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Packagers rate machinery attributes

When it comes to packaging equipment qualities we love, users agree that high reliability can be a machine's crowning glory. In larger consumer goods companies—those of more than $5 billion in annual sales—61 percent of users give high marks to a machine's reliability (uptime vs downtime). That's even higher in the smaller firms of less than $200 million in sales, with 68 percent giving reliability factors their vote. The second best machine attribute, getting 55 percent of the vote from the large companies, is high machine speed. Only 43 percent of the smaller companies, however, rated speed as being very important. These facts come from the "2006 Packaging Machinery Purchasing Process Survey" from the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (www.pmmi.org). The study was conducted and prepared by Philip G. Kuehl, Ph.D., senior staff consultant at Westat (www.westat.com).

When this same study was conducted two years ago, only two factors were deemed to be very important, or "Tier 1 level." Those were reliability and safety features. This study has eight attributes in Tier 1, the other six being safety features, machine flexibility and versatility, total cost of operation, innovative machine design, short changeover time and low purchase price. Most packagers were in close agreement, regardless of the size of their company, except when it comes to machine flexibility. On that one factor, the smaller companies gave versatility much more weight than the large companies, probably because they are more likely to have to accommodate shorter runs and frequent package changes.

Tier 2 attributes—meaning those that are ranked as somewhat important—include good ergonomics, small machine footprint, availability of machine diagnostics and short, quick delivery times.

As part of the study, packagers were also asked to rate 17 specific attributes of the machinery vendors. Number one on their list is the availability of problem-solving engineering expertise. Joining that attribute in Tier 1 is availability of spare parts (large companies didn't give that as high a ranking as did smaller companies), training and documentation, aftermarket sales support and overall reputation of the manufacturer. Tier 2 factors include knowledgable salespeople, installation capabilities, local access to suppliers, technical and engineering services and integration expertise. Of far less importance, ranking only as Tier 3, are plant-visit opportunities, financial size and resources of the manufacturer, customer references, knowledge of the customer's business, length of time in business, personal relationships between vendor and packager, U.S. or Canadian location and manufacturer's website. Regarding the Tier 2 attribute of integration expertise, the packagers said they prefer using packaging machinery manufacturers with full integration services, with independent integrators coming in second. The larger packagers use integration services more often than smaller companies.

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