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The $100,000 question

How would you spend $100ꯠ in your plant? We asked that question in a survey and received a diverse range of responses.

In an Internet survey conducted in May 2003, posed the question: “How would you spend $100ꯠ at your plant?” And to those who answered, our apology. Much as we’d like to reward all of you, this was only a theoretical prize.

The question garnered a spectrum of responses that fell among three broad categories: people or staff, equipment, and the general wish to “automate.” Or as one purchasing manager emphasized, “Automate automate automate!”

Many respondents sought specific equipment, such as “NIR inspection equipment,” while others identified the desired equipment by vendor name.

As you’d imagine, everyone had his or her own preferences for equipment they’d like to add or replace. In total, the “wish list” machinery would form an entirely new packaging line: bagger, filler, case packer, overwrapper, date coder, digital printer, carton erector, machine vision system, shrink wrapper, labelers, level inspector, accumulation equipment, packer, slipsheet inserter, and gluer. One respondent wasn’t particular, but was willing to purchase either better labelers, checkweighers, or x-ray detectors.

It’s all about people

One of the major responses related to adding staff or training existing staff.

“Hire another packaging engineer,” noted one engineer. “Hire a packaging development specialist” said another.

“Educate [us] to buy and implement RFID [radio frequency identification] equipment.”—packaging manager.

“Modifications to the used packaging equipment and training for operators.”—maintenance manager.

“Develop a training program for my people.”—plant manager.

“Hire more people with more relevant experience.”—packaging manager.

“Add another packaging engineer to work on projects,” replied one. “Because of staff reductions, we are finding it hard to be proactive on anything.”

Some dreamed of a combination package, so to speak, of people and equipment. One wanted to “invest in skilled employees and update equipment.” One engineering manager, weighing both options, replied: “The people I have are great, but my equipment is older.”

Since you ask...

Some had plans so specific that they must already be giving this serious thought.

“Buy vision systems for closure application/fill-level inspection.”—manager at a foods company.

“Redesign the system that [would] be able to pick up nested pallets, make the weighing system more accessible, and the programming easier to troubleshoot.”—engineering manager.

“Improve quality control and build a packaging laboratory.”—R&D manager.

“Expand corporate engineering to standardize and achieve economies-of-scale.”—manager.

“Use the money to bring more filling processes in-house.”—packaging manager.

Very few mentioned materials, the following being the rare exception: “Look for better materials,” replied a purchasing manager.

Automation was a popular answer in general, for robots in particular. “Increase the level/number of robotic case erecting/sealing equipment in production,” wrote one engineer.

Some were quite realistic. Rather than asking for robots, one production manager desired “research and development for utilization of robots to reduce labor costs.”

Final thoughts

Others were stumped. For one participant, everything was perfect: “Our operation runs pretty smoothly,” thus passing on the $100ꯠ.

Another lamented that he would need more than $100ꯠ, so it seems that $100ꯠ isn’t what it used to be. One wanted to use it to “go to Las Vegas,” presumably to attend this month’s Pack Expo Las Vegas tradeshow.

Our favorite answer was the following—all in caps so you knew he meant it: “MAN, THAT COULD BUY A LOT OF BEER!” Good luck getting that by the purchasing manager.

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