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Packaging integrators make the grade

VanDorenThe last 10 installments of this column have reviewed the results of the Packaging in Automation survey, conducted jointly by Packaging Digest and Control Engineering magazines (see www.packagingdigest.com/automationresearch). The last two columns in this year-long series will address what could be the study's most significant finding—how well integrators do their jobs.


The 644 packagers who responded to the survey were asked to rate their integrators' performance overall and in specific areas. A whopping 90 percent said that in general, system integrators do meet their needs. An equally impressive 80 percent reported they were somewhat likely (52 percent) or extremely likely (28 percent) to continue working with the integrators they've worked with before.

So what exactly do the integrators do to deserve such high marks? Between half and three quarters of the survey respondents said they were satisfied with system integrators in each of the 11 areas they were asked about (multiple responses were allowed; see chart on this page).

There's not much else that a packager could want from a system integrator. Understanding a client's automation needs and being able to satisfy them with well-implemented, well-supported technical solutions are the very reasons for automation system integrators in any industry. A successful system integrator must be able to select the best hardware and software for the purpose: Products that are commercially available, compatible with a client's existing automation systems and production equipment and capable of meeting the client's automation objectives.

Savvy system integrators understand what their clients say they want to accomplish and understand what their clients actually need. That means not only clarifying the objectives of the automation projects the clients themselves develop but identifying potentially profitable projects they didn't think of. Sometimes, that means talking the client out of a project that may not generate an adequate return on investment. Some integrators claim they can automate any task, given enough time and funding, but system integrators who are truly looking out for their clients' best interests will turn down a project that would be more trouble than it's worth. Sometimes the best solution to a packaging operation is a pair of human hands, and an experienced packaging integrator should be able to determine if that's the case.

Understands automation needs 75 percent
Able to implement recommendations 75 percent
Quality of technical support 74 percent
Has offerings comparable with existing systems 72 percent
Can collaborate in system design 72 percent
Types of automation options available 69 percent
Availability of system integration services 69 percent
Familiarity with various vendors 67 percent
Training/education support 66 percent
Identification of opportunities 62 percent
Uses consultative sales techniques 54 percent

 

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