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.


Would You Accept A Performance Challenge if Proof of ROI Came in 1 Day?



Last week, one of our customers issued a challenge to the packaging sector.

“Let one of our automation specialists spend a day with you on the plant floor,” they proposed. “We will document your current state and compare it to to a potentially improved state during a single shift.”

Not a unique approach, but, interesting.

“4 hours your current way and 4 hours another way,” they suggested. “There is no cost to you.”

Anybody can accept the challenge. Anywhere. That’s different. And, so is the jurisdictional scale of their offer, and, the level of confidence they seem to have here.

Sure, accepting the challenge means they get to build a relationship with you through the process and if you need their solutions, they will sell them. They would admit that.

But, this still feels different.

“We will provide you with complete visibility throughout the shift by giving you access to our “real-time” dashboard.”

No smoke and mirrors, just real-time proof so that you can see what they’re doing while they’re on site.

Worst case scenario?

“At the end of the day, you will have powerful data to make an informed decision and improve your process.”

Single Shift Continuous Improvement (SSCI) they’re calling it. Just give them a shift, and they can make an impact.

This is really the approach of the performance specialist, who views improvements in factories differently than somebody in a sales role.

You know such specialists as agents, solution sellers, original equipment manufacturers, lean and six-sigma practitioners or your continuous improvement leader.

The standouts prioritize problem identification and value added solutions over product sales and implementation.

Then they deliver unparalleled insight regardless of your installed base of equipment, which is in many cases disconnected, with data collection, tracking, and software systems that don’t relate.

You know them because they care about downtime, OEE (overall equipment effectiveness), rework, and they’re continuous improvement aficionados.

Want to learn more to get familiar with the process before accepting their challenge? Here are the 6 steps you can take to engage your performance specialist.

Step 1: Site Needs Analysis

Invite the performance specialist into your environment to conduct a plant tour, for a comprehensive review of packaging and other operations. The great ones will work with you to share audit data, or identify process improvement areas using a survey. In partnership with the specialist, prioritize the opportunities for improvement collaboratively, and review your desired outcomes.

Step 2: Solutions Identification

Consider the value added solution proposed by the partner, and the impact it has on the most painful elements of your process or operation, and work with them them to either scope out a system or product demonstration, or, to move forward with a non-system or product related solution.

This is a key distinguishing factor. The specialist not simply focused on equipment, services, or consumables sales is concerned with value, and may suggest you proceed directly to a value added solution analysis.

Step 3: Trial / Demo / Testing

During the trial, demonstration, and testing phases, expect real-time data from your performance specialist on performance relative to your existing business processes or factory assets.

Mobile devices can to be configured so that it’s clear what information field based partners or on-site employees at a factory need to collected throughout the trial period.

It’s important to consider the variables that indicate that your product is performing, and to consider other factory variables that need to be tracked to show a correlation between your equipment or consumable and overall improvement.

Equally as important is ensuring that any personnel monitoring the trial from your organization has access to a real-time view of the trial on a dashboard.

During the trial, you should be receiving real-time diagnostics from the factory. This is possible when you deploy a discrete, mobile solution with your performance specialist.

Step 4: Value Added Solution Analysis

Other value added solutions based on the specialist analysis should be presented, over simply recommendations for asset, equipment, or consumables based solutions, and should be brought forward either before the trial or demo process, or following the trial based on the additional observations. Measurable benefits can and should be articulated.

There will inevitably be events that occur that affect the trial, such as unplanned downtime that may also factor into a value added solutions recommendation. The performance specialist can observe and record these events as well, and in some cases, when they occur downstream or upstream of a trial deployment, you can potentially link to an opportunity to address the problem.

Step 5: System Proposal

If the analysis supports the presentation of a solution to the performance improvement problems identified, expect a proposal clearly outlining measurable return on investment, and a fulfillment of your desired outcome defined in Step 1. Technical service capabilities should be evident in the proposal.

Step 6: Solution Implementation

Whether you’re proceeding with a non-system or product related solution, or a system and product integration based on the specialist recommendations, expect to receive reports on the ROI of your investment with some frequency, and an analysis of the overall benefit to your operation.

To take the Bluewater Automation and ShurSEAL challenge, click here 

To learn more about the tools they use to do it, click here

If you’re really intrigued:

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The Importance Of Small Wins & Continuous Improvement

 “If you just buy automation, you’re not really gaining competitive advantage. If you enhance the automation and understand how to manage it, that’s where you actually start to build some competitive advantage.”

