Buy it or Build it?
Buy it or Build it?
by TONY CLEMENTS - Mar 21,2016

One tractor does not meet the needs of all farms. Do you live in Scotland on a hillside and have a few horses or raise sheep? A tractor without a roll bar, one designed for use on flat land, will kill you when it rolls over. Live where it snows? Forget trying to plow anything without four-wheel drive, the tires will just spin. Do you farm grapes planted at 1 meter by 1 meter spacing? A 1.5 meter wide tractor cannot drive down the rows.

Every farm is unique. The difference is nuance not easily seen by someone who does not do exactly the same thing. Organic vegetables are grown best in raised beds where weeds can be controlled and the temperature of the soil rises more quickly in sun. Someone planting potatoes like that would go broke for all the lumber required to farm like that, so they plant potatoes in open fields. You cannot use a tractor inside a raised bed--you have to lift a tiller inside. Potatoes of course are harvested and planted by machines towed by a tractor. To harvest, the tractor passes a spread of wide blades under the potatoes that lifts them to the surface.

 

Similar systems, radically different

The point is that each operation is different--radically so even when they appear similar from an inexperienced perspective. One ship builds company roll-on roll-off car car carriers. Another builds bulk freighters for carrying coal. The second builder needs to buy very large open bins and not much more equipment. The car carrier needs hydraulic lifts, and towing devices to ferry vehicles onboard and off. The two company’s procurement and maintenance needs differ widely.

One computer system for procurement and maintenance cannot be written that exactly matches the needs of both ship builders. If each shipping company bought a ready-to-go procurement and maintenance system, the bulk carrier would be paying for functions only the car carrier needs. The bulk freighter has no need to track automobiles as they are loaded. Even today, simple ancient techniques are used to tally bulk cargo. One does not even need a computer. The plum line painted on the side of the vessel shows where the water line is located when the ship is empty, 1/2 full, or filled to the top. Since you know the size of the vessel, you can calculate the weight of the cargo by measuring the force needed to displace that volume of water.

Such are the differences in machines and one size really does not fit all. This is true for off-the-shelf software. Why install a Sparc supercomputer with 1 TB memory that cost a zillion pounds when you can run the business on an iPad. Size the system correctly, write the specifications, then hire a bespoke software vendor to program the logic. Finally, don’t pick ripe tomatoes with a harvesting machine--they might get bruised or fall apart.

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