Packaging Automation Benchmark Study: Packagers speak out

Volume 2 of the Packaging Automation Benchmark Study, from Control Engineering, Packaging Digest, and Reed Research Group, focuses on packaging machine builders and the state of the market from their point of view. Comments and advice follow from survey respondents.


Links to other articles in the study are provided below.

Be willing and able to follow my corporate standards, and utilize standard components that are readily available in the USA.

Understand my needs to reduce my spare parts inventory [and] simplify maintenance training requirements by following standards, while reducing lead time so I can improve my speed-to-market initiatives.

Talk to the people that will be operating the machines and get their input as to what functions and adjustments they need to run quality production at top speed.

Keep it simple for the end-user. With a little help on the front end, jillion dollar service calls could be kept to a minimum.

When designing machinery, keep inmind future maintenance (rebuild and replacement parts) and preventive maintenance.

Be knowledgeable about my equipment before you say yes and know coming in that we are tied to the hip until all protocols are complete and proven.

Ability to upgrade, update and maintain electronics is critical. Too often drives and controls are going obsolete within a year or two.

Allow customer input in design phase of each packaging machine, including materials of construction, safety and automation controls brand, and programming of machine.

Be flexible enough to inexpensively expand or change our equipment to future needs.

Be prepared to have specifications and fabrications ready for review.

Be prepared to live in our plant until the validations are completed.

Be willing to work with the customer on whatever control system they want you to use and don’t nickel and dime them with extras over your standard package. Give them a single number for the custom system and leave it at that.

Continue to deliver automation, but make it usable and functional for the operators.

Continue to drive standardization toward system interchangeability.

Design a system that is complete and runs at their facility prior to installation on site.

Educate me and my staff on our level, not as if we are in the industry already. Use terms that are understandable to those who are not in the industry full time.

Energy conservation and sustainability of equipment are important to meet changing environmental legislation.

Full design and integration. Can suggest ways to "lean" the operation instead of just automating what we have.

Have clear understanding of regulatory requirements for the industry you are providing the service for in order to ensure you can cover their full needs.

Have more replacement parts and have them readily available. Nothing kills us more than a machine that is down waiting for a part that needs to be ordered.

Improve automation ability and create better documentation and automation system "how it works" manuals.

Improve documentation, deliver drawings and bill of material for the specific machine— not for a generic type that lets you guess what components and software modules are actually used.

Integrate what should be integrated and design what needs to be designed. Don't try to design one of a kind. [Use] components that can be purchased off the shelf (e.g., robots or motion components).

[Provide] integration, integration, integration—with current old equipment.

Do a better job in properly sizing their robotic vacuum handling systems. Too many of them are totally inadequate for handling heavy corrugated packages.

Don't make things so complicated. Make the operation flow as easily as possible

Keep costs as competitive as possible to prevent companies going overseas.

Know your product! Also, be able to provide useful engineering information in order to integrate your equipment into a system.

Listen to the customer, as he should know his process better than you. But don't agree to do an automation job that you feel will not provide what the customer needs, even if the customer demands it.

Listen to what I need and then ask questions to clarify; don't either offer what you say will work but doesn't, or build what you think I want without being 110% sure.

Look at the customers and markets we serve and who we compete against. We need to be as good if not better than what is out there today.

Look at the expandability, ease of set-up and the amount of training you offer with purchase.

Machines should have a lot of diagnostics built into the control system to make problem solving easier/quicker.

Maintain effective customer communication in the proposal, order, installation and start-up phases.

Maintain quality of equipment and people.

Maintainability of equipment (i.e., readily sourced spare parts, access for service, no proprietary PLC or software) [is important.]

Make an effort to understand your customer’s operation and decide what you can do to help. Don’t try to make his operation fit your equipment.

Make it easy for our internal generalists to maintain the machines and systems.

Make it operator friendly...good help is hard to keep and trying to keep employees trained with controls they do not understand is difficult.

Make sure to listen to the customers needs and be willing to incorporate changes into the machine design to accommodate them.

Meeting my timeline for installation is key. Plant downtime is limited.

Most of the machines we purchase are part of an integrated line which is provided by a single vendor (the individual machines are part of a larger solution and they are subcontractors to the prime vendor). Would like to see more integrated training solutions to bring my folks up to speed on the entire line and how everything works together.

Place more emphasis and resources on training and training materials for customer operational & maintenance personnel. We have fantastic machines, but will probably not buy another due to a lack of customer-driven and customer-friendly support.

Production is important so the job must be done on time. Test runs with documented results that match the proposal submitted immediately after job completion.

Provide clear technical manuals with drawings to help mill service people diagnose problems and easily purchase replacement parts. If possible, use standard P&T items to help reduce spare parts inventory.

Really get to know my business and the objectives of our project. Don't provide solutions that don't fit the company.

Reduce cost by using "standard building block approach" to design with few proprietary parts.

Service and support after the installation are more important than price up front.

Some of our equipment comes from Germany so it would be better to have more of the description in English, not German.

Talk to the people that actually specify the material used on the machine for good integration.

The ability to add additional or peripheral equipment to [machines] and the "hand-shaking" between these is critical.

They need to better understand a production environment. They tend to always present the "pie in the sky" approach, because their data is based on a lab environment. Their scenarios do not include an operator at 2am.

Think Lean Manufacturing. Do not build monuments. Flexible right-sized machines that are easy to work yet have mistake-proofing devices in them are easy to maintain.

Upgrade or special function add on capability and willingness to integrate internally designed options are extremely important to us.

Technical customer service and support are a never-ending job. Don't sell me something I don't need.

Be honest in telling customers if you can build a machine that will meet [our] needs and expectations. We have been told on more than one occasion that a machine can be built to do what needs to be done, only to find out once the machine is in place that the machine is not capable at all.

ONLINE extra
Other articles in Packaging Automation Benchmark Study, Part 2

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Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

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