– Andrew McFadyen, P. Eng, MBA

We were only supposed to chat for 5 minutes.

Instead, we kept him for 30 minutes and made him promise to talk to us again.

Andrew McFadyen is a lean practitioner with some serious street cred, and what we thought would be a technical conversation with a Sensei about lean when we hooked up with him, was instead a chat with somebody who “wants people down in the Gemba (work team) to have a voice.”

He’s a former VP Manufacturing Engineering at Canadian Autoparts Toyota Inc., former President and General Manager at Wexxar Packaging Inc., and now spends his time as an Executive Coach through Lean Sensei International, and as the President of Leansoft Consulting.

Andrew has a lot to say and it’s worth listening to.

Not the least of which was the quote at the beginning of this introduction. And he kept dropping bombs about myths we hold true when it comes to continuous improvement and automation throughout the conversation:

“Instead of trying to buy our way into productivity, we have to be smarter about it. It’s not about capital investment. That’s how we get into production economies, but we have to do more with it. And that’s going to involve well trained people, working together to drive out waste.”

The hits kept coming.

“The purest form of engagement is when the people who are doing the work are empowered and solve problems”.
If it’s not starting to become clear, just who is this podcast for?
  • Well, if you’re into lean, six-sigma, continuous improvement, or just generally interested in performance improvement as a manager or supervisor, this podcast is for you.
  • If you’re a supervisor struggling to become a facilitator instead, and believe that “people bring a brain to work and that we really need to tap into it”, this is also for you.
  • If you believe that management needs to shy away from “command and control and assigning work” and instead focus on “facilitating teamwork to make opportunities happen,” click the link below. Even if you don’t believe that, you should click it. Andrew’s pretty convincing.
  • If you’ve thought at all about downtime in factories and the fact that for “work teams to go for those small wins, we need to get more gritty data,” this one is for you.
  • Perhaps you’re more interested in “leader focused work” in factories, and how important is is for“front-line leaders to develop facilitation techniques.”
We’re just scratching the surface here.
Click the image below to stream the full podcast.

It’s about 30 minutes long, custom made to stream while you sort through reams of paper work at the end of the work day.


Top 3 Reasons Packaging Org’s Embrace SaaS Match the Reasons They Don’t


We know. You’re struggling to do simple things to improve your packaging operations performance.

So are most people like you.

Nobody blames you. Your days are hectic, and having to manage anything else on the factory floor is just another thing to worry about.

Plus, you’re right in the middle of another big project. A never ending stream of them really.

It’s not that you don’t want to improve, but it’s tough to figure out where to make small bets and build up a list of wins, beyond some complex capital budgeting process that will delay action for months (maybe years).

The struggle is real.

Luckily, discrete, SaaS (software as a service) based software is seriously eating the packaging sector in 2016.

What were once costly performance improvement projects, have become streamlined, focused, easy to manage efforts with on-demand intelligence.

The real question is, are you a buyer of these products? Or, are you finding every reason to object to the trend to buy SaaS products?

That’s what we want to share with you in today’s video:

This is actually true.

Most people would agree that a lot of new software and hardware based SaaS products can create value, (think internet of things and the industrial internet opportunities), but not everybody is buying them.

The reasons people are embracing semi-automated, discrete SaaS based software in the packaging sector are nearly identical to all the reasons other folks choose not to buy these tools.

And, it’s starting to separate truly progressive organizations in this sector from the ones who will clearly lose in this market as they struggle to build up small performance wins as quickly as the rest.

In this video, we’ll introduce the SaaS concept briefly, and share the top 3 reasons people either say no to them, or yes to new value:

1. We’re going to find problems! And then what do we do?
2. These SaaS purchases are different than how we usually budget. So, how do we buy?
3. We already have manufacturing execution software and we spent a lot of money on it. Should we spend any more?

Knowing these reasons is nice.

Acting to evaluate where you fall and whether you’re engaging SaaS providers and responding effectively is when you’ll start to see real transformation.

Watch the video now to find out whether you fall into the “yay” or “nay” category on SaaS software, and figure out how close you are to creating new value that you couldn’t last week.

