Should I Build it or Buy it ?

Why Cheap is Almost Always More Expensive

Saving money is important, but spending money wisely with long-term benefit is more important.  Some items we buy may be cheaper upfront, but actually cost you more in the long run.  Spending more upfront for a better quality, longer-lasting product may be wiser.  Like my father used to say, “don’t step over dollars to pick up pennies”.

Not to be too dramatic but if I was a military mine sweeper, I would hope my commanding officer had provided me with the best equipment and the best training possible to do my job……….not the cheapest.   While not so life & death as the mine sweeper, in our business, being safe and productive is imperative but is not solved when using the cheapest possible option, but rather the option that is the safest, best suited and longest lasting.

The ranks of do-it-yourselfers seem to be growing these days with social media platforms showing us how to do just about everything.  The online-engaged are using YouTube and other Internet tutorials to tackle everything from home projects to car repair …..things their parents might have hired out.  In addition, the popularity of home improvement & fixer-upper shows makes us believe that we can easily perform the work.    While many jobs are simple enough to be completed,  there are plenty of stories about errors that led to costly mistakes requiring professional fixes.  That said, it’s not time to put away your tools just yet; you just need to know which projects require a more experienced hand.

The “build versus buy” decision is a significant one that many companies face when addressing production machinery for wood and cabinetry as well.   Many of us are skilled craftsmen and experienced technicians who have built our shops from the ground up.  So why not build our own router table or CNC machine?  Well, I’m not going to be able to answer that question for everybody and let’s face it, I’m not the most objective here as we are an OEM of production vacuum presses for thermo foil, veneering and forming.  But we can be honest about a few things as we ask ourselves:

  • Do I have the time?  – Don’t underestimating the value of your time.
  • Do I have the technical proficiency?  – Some people are handy, and some think they’re handy.
  • Am I taking on too much?  – You may, in theory, be capable of building that press but between your job demands and the kids’ soccer games, can you really finish the project in a few weeks, or will it stretch over months? Your time may be worth the cost of a pro.
  • If I fail, then what?  – It comes down to quality of work.” If you can’t do it right, you’ll have to pay to have it fixed.
  • Do I have the right tools?  –  Tool costs may make a PRO worthwhile.
  • Am I prioritizing my safety and the safety of others?  –  Accidents hurt, safety doesn’t.

A customer once told me he doesn’t buy the cheapest nor does he buy the most expensive.  He wore Levi jeans, drove a Chevy pick-up and wore Carhartt shoes.  Over my life, I’ve adopted that way of thinking.  I have concluded the right product that will provide the greatest long-term benefit was in fact, the successful goal here and that this often represents a higher up-front cost but will provide a greater savings through less maintenance and replacement costs.  Higher performing & higher quality parts/products provide greater safety, productivity and economic outcomes.  Certified and compliant products are designed and tested for performance.  This bares a greater cost but will save money in the long run.  Less initial spend can lead to greater spending down the line — whether it’s for maintenance and upkeep, or replacement costs when you have to buy the same cheap product or service over and over again.

Not long ago, one of my customers decided to buy an cheap DIY vacuum table.   I was saddened by his decision but understood his thought process.   Six months later he emailed me the following: “We went with a table kit from the East Coast.  It operates just fine.  We went with a venturi style pump from a different East Coast company.  I am very impressed with the pump’s performance.  Mark, by the time I was done putting the kit together, including purchasing a large sheet of MDF locally for the table, laminating the various parts of that table, I had as much labor involved as the kit cost.  I made the wrong choice, and in HINDSIGHT, I absolutely should have used you and your complete tables”.

Saving money is important, but to spend money wisely with long-term benefit is more important. – Anonomous

Thanks for reading,