This is a shortened transcript of a meeting of the marketing department of a well-established hydraulic component manufacturer. I am not at liberty of disclosing the name of the company, nor the brands they manufacture and sell, but since I had to name it something, I came up with an imaginary name of "Schmanfoss" to avoid any real-life associations.
Dear colleagues. Schmanofss has been manufacturing and successfully selling the series 4 electro-hydraulic actuators for our line of proportional DCVs for years, and I am proud to announce that our engineering department has finally finished designing the next generation of actuators, which is technically a thousand times better, and about a hundred times cheaper to manufacture.
(A loud round of applause and cheers)
Thank you… Thank you so much... Thank you... You can stop clapping now, Mark… MARK!.. Anyhow, the new design is finished, and while there are no technical issues, we have been receiving complaints from our new marketing department that there’s little to no confusion regarding the identification and part marking of our current series of actuators.
(Stunned silence in the audience)
Yes, lack of confusion, my friends, is our biggest problem at this point. Marketing studies indicate that unnecessarily complicated part numbers and ambiguous component markings are the two things that make a product truly stand out! We must come up with a solution that will guarantee that our newest series excels in this regard! So, any suggestions?! Yes, Mark, I can see that you are raising your hand. Anybody else?.. Ok, Mark, what’s your idea?
Well, the older series was called series 4, right? But what if, instead of naming the newer series 5, which is something that any sane person would expect, we named it series 6? Or even 7!
Great idea! That way when our clients see that there's series 7 on the market, and they are still using series 4, they will think that they are two generations behind, and will rush to buy the new version! Great job, Mark! Any other suggestions?
(Teenage-looking youth raises his hand in the back)
Oh, I see that Claus from the engineering department has something to say. Don’t be shy, Claus, spill it out!
Well… The older series has a very simple codification system that all of our clients practically know by heart at this point. For example, almost all of the actuators have a part number composed of "157B" plus a four-digit code, that actually follows a certain logic. I even dare say that since the four digits are unique, most of the tech can instantly recognize an actuator by them alone, and requests like “send me a couple of 4033s, please" have become all too common.
Obviously, we need to make life harder for them, so I suggest replacing the part number system with a longer numeric coding, something like seven digits, at least.
I agree. The old coding system is too easy to remember. But we’ll hit them with a new digit code so hard that they will need to consult a manual every time they need a new coil! Wait. I’ve got a better idea that the seven-digit code – an eight-digit code!
(A loud round of applause)
May I say a few words, Mr. Chairman?
Of course, John, go ahead.
I absolutely agree that the older code convention must be changed, but I also believe that we must do something about the way we mark the actuators as well!
What do you mean?
I mean the way the part numbers are written. We must make sure it is as confusing as possible!
I am sorry, John, but marking the parts with part numbers is mandatory by legislation.
Yes, yes, I know, but what if we are clever about it?
What if we put the correct part numbers on the parts, but place them in a hidden place, or maybe make the font so small that people would need a microscope to read it? The old series has these large readable letters and numbers right in the center of the enclosure. Only a blind person would miss it, even on a dirty coil. What a shame!
(Roar of approval from the audience)
And to make things even more interesting, what if we placed the correct part number, and then added a bunch of random numbers right next to it, so that techs knew immediately who’s the boss?
I see… This actually sounds terrific, John!
(Cry from the back)
Care to elaborate?
(A woman standing up from the last row)
Let us add a bright decoy sticker to every actuator!
A decoy sticker with another random number, that looks like a part number, but is anything else but a part number! And yes – let’s add a bar code as well! Bar codes are great!
Oh, I see what you mean, Laura. That way nobody will be able to say that we didn’t put the correct part number – because we did put it, in a hidden spot, remember? But everybody will be looking at the sticker, and maybe even writing down the random number thinking that it's the correct part number, only it's not!!!
And when they lose the sticker, and of course, they will wash it off the first time they clean their machine, they will be like: "Oh, the sticker's gone! The part number! What will I do now?"
So - it is decided! We will put the right catalog part number on the newer series, but we'll use tiny letters and place it in a partially obstructed spot of the housing, plus we’ll add a bunch of random numbers next to it so that everybody thinks they are important, and we'll place a bright decoy sticker on the side of every actuator so that techs and their clients think that it’s the numbers on the sticker that matter!
Poor suckers! They will never know what hit them!
(Loud round of applause. Distant diabolical laughter from the back row)
As you probably already guessed – this all is but a fruit of my imagination. But have a look at the series 7 Danfoss PVE actuator now ( a direct replacement of the actuator I cut open last week):
It all checks out. A tiny 8-digit part number plus a bunch of random numbers next to it, partially covered by the metallic back-plate, and impossible to read if look at it at an angle. A wide and bright sticker with a "mystery code" that “leads nowhere”.
I bet even my grandmother could read the large numbers on the back of a series 4 actuator from two meters away. With a series 7 actuator – you need to know where (and how) to look for the part number to be able to identify it.
Danfoss, please, lose the rest of the numbers, lose the sticker! Keep the 8-digit code if you really want to, but for the love of God – make the font larger! There’s space for it there! I am sure a lot of folks will be thankful!