More if you want it…..If you liked this, you might like one of our most popular blogs last month. It’s a bit inflammatory, but, similar in nature to this content and calledThe 7 Reasons Your Factory Won’t Improve in 2016.


How Is Your Equipment Install Performing? Any Clue?

Do you really know? Most automation suppliers don’t, short of the odd visit to observe how things are going. It’s interesting given how big of a bet automation or equipment installs are to make.

All of the cost your automation business has to incur,
only to rely on “hope” over “intelligence” when you leave a customers site.

The automation business is challenging, and equipment installations are fraught with challenges, with suppliers trying to hit performance guarantees while struggling to integrate equipment with an install base that they didn’t put in. Operators, who may or may not know how to use or maintain gear, and, upstream challenges that may compromise how a new installation performs.

Admittedly, much of this is out of a suppliers control and while one can hold a customers hand for a short time (in fact, they have to), customers have to fly eventually.

Without intellingence, a suppliers margin and relationship be compromised while a customer learns to fly. The what if’s are tough to face:

  • What if your installation is causing downtime and rework?
  • What if the line is under performing, and, you were pegged as the problem even though it wasn’t you?
  • What if an operator wasn’t trained appropriately on how to use what you installed?
  • What if the next time you competed for an installation, you lost your bid because you botched the last install and didn’t even know it?
So, what’s an automation supplier to do?
The progressive suppliers are turning to cost-effective, discrete, low-friction technology to gather insight and intelligence, before the aforementioned questions are ever asked. And they’re doing so because today, they don’t get enough intelligence during or after their installs.
Consider for a moment, how much money a real-time alert like this could save you, and you’ll get the drift:
Blog Ipad Feb 9final
What if you got it via email? Or, your customers did at your choosing?

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We Asked 100,000 Performance Improvement Leaders How They Prioritize Projects


Last week we asked a group of over 100,000 performance improvement leaders how they were prioritizing their performance improvement projects this year, as our organizations builds our list of projects.

They’re members of the most helpful linkedin groups for improvement specialists called the “Continuous Improvement, Six Sigma, and Lean Group.”

They didn’t mince words. Seemingly simple advice, that can have huge impacts:

1. Focus on Small Wins that Align with Strategy to Build Momentum: Seek small wins that align with overall business strategy and corporate objectives. By doing so, you can build momentum and develop an improvement culture. As performance is enhanced, projects will become transformative for the organization over time.

2. Consider the Size of Waste and Loss: Mobilize a cost deployment team to analyze the waste and loss in your operation with real intelligence, run cost deployment matrices to identify significant issues, and prioritize based on the potential impact.

3. Go for Ease of Implementation and Impact on Cash Flow: Analyze the resources required to implement projects and consider the impact they have on cash flow. These are indicators of priority.

4. Force Rank Relative to Business Goals: Identify what the organization wants to spend in different departments, and populate a matrix to rank potential projects that are low-risk, low-gain to high-risk, high-gain.

5. Take a Look at Corporate Priorities and Vote: After projects have been identified at a high level, carry out facilitated and structured brainstorming exercises and multiple rounds of voting with sponsors of projects. Cross representation should build a consensus on priorities.

6. Empower the Focused Improvement Pillar: Ensure that the people identified as Focused Improvement Pillars (FI Pillar) have the resources required to maximize effectiveness and to address the wastes and losses in the operation. They likely have the ability to prioritize projects.

7. Leverage Lean and Six-Sigma Tools Available: Consider frequently used lean and six-sigma approaches, like creating a Pareto Chart, a Critical to Quality (CTQ) drill down, Quality Function Deployment (QFD), Min Max Analysis, or Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) prioritization. Priorities may become clear with such analyses.

8. Complete Planning Triage: Senior leadership teams and business units can discuss and select projects and identify project sponsors. This garners buy in throughout multiple levels of the organization, and helps build project queues.

9. Custom Project Prioritization Matrix for Business Generated Improvement Ideas: Build a pipeline of projects requested by the business rather than forced on business units. The matrix can include a variety of questions weighted in terms of importance, and scored. The priority projects go to panel for review and sign off, provided success critiera for the project has been defined.

To learn more about how SITEFLO customers prioritize improvement projects, and build momentum with small wins:

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You Have Downtime. But Why?



Factory downtime. You have it, and you think you’re tracking it. You’re counting the downtime minutes anyway, and you kind of know why things were down. Well, you know why things were down when you find out a week later. If in fact you believe the note you got on the downtime, which seems different than the explanation you got from two other departments.

