Innovation comes in many shapes and forms. Mostly when we think of innovation, we think of component specifications, or unique ways to use components in a new product. But, sometimes innovation comes in other forms, such as business practices. I was reminded of that a few weeks ago when I attended an event hosted by Microlease, a company that rents our test equipment. The event was held to announce that Microlease had signed an agreement to stock Fluke’s thermal imaging equipment for rental. Although the partnership was interesting itself, it set me thinking about the value of leasing.
Test equipment is ideal for leasing for a number of reasons. For instance, the latest equipment can get very expensive to purchase outright, especially equipment intended for testing the latest wireless technologies, such as 5G telecommunications, which can cost up to $500k. If the equipment is used in a production line, it may be in use pretty much all of the time, but if it is intended for prototyping or individual projects, it may be see much less use and provide lower overall value for money. It may be difficult to get a company to loosen the purse strings for a piece of equipment that sits on the shelf for much of the time, even more so as test is often looked at as not adding direct value to the product. Every company tries to cut down on non-essential externalities whenever possible.
At first look, this may not seem to affect power designers directly, as power design doesn’t really need the same ultra-expensive equipment as communications applications, but this is changing. Power designs now have much higher switching speeds and today’s products require much higher tolerances. Specifications, such as slew rates and ramp-up sequences need to be very tightly controlled and this requires more accurate measurement from a higher standard of equipment than has previously been available to designers. Also, more and more customers involved in mission-critical designs are seeking assurance from suppliers that the components they buy will behave exactly as they require, meaning each individual component needs proven and certified before dispatch.
Extra testing requires extra equipment, and in these times where the bottom line is more important than ever, an outright purchase may not be the ideal way to acquire equipment, especially if the equipment is only needed to certify a batch of products for a single customer. Renting could be better than buying for jobs like these and allow the cost of test equipment to be accurately quoted in the initial job estimate. In some cases, engineers may be required to wait to a new financial year before new capital purchases, but leasing could allow them to start the job before the current year finishes. Leasing may not be the ideal solution for every company, but it is nice to know there could be another option available, and the more options the better for everyone.