Here are six stumbling blocks to watch out for:
1. Unrealistic expectations on both sides. Sometimes project engineers at CPG companies set an unrealistically high threshold level of performance, either to help justify the project internally, or to pad the number under the assumption that the machinery builder will fall “short” but will still meet the actually desired speed. The machinery builder may feel pressure to commit to a performance requirement while suspecting, or even knowing, it’s an unreasonable goal. First, the contract will be awarded, and second, once the project starts, it’s too expensive for the CPG customer to back out. The games we play! Both sides are now set up for failure and disappointment. Better to have a frank discussion over the real performance requirements and align expectations before the project starts.
2. Poor vendor/application fit. Most machinery building companies are founded or run by engineers, and most engineers have never met a problem they didn’t think they could solve. When it comes to f/f/s machinery, most machine builders have built up an expertise in certain types of applications. Machine builders that stretch too far by taking an application that’s too far from their core competency, or that are simply overloaded, may end up disappointing their CPG customer.
3. Poor or incomplete project scope. Finding out halfway through a bagging machinery project that the machine needs to make a gusseted stand-up pouch, or that a reclosable zipper or fitment needs to be applied, is a sign that insufficient thought was put into the requirements up front. This leads to delay, increased costs, and disappointment.
4. Not adjusting the schedule for changes. Changes do happen, but projects get into hot water when the CPG company expects machinery vendors to accommodate changes without impacting the delivery schedule. Machinery builders, eager to please, often do a poor job of policing these requests. The manager of an eight-week machinery project that’s already slipping into nine weeks may use a change request to internally “justify” that delay. (“We’re going to be a week late anyway, so sure, we’ll take on that request.”) In reality, such a change may turn it into a 12-week project, much to everyone’s surprise and dismay.
5. Insufficient expertise among buying team members. The cross-functional buying team is a common approach to selecting packaging equipment. Certain members of that team may have a strong, but not necessarily informed, opinion about which machine to buy. For example, while someone from a nontechnical field such as finance or marketing may be able to provide a different perspective to the team, they may not have the technical expertise to know if a particular machine or supplier can deliver a solid solution beyond a sales pitch. To make the best team buying decision, it may be worthwhile to invest in consensus training. The result: Individual members may not agree all the time, but the group will operate more efficiently as a unit, versus being held hostage by individual members who lack the proper expertise to make a sole decision.
6. Missed launch windows due to different interpretations of lead time. It’s not unusual for the customer and the machinery builder to make completely different assumptions about what “lead time” really means. If a machine builder is quoting a 20-week lead time for a new machine, it may define lead time as the time from when the order is placed to when that machine is ready for a Factory Acceptance Test (FAT). That could turn into trouble if the customer’s expectation is that “lead time” extends to when the machine is up and running on the plant floor. Not accounted for is the FAT itself, subsequent training, potential further modifications, shipping, installation, and start-up. To avoid scheduling problems, make sure everyone agrees on a common definition of lead time.
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