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Integrators: Do you know what your clients want?

Article-Integrators: Do you know what your clients want?

VanDorenSeveral packagers who included advice to integrators in their responses to the Packaging in Automation survey ( seemed to doubt that the integrators they'd worked with had adequately understood their needs. Some of those anonymous packagers suggested that integrators “start to understand our needs and be prepared to understand our standards,” “listen to what we want,” and “really get to know my business and the objectives of our project.”

Others thought integrators need to better understand a production environment. “They want to present the 'pie in the sky' approach, because their data is based on a lab environment. Their scenarios do not include an operator at 2 a.m.,” was one comment.

To be fair, it should be noted that many accomplished packaging integrators are well aware of the client's needs and the value of ongoing communications. Laurens Van Pagee, director of branch operations at JMP Eng. the 2009 Packaging Integrator of the Year, cites “Establish a communication plan” among his top 10 tips for successful integration projects.

Sometimes, the lack of understanding that plagues an integration project stems from the client's own uncertainty about what he wants. “Define your project” is also one of Van Pagee's top 10 tips. “Clear definition of all aspects of the project will ensure its success. Make sure you define your ROI, business impact, target dates and technical specifications.”

What do packagers want out of automation systems? Or what do they want out of the products that comprise those systems? In our Packaging in Automation survey, Packaging Digest and Control Engineering readers gave us their five most important attributes of an automation project. (Note the following percentages indicate the relative frequency of each answer among the multiple answers provided by respondents.)

Reliability—70 percent

Quality/durability—62 percent

Price—60 percent

Easy to use, install and maintain—56 percent

Price-to-performance—51 percent

So, are integrators aware that this is what their clients want? For the most part, yes. When asked the same question, integrators gave four of the same five answers, though with considerably less of a consensus:

Reliability—55 percent

Price-to-performance value—45 percent

Quality/durability—39 percent

Easy to use, install and maintain—31 percent

Compatibility with existing systems—27 percent

Not surpringly, only 18 percent of the integrators cited price as a most-important product attribute. After all, integrators tend to downplay the price issue generally. To them, quality is what counts. See “Qualifications should come first,” in Control Engineering's June 2009 issue.


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