Buying the best automated machine is a supply chain experience
Quite often a company will purchase a piece of automated equipment without doing their homework. Oh, they’ll look at throughput, cycle time and the continuous quality automation can provide. They already know an operator can be much faster and thorough at the start of a shift than at the end, and that inconsistency can cost them. That said, there are other important considerations when making the case for automation.
When buying a piece of equipment the builder will often cite the standard products he uses, and if you specify something outside of his design, there might be a larger price tag. But choosing parts to suit your company standard can be important to your bottom line after the purchase. If the new equipment arrives with parts already common to your maintenance stores, you can spare yourself from the confusion and complexity of a new spare parts list – as well as the carrying cost of those parts.
All of this makes sense, right? Well there is one missing piece from the “I have a breakdown” scenario that needs evaluating. That missing piece is a great local distributor. That person can become an extension of both your maintenance team and your supply chain. In fact, maybe it’s time to start thinking of some service providers as partners.
A good distributor will have already observed your buying patterns and probably has stock on some integral parts for your production line. A local distributor wants to work for you. That means helping you establish standards based on available parts and delivery times while being flexible to meet your schedule. They may also be able to offer you the preventive maintenance routine you can’t get started due to your constraints.
The role of distributors in the supply chain seems to be growing. According to a recent Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI study of sales force effectiveness, only 21 per cent of respondents to their survey stated they do not currently sell through distribution; the remainder either sell partially or completely through distribution. Fifty-four percent of that group say that distributors help create demand. One pointed out that “good distributors are effective at developing customer relationships.”
Just as important as the dealer becoming part of your supply chain is the fact that the OEM and its suppliers also join that club. As an extension of the automation provider’s operations, that OEM relies on its suppliers to provide material, products, and services which meet all of the requirements of its contracts, applicable specifications, and quality management requirements. Such tried and true standards, spread across several links in your supply chain, provide extra layers of quality protection.
So before you prepare a purchase order for your next automated machine, take the time to review it with your supply chain and your maintenance team, but don’t forget to consult your local parts distributor. His main line of products might be your best opportunity to keep your new automated machines up, running and productive.
Stephen Richardson is a pneumatic product manager for Parker Canada Division. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.parker.com/canada.