3 Ways You Can Break Free of 80’s Era Automation Sales



3 Ways You Can Break Free of 80's Era Automation Sales


Still selling automation solutions into the manufacturing and packaging sector using paper? Maybe a spreadsheet is your preference, or a long form proposal in response to an RFQ. You could send a customer a couple of relevant use cases, and refer them to a testimonial on your website. Maybe a video of your solution working perfectly will seal the deal. Or, you could cold call them until they pick up the phone.

Observing the rub here?

You’re a solution seller, with an advanced system to automate an operation, and the best you can provide to prove the value of the product is your word, marketing materials, an old use case, and a spreadsheet.

Your word matters. Absolutely.

Especially in the packaging sector, where deep, long-term relationships between automation suppliers, manufacturing, and packaging operations exist, but there are global forces that make this a much more difficult world to sell solutions into. You’ve likely experienced them. Mergers and acquisitions, changing that friendly face you used to deal with. Cost pressures, driving requirements for deep cuts and competitive bidding processes. And, investments in new technology that identify whether or not the solutions you’ve sold in the past really do provide their promised value.

Then there are the new Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), driving operations to reorganize processes, effectively creating a whole new heartbeat for their manufacturing operation that they can measure, potentially without you.

This isn’t all bad news, provided you’re retooling your automation focused organization to identify and implement performance improvement solutions and value for your customers, over your goals to sell equipment, consumables, and services.

Those trusted solution sellers who are doing so, viewed by customers as partners, have accepted these global forces by embracing new, distinct opportunities to identify problems that couldn’t be identified years ago.

Here are a few opportunities we’ve observed to provide additional value that you might be missing. Ultimately, these will set you on a path to breaking free of 80’s era automation sales tactics so that both you, and your valued customer can win as collaborative, trusted partners:

1. Help Monitor a New Line or Technology Installation: Getting a new line or any new asset to perform optimally is tremendously difficult, and to ramp up to promised value, substantive monitoring is required. Start thinking about how you can deploy monitoring resources to help with the ramp up. Right now, you’re probably not helping as much as you should be, and you’re viewing this monitoring function as a cost post-sale. Don’t, and invest in monitoring technologies.

CONSIDER DOING THIS: Bundle monitoring technology with the sale of your product. You’ll have a competitive advantage over the other guy, and you and your customer can get real-time intelligence on the ramp up, as well as the issues observed. Either your own sales partners, employees, or factory employees can be trained to help with monitoring, provided you invest in easy to use monitoring technology.

2. Offer to Challenge OEE Measurements and MES Systems: You’ve likely heard of Overall Equipment Effectiveness, or OEE, and manufacturing execution software (MES). OEE is a measurement of availability, performance, quality, and overall utilization. You’ve also likely experienced some visualization of OEE on a dashboard, likely mounted to the wall of a manufacturing operation, possibly fed by some sort of software or other factory system. Trust us when we tell you that their are factors that an existing manufacturing execution software or other system are missing, often to the tune of millions of dollars. All it takes it keen observation and the investment of a few hours of your time, and you’ll be able to spot deficiencies that correlate with dollar signs.

CONSIDER DOING THIS: Propose a “challenge” project to a customer, where you’ll provide a free line audit for a day with monitoring technology, configured to suit the operation (we call them single-shift improvement projects). Select a core issue to track performance against, like downtime. Through observation and shared intelligence, prove what’s missing when they view their existing metrics. Provide a report that makes solutions to their problems a no brainer, and you both win.

3. Do Time Bound, Real-Time Intelligence Sharing on a Problem: If you trust in your solutions, and your ability to observe, this is a great way to prove out value, and show returns even in the pre-sale phase. Select an area of the line and either evaluate the specific performance of an asset that is core to primary or secondary packaging functions, for example, or, just look upstream and downstream of this core asset and observe root causes relative to metrics that matter. If you give access to your results in real-time, you can show a customer insight that they’ve never had before with respect to technician activity, and overall utilization of factory assets.

CONSIDER DOING THIS: This is a bit different than challenging an existing system. It’s really an ask to monitor performance, potentially of an asset you helped install. You’ll want to create an opportunity to observe a variety of factors, so that you can report on your observations. The observations can be shared to start a conversation about performance improvement.

