How to Choose the Right Packaging Machine & Supplier in 7 Simple Steps

By Harpak-ULMA
Posted In : Automation, packaging automation, Packaging, Sustainability, legacy equipment

Choosing the right packaging equipment and supplier can make or break a project. There are so many different variables in your decision that choosing the ideal equipment and supportive packaging partner can be challenging. You not only need to think about your present needs, but future innovation to optimize your production.

Where to begin? In this article, we examine seven essential questions you must ask any prospective supplier when evaluating your options to ensure superior system performance that for your unique production needs and maximize your return on investment (ROI).

1. Is My Potential Packaging Machinery Supplier Qualified & Reputable?

There are dozens of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to choose from in the packaging space. Each one offers solutions that can package your products and provide high throughput to meet modern demand.

However, before committing to a long-term partnership, ask yourself:

“Do your prospective suppliers have a solid, installed base? Have them demonstrated the ability to consistently deliver successful results on your considered application or something similar? What does their after-sales support look like for you?

According to Gartner Research, 74% of customers expect more from brands — not just around product performance or durability, but in how brands treat their customers, employees and the environment. 81% of customers refuse to do business with or buy from a brand that they don’t trust.”

2. Has the Supplier Performed a Thorough Audit of My Line?

There are several different packaging methodologies, packaging platforms, and material options. It will always benefit you to discover whether or not your potential packaging machinery supplier can accommodate your current production process AND how they will scale it in the future.

If you’re developing a new product or overhauling your production line to meet modern demand, it is essential that you work with a team who can hit the ground running, offering you complete guidance, expertise, and understanding of your present and future needs without taking up time playing catch up and costing you more.

This streamlined partnership requires comprehensive communication between your operations, marketing, purchasing, engineering teams, and the prospective supplier. If they haven’t seen, or asked for, complete details of your facility and equipment, and drawn up complete plans on how their solutions fit your manufacturing floor, keep searching.

Your packaging machine partner must understand and address all limitations proactively at the earliest intervals so they can offer efficient, fully-developed equipment and service options.

3. Do They Understand My Specific Requirements?

Be as specific as possible when sharing your requirements so that suppliers can develop options for your project. Has your proposed packaging machinery supplier reviewed your Request for Quote (RFQ) with a fine-toothed comb, indicating clearly where they can meet your needs and where adjustments may need to be made? You are making a long-term investment of time, trust, and resources. Accuracy and completeness are imperative as the foundations of your new relationship.

With this information, the supplier will start to consider various options that will meet your requirements and make helpful suggestions on how to optimize your production line. Be sure they are asking essential questions from the onset, including:

  1. What is your run speed requirement? How many packages per minute? Do you expect the need for increased output in the future?
  2. What type of environment will the equipment operate within? (ex. refrigerated manufacturing, clean room, ambient space.)
  3. Define your package requirements – ex. MAP and if so, what is the required residual? Have you selected materials & material suppliers?
  4. Sanitation requirements? (ex. identify IP rating for wash-down, sloped panels, standoffs, 3A, UL, CSA, etc.)
  5. Do your products require specialty trays, films, inserts? Supply .DWG & .DXF, .STP, photos & samples if they already exist.
  6. Compare long-term operating cost vs. initial purchase price. Lower initial costs do not translate into lower Total Cost of Ownership. (TCO)
  7. What languages are required on the Human Machine Interface (HMIs)?
  8. Is your plant standardized on a controls/automation system?

4. Is the Equipment Robust Enough to Withstand Full Production?

Before acquiring a packaging machine, you should consider both its durability and longevity. Be sure your packaging machinery supplier provides you with an understanding of how the equipment is built and how it will operate under various conditions.

Advanced packaging equipment has several moving parts that operate independently or simultaneously at any given packaging interval. A robust design that will help minimize vibration – and the problematic and expensive downtime vibration can create from fatigue, stress fractures, bearing issues, and loose wiring – over time.

Additionally, you should always inquire about other essential equipment and manufacturer-related details, including:

  • Durability and operation under wash-down environments and the effects of rigorous cleaning
  • Historical spare parts costs from like-kind manufacturers and equipment to estimate annual parts expenditures
  • Past customer experiences concerning the applications and the supplier
  • Expected efficiencies when the line is running at full capacity

Ideal packaging supply partners will offer these details readily.

5. How Flexible and Versatile Is the Packaging Machinery?

Some production lines have dedicated equipment for each product SKU. Others include changeover for their equipment, accommodating various SKUs across production shifts in the same facility. Determine what your specific needs are for your unique production line and SKUs and ensure the prospective equipment matches and exceeds those needs.

Too often, producers invest in applications that lack the versatility to produce a broad range of SKUs on the same equipment. They lack the capabilities to change sizing, shape, or formatting (MAP, skin pack, vacuum) and so must submit to downtime – costing them up to an astonishing $26,000 per hour – or invest more time and resources trying to find and install separate packaging machinery to facilitate production.

Take the time upfront to determine whether the equipment manufacturer taken the time to design and develop methods to decrease the time needed to change over belts, films, trays, materials, infeeds, programming, buffers, etc. Simplicity of changeover will lead to higher uptime efficiency and shortened training time for operators. Optimized flexibility and versatility to allow new packaging format possibilities and new sources of revenue for your operations.

packaging machinery supplier

7. Is the Packaging Machinery Supplier a Good Candidate for a Long-Term Partnership?

An equipment purchase is much more than an exchange of money for goods. It is declaring a commitment to a long-term collaboration between two organizations.

Packaging and automation equipment can continue to produce for upwards of 20 years, so you should select a supplier who strives every day to help improve your bottom line.

In determining the right fit for a long and lucrative partnership, have a list of quintessential questions you can ask your potential supplier to make your decision clearer in shortest amount of time. These questions should include:

  • Does your selected vendor offer preventive maintenance plans?
  • Are you confident that they can get a service technician on site quickly if needed?
  • Can they help troubleshoot remotely?
  • Have they built training into the installation?
  • Can you get training periodically as your turnover rate may be relatively high?
  • Do they have an inventory of equipment should we need something quickly?
  • What is their on-time delivery percentage for spare parts?

 Packaging Machinery & Partnerships: A Unique Journey of Discovery

Choosing the right packaging machinery and supplier will always be unique to your operations. Your equipment, and the OEM that provides it, will always depend on specific factors such as your product, facilities, desired throughput rate, available resources, scalability demands, and more.

The key to a successful choice is to stay inquisitive at every turn to determine what packaging machinery supplier can provide the best fit for you. Their ability to address your questions, satisfy your concerns, and offer lasting value in every interaction will be the key to optimizing your systems and bringing your business to new heights of success.

Contact Harpak-ULMA Packaging today with your equipment, installation, and service inquires. Together, we’ll help you discover what the ideal packaging machinery partner looks like and provide unparalleled packaging solutions to exceed your expectations.

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