Value-driven buyers

The annual National Plant Engineering & Management Show conjures up all kinds of images of plant engineers checking out products and making buying decisions. What kinds of factors are considered in those de- cisions?


The annual National Plant Engineering & Management Show conjures up all kinds of images of plant engineers checking out products and making buying decisions. What kinds of factors are considered in those de- cisions? Here's some insight.

Not surprisingly, price and quality reign supreme. Responses to 12 surveys conducted over the past year show that, on the average, 53.1% of plant engineers rate price as an important factor. Close behind is quality at 52.8%. Since "value" is typically defined as a combination of price and quality, it's fair to say that above everything else, plant engineers are looking for high value in the products they buy.

To be sure, the methodology of our research is not scientific. But responses represent 2643 Plant Engineering readers who chose to answer our survey questions about the factors they consider most important in their buying decisions.

Not far down the list is service support (45.8%), maintenance considerations (39.7%), and availability (37.3%).

We asked about total life-cycle cost on only six of the 12 surveys, but it showed a respectable 35.9%. Take this factor into consideration with price and quality, and we begin to get a picture of where plant engineers are putting their priorities.

Just as interesting are some of the factors that don't appear to be very important. For example: Although much has been made of ISO certification, only an average 12.8% of plant engineers pay much attention to it in the buying decision. Nor do they care much if a supplier is big in the world market; "global presence" was a major factor for just 16.3%.

And what a fickle group you appear to be. The evidence? Brand preference was rated a major factor in buying decisions by just 17.2%; installed base by 23.6%; and inplant standardization by 30.3%. With all that potential brand switching going on, does the dealer count for much? Nope. Only a scant 9.8% say the dealer is a major factor in their buying decisions.

I should point out that the results to our questions sometimes varied widely from survey to survey reflecting different priorities for different kinds of products. And we know from other research, for example, that when downtime is a factor, price becomes less important and availability becomes more important. Even so, most NPEM Show exhibitors would do well to remember that value is uppermost in their customers' minds.

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