Automation supply into the manufacturing and packaging sector is still all about trust.

That, and proof of value, in real-time.

How to Identify $2.5M+ in Unknown Waste in 1 Day

How to Identify $2.5M+ in Unknown Waste in 1 Day

A couple of weeks ago, our COO, Joel Vautour, a software aficionado and not a packaging expert, spent 16 hours in a factory with one of our partners. Any chance we get to do this, we take it.

His goal was to help their team collect data using SITEFLO, and to learn more about how the partner intended to use the system to prove out the value of the solution they were selling. Truthfully, we weren’t quite sure how this motley crew was going to make out.
Here’s the email I sent to them when they were done (a slight edit to keep things confidential).* * * * *

Subject: Trial

From: Brent MacDonald <brent.macdonald@xiplinx.com>
Date: May X, 2015
To: Partners

Cc: Joel Vautour <joel.vautour@xiplinx.com>, David McNally <david.mcnally@xiplinx.com>

Guys – what a huge lift within two days to get this out. Pretty amazing that you went from stepping into the plant today to this level of analysis the next night.

I don’t know what’s crazier. That you pulled all of this off within two days, or that you sent 5 guys into the plant for 16 hours each.

Will leave the finer details on the report to you, but, it’s all pretty awesome.

Brent MacDonald

@macdonald_brent / @siteflo

* * * * *

The plant they were walking into had advanced software to track OEE, and they were working with a really progressive, technical executive who I has assumed had solved most of his problems (in case you’re not aware, OEE is Overall Equipment Effectiveness, and a measure of how well a manufacturing operation is utilized).

The goal? Collect enough data over the course of a shift that they could prove that their solution reduced downtime and rework dramatically. They also hoped to observe the operation, by tracking downtime, rework, and other waste occurrences not currently factored into their existing OEE calculations.

The result? Over $2.5M+ in unknown waste, largely attributed to rework and downtime issues, and having the wrong end-of-line packaging solution installed. They made a clear case for the solution they were selling, and even better, it was evident that they weren’t just equipment sellers. They were partners in the truest sense of the word, identifying problems that this factory didn’t know they had.

Here’s how this crew did it, step by step:

1. Got In:  Convinced the executive to let them on site for a day at no cost, and to collect head-to-head trial data using SITEFLO. Free line audits are a common way to do this, but, rather than pitch a line audit, this team pitched the executive on a Single-Shift-Continuous-Improvement project. Kind of like telling somebody you’ll blow their mind with your reporting and analysis, but all you need is a day.

2. Rolled with the Punches: When unexpected downtime hit, they weathered the storm, and stayed an extra shift. Sounds like the latter half of the trial was boring. Their solution performed so well when compared to the existing solution, that they had no downtime and rework issues to track at the end of the line.

3. Shared Trial Data in Real-Time: Team members back home, and executives could monitor the head-to-head trials on a live dashboard. Even in cases where plant wi-fi wasn’t optimal, queuing and syncing features got data back in near real-time. You could watch this trial like it was a sporting event.

4. Stood There. Stood There Some More: Honestly, there was a bit of standing around, and collecting data with a discrete, semi-automated solution, but keep reading. It was worth it.

5. Ran a Report on the Results: While they were in the plant that night, they ran a report right away and completed their analysis. The case to buy their product over the competing product was overwhelming. If this was a sporting event, a few people just won. Their existing solution provider? They lost. Big time.

6. Delivered the Report: The next day, they delivered two reports to the executive.

A) One illustrated the performance of a full production line when their solution was installed, and when the existing solution was installed. It was exceptionally detailed, but required very little time to produce.

B) The other report, called a Single-Shift-Continuous-Improvement report identified three other opportunities for continuous improvement based on their observations as experts. Value added for the executive, but, opportunities he hadn’t yet considered.

This wasn’t rocket science. It required team commitment, and extremely compelling, trustworthy data (not handwritten notes, nor excel spreadsheets).

It was as though the team had a crystal ball on site, but they didn’t. They were a second set of eyes, in a traditionally chaotic environment, where root causes to problems are rarely evident.

