that a system upgrade is in order and is not being helpful. Oh, and get some smarter maintenance guys too. That is another thing that will pay in the long run. I have had customers pay for a service call to get a known good backup and a survey of what they need for long term operations. While they have whined about the cost at the time, I have never had one come back to me 10 or 20 years later and say “Ya know, that money I spent was a complete waste”. Usually, it is “Boy, am I glad I got you guys in here” about the 4th time we saved their butt.

3. Don’t take the word of the guy trying to sell you an upgrade if the equipment is obsolete or not. Do you take the word of the used car salesman about “Driven by a little old lady…”? I have had people start off conversations with “I know this is obsolete, but” at which point I cut them off and tell them to forget everything the person that told them this is obsolete told them, because it is probably all as wrong as that statement is.

4. Spares. Look at what I recommend as spares. Cables are cheap and they are the first spares you should buy…but after the backup.