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October 21, 2002
Equipment Purchases Demand Consideration,Review
Dedication to service and a willingness to meet capacity requirements areamong the things to look for when selecting an equipment supplier.
What are some of the common mistakes made inequipment purchases?
Wayne Lewis, owner, CapPlus Technologies: First,sometimes customers have difficulty choosing equipment to fulfill both immediateand future production requirements. Buying just enough capacity to fulfillimmediate needs is often costly and disappointing. Sometimes, this type ofpurchase is the result of the mistaken assumption that the maximum productionrating on the machine can be expected at all times. Rarely will the equipmentproduce at its capacity unless all parameters of the production run are perfect.Keep in mind that most pieces will run comfortably about 70 percent to 75percent of their rated maximum capacity. If you plan for that, you won't bedisappointed. In the long term, buying a machine rated at 25 percent to 50percent above what you anticipate can save thousands of dollars in futurereplacement equipment.
Second, remember that buying the least expensive equipmentusually gives what you purchase. These days, you can lease the equipment at veryaffordable monthly payments and build additional capacity so there are feweremployees involved in doing manual labor. Sometimes it is smarter, moreefficient and more cost effective to purchase additional machine capacity toreduce the amount of labor required to complete the process by hand. This willcost more up-front but save thousands in the long run, most often paying foritself within the first 12 months. This lets the employees do more constructivework in other production areas, also saving you time and money.
Dale Natoli, sales manager, Natoli Engineering: Lack ofproduct knowledge, without a doubt. Decisions are based too much on printedinformation, maybe from presentations, and not from real-life situations orreal-life evaluations. The lack of true knowledge of a particular product isprobably the biggest mistake.
I can say that communication is probably another big issue. Whenyou're dealing with the [nutraceutical] industry, you're dealing with severaldistinct departments: marketing, research & development, manufacturing,packaging, sales. Unfortunately, very few companies spend enough time tocommunicate or to stimulate communication within departments to allow thecompany to manufacture a product efficiently and effectively.
What are three primary issues to consider whenpurchasing equipment?
Lewis: First, the ability of the seller to support theequipment with both technical service and spare parts. Second, what is thelength of the warranty and what does it cover? Finally, unless you know andtrust the person [you're dealing with] or the equipment to be purchased, go seethe equipment running yourself and make sure it will do what you think it issupposed to do.
Natoli: Price, of course. Price then falls into thecategory of equipment efficiency. Also, consider the market you're trying toserve and the capabilities of the piece of equipment.
What questions should be asked before anequipment purchase?
Lewis: There are many important questions. What kind ofhistory does the equipment have? Will the equipment fit my specific needs? It'sa good idea to ask to speak with someone who is currently running the equipment.And if you're uncertain of the machine's capability to fit your needs, seewhether the seller will test your product on his equipment.
Natoli: Product information should be relayed to theequipment manufacturer simply because the equipment manufacturer deals with theindustry on a daily basis and troubleshoots constantly. They're working withdifferent products, sizes, environments and individuals. If a tabletmanufacturer is having a deficiency in manufacturing a product, about 95 percentof the time that information is not relayed to an equipment manufacturer. Sowhether you have a sticking problem--meaning the tablets stick to the tools--alamination issue with the tablet quality or a binding issue with tools in themachine, a lot of the time these issues are not brought up when makingpurchases, so a tablet manufacturer will continue to make the same mistake overand over again. Tablet manufacturers should take advantage of the resources thatare available and should relay any issues with a product to the equipmentmanufacturer so he can address them for the equipment purchase. For example, ifyou're trying to make a product and a researcher is having a problem, therecould be options available with this piece of equipment that could helpeliminate some of the problems you're having in your manufacturing. It's yourresponsibility to tell this to the equipment manufacturer so he can provideoptions or build a special piece of equipment to get you your equipment so youcan meet market demands. The key decision makers are the ones that really needto communicate to make the proper purchase.
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