Expect nothing less from your automation suppliers. The great ones do it this way.

Proving Head-to-Head Equipment Trial ROI’s to Procurement

Proving Head-to-Head Equipment Trial ROI's to Procurement


Automation suppliers in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) sector have to run head-to-head trials everyday to prove the value of their solution over an existing or competing installation.
It’s challenging stuff, and even though the organizations we partner with almost always perform better than the other guys, they’ve historically had trouble proving out their value proposition to procurement teams.

Just last week, one of our SITEFLO customers was in a factory before bidding on an RFQ. They delivered a pleasant surprise to their prospective customer, after identifying the potential for $2.5M+ in performance improvement projects, all of which reduced downtime and rework. Their insight will affect OEE and will reduce waste significantly, as well as contribute to overall lean manufacturing objectives.

Even better, buying their equipment and consumables has a clear, measurable impact on the performance of the factory overall. A clear case can be made to procurement teams because this automation supplier can quantify that impact.

To learn more about how SITEFLO customers are getting 90% more intelligence from their head to head trials and quantifying the ROI, take a quick look at the 20 second video below.

Jellybeans and the Measure Phase of DMAIC

Jellybeans and the Measure Phase of DMAIC

Below, you’ll find a transcript of our Q & A with Matt Hansen, founder at www.statstuff.com. If you’re into lean, six-sigma, continuous improvement, or jellybeans, Matt’s website is a completely free resource, and has a bunch of free training and materials. We caught up with him last week and here’s what Matt had to say about the “irony of the measure phase of the DMAIC cycle”, and why prizes for jellybean counting competitions might help.

Before you start reading, consider one of Matt’s key questions, as you consider how you measure operations and projects.

If I had a huge jar of jellybeans, and you had to guess how many red ones were in the jar, would you measure them precisely? Or, would you take a sample? Is your answer different if your reward for the right guess is a T-shirt? What if the reward is $1,000,000? How might you want to measure now?

Brent: We’re interviewing Matt today because we really wanted to talk to him about an active post he put up on Linkedin in a Continuous Improvement and Lean and Six-Sigma group we both belong to. Essentially, Matt put a post up about the measure phase of the DMAIC cycle, but it was an active discussion and a really relevant topic for us here at SITEFLO. Welcome Matt.

Matt: Thanks for having me Brent.

Brent: Can you give me some perspective on DMAIC for the unitiaited when it comes to lean and six-sigma, and what it means?

Matt: Sure. DMAIC is 5 different phases in a process. It starts off with the define phase, which is when we try to understand a problem that we’re trying to solve. And then we move to measure phase, which is when we try to gather reliable information around the problem we’re trying to solve. After that we move to the analyze phase, which is when we’re trying to apply statistical tools and analyses to see the root cause based on the analysis of the data we gathered on the measure phase. Once we understand the root cause, we can try to figure out how we might fix it, which is when we move to the improve phase to figure out what things we can do and implement to fix the root causes. After implementation, we move on to the control phase, because we don’t want the original problem to rear its ugly head again. So, we put certain controls in place, and those controls are around solutions to prevent that problem from happening again, so we can sustain solutions. I describe the DMAIC flow as a scientific method that’s adapted to business, and It’s common sense, but it has a methodical flow.

Brent: In the Linkedin group there was a lot of discussion about tactics, and what can happen when you get to the measurement phase of the DMAIC cycle. Can you talk a bit about what tactics people employ to get good measurements?

