Over the years, we have attended many trade shows; some we just walked and some we exhibited at. The one statement that always seems to give me amusement is, “Yeah, we are looking at getting into custom design lifts just like you.” My “inside” voice says, “Great, let me hold the door open for you!”
The reality is that the custom-designed equipment business has pros and cons, just like any other industry. My amusement stems from the many lessons we have learned over the years (and the hard way, I might add) and just how confident the newcomer is. The simplest way for me to explain myself is by way of our favourite saying:
“Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem.”
The fact is custom design work consumes you. You either thrive on it naturally, or you reject it. This creates a challenge in that the labour pool is somewhat reduced because not everyone wants to live in a world of organized chaos.
Labour and skill are paramount in the world of “one-offs.” The volume build model has some level of comfort in knowing that you spread your non-value-added costs and/or engineering costs over multiple units. In the one-off custom world, one unit must absorb it all. There may be higher capital equipment expenditures in the volume-based manufacturing world, but there is a higher labour cost in the low-volume custom world.
Additionally, long-term planning in the custom world is very difficult. We don’t always know what we will be building, how we are going to build it, who we need in order to build it and so on. With a volume build platform, the challenge is to keep that cap-ex equipment working as much as possible. If those machines aren’t working, then you are not making money. These are just some of the pros and cons of custom-designed low-volume versus standard or high-volume manufacturing.
The one thing that sticks out most for me as I compare custom versus standard is the stimulating and rewarding world of custom work. Yes, it takes a lot out of you. You really don’t become wise and experienced until you have failed dozens of times, but it seems to attract some of the most talented people I have ever met.
When you are able to get all of this talent to believe in each other and support each other, you can build a very successful and sustainable business. I think this is one of the most unrealized “pros” of the custom-engineered-to-order world.
At Handling Specialty….talent and courage = success…..and I can prove it!!