Like most organizations in the packaging sector, you might point to one of three ways you log downtime, no doubt with a grimace on your face, recognizing that you’ve got an incomplete picture.

If it’s not an operator walking up to a human machine interface (HMI) or personal computer to log downtime reasons, you’re using handwritten forms and spreadsheets to document events, times and reasons. Short of that, you purport that your manufacturing execution software (MES) package is logging most of what you need, even though you know that’s not entirely true.

Sensor-based technology and software has made it much easier to “count” the minutes you’re down and where, but, advances to help you understand “why” and the root causes of downtime have been slow to evolve. With the advent of mobile technology and discrete software as it starts to eat the packaging sector, it’s possible to log the data required to truly get to the causes of downtime in a semi-automated fashion.

It’s not that the power of context has been underestimated over the last twenty years by equipment providers, but, the consequences of having operators or supervisors walk to a personal computer, HMI, or paper based station to enter information on downtime or other operational events hasn’t been appreciated by designers. (check out our previous blog
here titled “3 Day Long Experiments That Show the Power of Downtime Context)

It’s an approach that doesn’t suit their workflow, much less drive out real-time intelligence that management needs to understand downtime reasons.

Of course, it’s easy to place the blame on an operator for not logging downtime reasons effectively, but, consider the screens and log forms operators have to use, which were designed as an afterthought. Very little appreciation has been given to user experience by best in class designers in this market, dramatically affecting adoptability of any system to track downtime context, and ultimately impacting results you could get.

And with a lack of true downtime context, finger pointing starts, while management enjoys five different explanations about the root cause, and week old, barely legible paper notes with a few thoughts on the cause.

This is commonplace in the packaging sector, but it doesn’t have to be.

The root causes of unplanned factory downtime can be logged effectively as the downtime event is occurring, or immediately after by leveraging modern mobile applications, just like the ones you use in your personal life. This information can be shared either in real-time, or immediately after on a web-enabled dashboard, and annotated as appropriate after the fact by supervisors and managers who review the factory downtime events.

The most progressive packaging organizations have mobile apps configured to track unplanned, unidentified factory downtime over the course of a shift, leading to the identification of specific, measurable performance improvement project that can be applied globally across an organization, even in cases where sophisticated MES systems are deployed.

The good news is, there are cheap and cheerful ways to experiment with mobile solutions to improve the downtime context you receive today.

Here are a three simple experiments you can run to explore the power of a discrete, context-first system.

Ignore Your Existing Systems for Tracking Altogether

Test a hypothesis that you can deploy a discrete, semi-automated system that is web enabled and wirelessly connected, to collect critical information on context and events that create issues in your factory. The goal here is to collect more powerful diagnostic data than you can by aggregating fault codes or other data on an MES system, allowing you to get to the root of your problems effectively and rapidly, without having to leverage your existing cumbersome systems. Remember, this is a moment-in-time experiment, to prove the power of the context so that you can make changes to your existing systems and internal processes.

Put in a Context-First System and After it Works, Integrate (Not Before)

It’s natural to rush to connect all of your disparate systems, but don’t rush this time. Test a hypothesis that you can implement a system to retrieve better context on events that lead to factory issues, and that this data will be so powerful that you’d rather move forward with a “Context-First” system. After that, you’ll look to integrate with that system at a later date if possible, streaming machine data into the contextual system and not the other way around.

Pick a Context-First Project and Calculate the Financial Impact of It

This one is simple. Pick a project to address an issue that you know is costing you money (think downtime or rework), given a lack of context. Deploy a discrete system to help you collect data, and review the data at the end of the project relative to the project goals. Now calculate the financial impact of what you’ve learned. Test our hypothesis that putting context ahead of a system driving only machine data, isn’t always a “garbage-in” and “garbage-out” scenario.


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7 Reasons Your Factory Won’t Improve in 2016


It’s 2016 and you want to shake things up this year. You’re active on all the right performance improvement forums, you’re reading all the right articles, and you’re deeply connected to the continuous improvement community. You’ve reached out to specialists, you’re getting great suggestions, and making big plans. (Click here to read our previous blog “Get Creative with Continuous Improvement”)

This year you’ve got pressure to produce more, faster, and with fewer resources. And, you’re capable of it. The pessimist would say that you’ve got to own up to the fact that you’ve got problems. The optimist? Well, it’s pretty clear to them that you’ve got great promise this year.