Matt: The tactics you might use really vary from organization to organization. So, it might vary from using existing systems that they have embedded within the organization, or they might try to create new methods to collect data if they don’t have an existing system to collect information, they might have to create a manual method. And then they have to devise some way of how they’re going to gather that information. Often, we see a lot of people walking around with clipboards, or maybe with a laptop, just observing what’s going on through the process and documenting critical points that we think we want to track. We gather that compiled information to work through and analyze the data. So, it really varies. The ideal method is when we have a system in place that’s already been proven and tested, where you have reliable information at critical points within the process. Like, if you have time stamps, or other kinds of things that factor in the movement and flow of products or activities. It’s not always easy, because sometimes the problem you’re trying to fix doesn’t have a measurement, so you have to create those measurements. That’s when it gets really challenging. And when we work through those challenges and we get the data, just having the data isn’t enough. My experience has been that you have to trust your data, so you might have to employ some additional effort to make sure this is data you can trust that comes from a trusted source. You need to know who recorded the data, or the time they recorded it. When you’re dealing with multiple shifts across different days, you may have people who recorded their data only within one shift because that’s what most convenient. But, that may not be representative of the entire process. So, you have to take a lot of these factors into consideration. You really have to move on to the measurement system analysis, or MSA, where you test for the accuracy, reliability, and reproducibility of your data. By working through several tests as part of that MSA proces, you can walk away from the measure phase knowing whether or not you can trust the data. And then you move onto the analysis phase. If I can’t trust the data? What’s the point?

Brent: That really gets at the heart of some of the stuff we run into everyday, which has to do with trying to validate whether or not the data that people have is trustworthy at all. It’s really tough to get at that. With modern technology, there are so many ways that we can collect better data, I think there are a lot of solutions out there for people to really nail that measure phase.

So Matt, why do organizations typcally fall short on the measure phase of this cycle in the first place?

Matt: Well, this is really relevant to the question that even prompted that discussion on Linkedin. It’s easy to blame it on impatience or laziness, but I think it’s more than that because I don’t think anyone would do that intentionally if they understood the risks that they’re taking. What it comes down to is an assumption that people are making about risks, and if they really understood the assumptions that they were making and the benefits of the process they’re working through, they wouldn’t fail at the measure phase in the first place. The way I described it in the Linkedin group was about the irony of the measure phase, and people who work through it quickly. So, they look for quick ways to get the data, with the intention of getting to a fast solution that they can implement. What I find is, as they complete the define and measure phase, they get to analyze and realize they don’t have the right data, and then they find themselves having to go back to the measure phase. And again, I think it goes back to the assumptions they’re making. Take my jellybean example. Imagine you had a huge jar of jellybeans in front of you, and you had to guess how many red jellybeans there were in the jar. Well, there are two approaches you can take. One, you can pour out all the jellybeans, separate them into colours, and count them one by one. It will take a lot of time, but you’ll be very accurate in your approach. The second method is if you wanted to scoop out a sample, and extrapolate and estimate to figure out how many red ones you may have in the entire jar. Both approaches are valid, and that second example is faster, but it’s not as accurate. We use the second method a lot in statistics, so we don’t have to sample an entire population. The problem becomes when you’re trying to understand the risks and the benefits. If the prize is a T-shirt after you count the jellybeans? Well, no big deal. You don’t want to spend a lot of time on it. But, what if the prize was $1,000,000? Well, nobody want to guess anymore and we want to be really precise about those measurements. I’m going to count it because I need to be accurate. If we really understood the risks of bad data as we move through the DMAIC flow, we would understand that it’s worth getting data that you trust so you can move on. It gives us confidence that we’re getting to the right solution after all.

Brent: Before we leave, I wanted you to tell people a little bit about Statstuff. Can you tell people a bit about what you’re doing, and why they might want to visit the site?

Matt: Sure. So, I boast it as the only free online source for the complete training content for lean six-sigma. If you go to any other training source, at your local college or online, people end up hundreds if not thousands of dollars to go through their training. They usually dedicate several days and weeks to go through the entire training, but everything I’ve got on Statstuff is the same kind of content they can get from any other training organization. Anyone can access the content for free. A lot of the videos are free and public, and some require registration, but, it’s still all free. I’m doing this because this is a lot of math and common sense information, and I learned and benefited from a lot of other sources. I just don’t feel right about holding this back from people so I just offer it, and allow people to use the information. Statstuff, from what I understand, has one of the largest compilations of comparisons between other training organizations. It’s really hard to compare costs, time investments, and quality between training organizations. I offer a list so you can compare their pricing, requirements for certification, and all of those wonderful things you want to know about.

Brent: There you have it. Completely free resource. Generally, we don’t do a whole lot of advertorial stuff but this is entirely free and it’s been helpful to us. Hope it’s helpful for some of our readers.