As a packaging OEM, you can help solve your end users’ problems by getting to know their challenges as a company rather than depending only on technology.
By Steve Mulder, packaging segment lead, Rockwell Automation
Packaging OEMs can be quick to adopt the latest smart machine technology to meet the needs of their customers. But the rush to implement technology as an overarching solution isn’t the answer.
Smart machines are not a one-size-fits-all solution that provide the same value to every user. End users have specific business challenges that require tailored solutions.
To fully understand a customer’s unique needs and propose the most cost-effective and efficient fix, OEMs must look at the broader picture and ask, what is the root of my customer’s problem?
Start with a conversation.
Simple is Better
I recently spoke with a specialized inspection OEM in the beverage industry that solved a long-standing issue by implementing a few simple sensors instead of a large-scale solution. This was possible because the OEM looked beyond their machine and its traditional scope.
After filling and capping, an inspection machine checks for fill level and proper cap placement. If there is any issue, the faulty bottle is kicked off the line. Employees on-site could detect an increase in the number of rejected bottles but were unable to identify which fill station or turret was causing the anomalies.
After a discussion with its customer, the OEM’s personnel realized that by adding sensors into the upstream equipment, their machine can leverage the inspection data already available to provide actionable intelligence to the on-site employees for addressing issues outside of the specific equipment they supplied.
By looking beyond their machine, the OEM could provide differentiated value by saving their customer significant time and money related to troubleshooting and maintaining upstream equipment.
In this case, the answer wasn’t installing a new smart packaging machine to do the job. It was fixable with a simpler solution that was identified because both parties understood the challenge first. Only then did they identify what technology best suited the company to meet that challenge.
Know Your Audience
It all starts with knowing what your customers are up against. End users today are primarily facing four main challenges:
- Workforce skills gap.
- Increasing competition.
- Changing risk patterns, including data safety and network security.
- Asset utilization and productivity.
For many packaging OEMs, this will mean looking outside of their traditional scope and beyond their own machines. OEMs that can do this will be of greater value to their end users, because they can supplement current solutions and provide new, smarter technologies when necessary.
For example, another OEM I work with wanted to become more differentiated in the marketplace and offer different services.
But they needed to justify the cost of machine performance services to their end users. Through conversations with one of their customers, the OEM discovered that the end user was facing challenges in maintaining and expanding their workforce.
With that in mind, the OEM designed a new offering around providing an inspection service that the end user didn’t have the resources for internally.
To show the service’s return on investment (ROI), the OEM measures the performance of the machine pre- and post-inspection. By monitoring this performance remotely, the OEM could put a real number behind the value of their service, and their customer had additional justification to continue and expand the service.
More Than Technology
As you step back and begin to understand your customer’s business, you’ll find that by starting with a conversation rather than relying solely on technology, you can better serve your customers.
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