Just like everything else these days, industrial sensor suppliers and their customers have to cope with the current economic conditions. Honeywell Sensing and Control's Brad Kautzer provides insight into what it takes to continue to be successful, in spite of challenging times.
What kinds of trends do you see today in industrial sensing and what is Honeywell's response?
The biggest trend that we are seeing is our customers are clearly looking for cost savings. We are trying to address that in a couple of areas. If you look at where our products have been applied and where we have success, it is where we drive three things. It's productivity. It's improved maintenance cost and improved safety.
What about simply providing a lower cost product?
We can argue over the price of the switch. It may be a dollar or two cheaper by buying brand X versus brand Y, but it's not what really allows our customers to see true cost savings. If you look at productivity, it's how do we help make our customers more productive, especially now. It has to do with how we apply the right product over a life cycle of an application to both lower the installed cost, but also to work at that next level of performance. That's the main thing. Productivity is clearly something where we can help our customers.
Productivity was the first of the three areas. What about the other two?
The second one is how do we improve or reduce maintenance cost challenges? Customers are looking to take cost out of their operation and how can we utilize sensors to do that, either manual versus automated or productivity related to just doing something better, more efficiently.
The third is safety, and this is more than just putting a device in to meet a compliance requirement. It's really to reduce liability and doing that in a way that saves on the human cost side of things, but also without affecting machine uptime. We have examples where we are utilizing a safety guarding device that allows the machine to have greater uptime while also increasing the safety protection of the machine. So those are three of the areas that when you look at the real strong focus on cost, it's going beyond that commodity cost game into true operational productivity or performance.
Can you provide an example?
We have a range of safety devices, safety switches, where we provide the compliance piece of safety, but we are also able to impact the machine uptime. Or, if you look at total installed cost, we can impact not only providing that switch to cover miles of conveyors, but also how you maintain it and the machine uptime associated with that product. What we try to have with our customers is those kinds of discussions so you're looking at more than just the component, but the effect the component has in your applications.
Is this a major transition that is occurring?
I see the world changing in a significant way. The easy stuff has been done. Purchasing managers are good at finding a low-cost product to procure. The product (that addresses) productivity, safety and cost is really what they are looking for.
Brad Kautzer is vice president and general manager of Honeywell Sensing and Control's electromechanical line of business within the Honeywell Automation and Control Solutions group.