If you’re truly going to shake things up in 2016, you’ll have to think differently. More so, you need to take a long look in the mirror. It’s a new year after all, and if you’re going to achieve your goals, your behaviour has to change.

Take the pessimists view for a moment (just like we did when we wrote the blog title), and do it so that you can see that pessimism coming in 2016, outflank it, and improve your decision making.

This could be your year. You really might improve things. Or, not.

Here are our top 7 reasons you won’t change a thing this year:

1. You’re still asking people to check back in 6 months: Sound familiar? Somebody wants to help you solve a problem. You’re not entirely sure it will work, but it might. You could try it. Might be better to try it a couple of quarters from now though. Maybe you should put it off until next year.

C’mon. Scope out a small project right away. Get your feet wet. Might be a small investment of your resources to get a small win, and you can scale up from there later. There is likely a low cost way to try something that brings a return quickly.

2. You just don’t have anything in your capital budget: You just didn’t budget for what you’re being presented with as an opportunity, and, you know you’ll get push back on it if you bring it forward. It might actually be a good idea, but it’ll be the same old story when you bring it up.

What if you could build a business case with a vendor to get buy in? Worst case scenario, it gets bumped into another budget cycle, but, there may be a way to squeeze some of it in sooner than you expect if the return on investment is quick, and you can prove it.

3. You don’t want to find problems you can’t fix: Great. You’ve identified a performance issue on the floor, and you don’t have the capital or resources available to correct the issue. This probably shouldn’t be escalated to management or executive levels. You really should have seen this coming sooner, and it’s your neck potentially if you point it out.

This is one of the reasons most packing organizations fail to achieve their desired overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and their full potential. Which is crazy. So, your next move is changing your culture and with any luck, evolving your processes. A massive effort. Or, finding a new job. The organizations who win this year are investing in performance improvement, which means investing in culture, people, and process.

4. You just have too many projects going on to consider something else: You just implemented a manufacturing execution software (MES) package. It’s going to dramatically affect your OEE (that’s probably true). You’ve got a nice new dashboard, with lots of data feeding in. You’re tracking everything. The ship has sailed on improvement for the year. You’ve got what you need. Now it’s all execution and monitoring.

Are you going to stop there? Your new system can’t track everything, and, in some cases, you’re looking at vanity metrics. Those metrics that make you feel good, and as though you’re in control. You need to think like you were thinking when you bought that MES system in the first place. You had a problem to solve, and you got it done. You’ve still got problems. And great promise. Identify them and start fishing again for solutions.

5. You just finished up a huge project and your team is still tweaking things: You just installed a new line or a piece of equipment and it’s going to dramatically improve things, as long as you hit your performance targets as you ramp up. Any resources you have available, are going to be deployed there, and that’s it.

This is a sure sign that you’ve got no real model for identifying performance improvement projects on a continuous basis. Your eyes and ears on the floor likely know the reasons for your most significant downtime, on your old lines and equipment, and your new stuff. Sure, it makes sense to ramp that new stuff up. But, there is more you can do and should do.

6. You’re too busy for another assessment: Your factory has been assessed, again and again. You’ve got more recommendations than you know what to do with, and finite resources. Most of the people with improvement suggestions are just selling stuff anyway, and their line audits normally come with little proof that their performance guarantees will ever come to fruition.

You know who’s worth listening to in your industry and if you’re not certain, you’ve got a network to find out whose assessments matter. Call the ones who know how to improve your factory and get them in. They might be the people you didn’t buy from because they were higher cost than the other vendor. Or, somebody who has moved on from the company you bought equipment from because they were bright. Maybe it’s the folks you visit at the trade show, because you respect them. Almost everyone of them would help if you asked.

7. You’re just not so sure about the industrial internet just yet: You’ve read it all and you’re getting a bit tired of hearing about it. You know it might involve the cloud, connected devices and equipment, mobile, and big data, whatever that means. It doesn’t sound like something management, or your IT department might embrace.

Seriously? You know that everybody else in the packaging sector is embracing this, right? Certainly, there are some challenges, but, every single organization of every size in the CPG world has a host of solutions available to them from a variety of vendors that can save them big money, rapidly. Those solutions are available today. Believe the hype, assess the risks, and assess the tremendous opportunities.

