- June 25, 2013, Mark Miller
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With every call a technical consultant receives regarding a technical inquiry, comes another call asking what the price of equipment is. Whether it is a slot die, backing roll, or fluid delivery system, vendor selection can seem like a daunting task. With years of experience helping focus projects on the right equipment for a given product scope, I have come up with the 3P measurement approach to vendor selection-
1. Process. The level of process knowledge the vendor has should set you at ease. A vendor should be able to understand the science behind your process and couple that with “in the field” application experience in order to properly specify and design equipment. There is a spectrum of this experience, with the optimum being a vendor who has engineers on staff that worked in your industry.
2. Precision. Manufacturing capability to meet the tolerances that are required for the product is a basic need. Most vendors can supply the precision required, but it is always a good checking question to see if this is a differentiator.
3. Performance. Even with the process knowledge and precision manufacturing capability, a vendor ultimately needs to help you produce a fluid coated product that performs to your customer specification. The engagement of the vendor in understanding your process, product, and performance criteria is important to equipment success.
To use the 3P approach as the protocol for vendor selection, a series of questions should be asked to understand the vendor’s level of expertise in each functional area. With this method you can find out if the equipment you are purchasing is the right fit for the product scope and technology advantage you are working to achieve. The questions I would ask when considering the breadth and depth of a vendor’s knowledge include-
• How many people on staff have intimate and extensive knowledge of the processes that the equipment is being designed for? Too many times, the people designing the equipment have never used the equipment in the field and don’t understand why an adjustment is difficult in the field. It is a good sign if a design engineer can explain why a feature helps functionality.
• Do the design engineers get into the field to learn, and are the service people asked for insight in the design process? In many organizations silos are formed around functional areas – designers stay at their desks and service technicians stay in the field. This leads to little or no cross-functional development to constantly improve the equipment being supplied to the industry.
• Is there a research and development budget for testing theories of design? To stay on the cutting edge of equipment design, R&D dollars should be spent to develop new designs, new techniques, and new collaborations. Understanding of theoretical simulation tools and testing back to empirical evidence is critical to constant improvement. Innovative companies are usually deep into the process knowledge necessary to lead the industry.
So, what is the price of a slot die? Prices can be readily obtained from vendors in the industry, but understanding whether the equipment will truly match the need takes a deeper discussion. Buying equipment for a converting process is not a trivial matter. Invest in questioning the vendor before investing in the product. The 3P approach to vendor selection has guided many of these discussions in the past and can help lead you down the path of a successful purchase for your converting application.
If you are interested in discussing this concept further, contact Mark D. Miller, Founder and CEO of Coating Tech Service, LLC (www.coatingtechservce.com) at firstname.lastname@example.org or (612) 605-6019.