How to Prove the Value of Automation

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.