When budgets are tight, it can be tempting to choose suppliers that offer suitable products at the lowest cost. But what if those suppliers don’t truly understand the problem you’re trying to solve? And what if their solution isn’t the best match for your business? You might end up with equipment you don’t know how to use, maintain, or service. And that’s a big problem if your plant is short on skilled workers.
To avoid issues like these, it’s important to make sure your OEMs and suppliers aren’t just selling you a product. They should also bring a high level of industry knowledge and experience to the table. Here are a few benefits of having this kind of expertise on your side.
They speak your language
Experienced manufacturers and suppliers can offer information and insight that goes well beyond their product line. They’re familiar with the industry they serve — from terminology and regulatory requirements to current challenges and emerging solutions. This informs the design of the products they build and sell, as well as their interactions with customers.
When discussing options with a supplier, you don’t want to feel like you’re explaining your situation to a stranger on the street. Communicating with companies who know the industry, inside and out, should feel more like speaking to a colleague. They’re close enough to the field to understand your pain points and potential.
They ask the right questions
Without a knowledgeable supplier, you may find yourself going through a series of miscommunications, ultimately leading to the wrong purchase. For example, you might order a machine that’s supposedly designed for heavy washdowns, only to find out later that it can’t withstand high pressures and temperatures.
Experts know what questions to ask to ensure you have the perfect equipment for the application. They’ll use these questions to determine the specific purpose of the equipment, the regulations and standards it needs to meet, the materials and design qualities it needs to have, and the level of support you’ll need to set it up and keep it running. They may even visit the site to see firsthand where and how you plan on using your new equipment.
They help fill in the gaps in your workforce
Finding and retaining experienced employees is a crisis across the industry — for food processors, equipment manufacturers, and suppliers alike. And the bakery sector knows this well — almost 80% of commercial bakers cited a “high” or “severe” shortage of maintenance and engineering staff.
While automation may solve some workforce challenges, it can’t replace human knowledge. If your plant lacks staff with the necessary knowledge and technical skills, it’s even more important that your OEMs have these resources.
Suppliers can offer ongoing equipment training, particularly as technology evolves, which is good news for food processors looking to broaden the skill set of new and existing hires. They’ll also have maintenance and tech support available to keep operations running smoothly. In some cases, suppliers can even resolve these tasks remotely.
They are your partners in innovation
Thinking about launching a new product? Or improving an existing one? Then you’ll want to work with a supplier equipped with a testing facility and a team of R&D specialists.
Collaborating with suppliers combines your ideas with their knowledge and resources. They can offer advice, run trials on their equipment, and help you perfect the process. They have designers and engineers on hand to develop a quality product quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively, freeing you up to focus on the business aspects of the product.
Suppliers bring not only their proficiency but their perspective — they may be able to point out potential problems or missed opportunities. And, who knows, those observations could be what gives your new or refined product an edge in the market.
In the current climate, it’s important to foster relationships with companies that go above and beyond a reasonable price range and reliable business ethics. And the stronger and longer those relationships, the better suppliers will be able to support your company and use their industry expertise to your benefit.