So, when is it a good time to improve in 2016? Today.

Speak with one of our Continuous Improvement Specialists.

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How to Track Packaging Equipment Installs in 2016


If you’ve sold, installed, or purchased equipment in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) sector, you’re intimately familiar with processes to ramp up equipment to meet performance goals, or a desired OEE (overall equipment effectiveness).

Getting equipment running effectively is a critical part of the trust building process post-sale and if not executed appropriately, can lead to substantive cost overruns and ultimately affect sales efforts in the future.

With mobile devices, it’s become easier than ever to collect and share data in real-time when you deploy your equipment or consumables at a customer site, whether it’s for pilot purposes or for permanent installations. Quantifying and tracking the issues that affect performance can lead to dramatically reduced sales cycles and increased probability of a win long term, and can help your customers reach their desired objectives.

Consider the power of collecting and sharing data in real time on the equipment you’re installing and measuring for performance, like:

  • Reasons for machine stoppages, whether it’s maintenance, upstream issues or product jams (identify reasons and don’t just count time)
  • Changeover time
  • Cases needing rework
  • Equipment OEE
  • Number of rejects observed
  • Total downtime

Few original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s) have real-time access to install or trial related data, much less a quantified output from an install to present to decision makers who ultimately decide whether or not the purchase was worth it.

Tracking data and sharing it in real-time when you install equipment and run trials is possible with a limited amount of effort and training, particularly in cases where you have channel partners selling your equipment and making a commission.

Consider the following in an attempt to generate powerful remote diagnostics that can help you meet performance guarantees.

Set the Goalposts Before You Go Mobile

It’s important to define success criteria before you begin an installation and to build this into your tracking efforts on site, before you decide to go mobile. This includes defining how long the installation and monitoring program will run, what objectives define a successful installation, and what parameters will be measured throughout the monitoring program to gauge movement towards meeting those objectives. Establish communication protocols and the way in which knowledge gained throughout the pilot will be disseminated amongst various parties. Web enabled dashboard technology can be used to socialize the results of installations in real-time.

Configure and Train

Mobile devices have to be configured so that it’s clear what information field based partners or on-site employees at a factory need to collect throughout the installation or trial period. It’s important to consider the variables that indicate that your equipment is performing, and to consider other factory variables that need to be tracked to show a correlation between your equipment or consumable and overall improvement (downstream of your equipment). Equally as important is ensuring that the customer, and any other personnel monitoring the trial from your organization has access to a real-time view of the trial on a dashboard.

Deploy and Roll with the Punches

When partners or field based employees show up on site, the communication protocols should be reestablished in person and the data collection should begin with mobile devices. There will inevitably be events that occur, such as unplanned downtime, that affect your installation. These events can be recorded as well. In some cases, you can potentially link to an opportunity to address the problem, or at the very least absolve your equipment of any responsibility for the downtime event.

Enjoy the Remote Diagnostics

During the installation, you could be receiving real-time diagnotics from the field. This is possible when you deploy a discrete, semi-automated solution with your field based personnel. With an appropriately configured system and a powerful reporting engine, you’ll have all the intelligence you need to share successful pilot or trial results with plant management, procurement, and other buyers of your products. You also get the advantage of running your pilots in a consistent manner, at scale.

To find out more about how automation suppliers are using SITEFLO to monitor equipment installs and to help their customers procure solutions that live up to the promise of their value proposition, please email us at

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Here’s what happened to SITEFLO after Pack Expo

1. What was their packaging lines current VS potential capacity?
2. Could automation improve that and if so, how could that improvement be quantified?
3. What would their costs look like after the fact? What do they look like today?
4. How could an automation supplier ramp up to desired throughput rates faster than anybody else, and what was that worth considering different end of line environments?
5. How could unplanned maintenance and downtime be reduced relative to normal operating conditions?

6. Could more automation affect overall equipment effectiveness (OEE)?

To top that off, our existing automation supplier customers at Pack Expo in other booths were pitching SITEFLO as a way to complete on-site performance improvement projects, to complete the aforementioned assessments with their own customers.

We got very busy, very quickly, with some of the best customers in the world.

Making the right automation choices is still difficult, but, making those choices with intelligence is what’s differentiating the good automation suppliers from the great.

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