We’ve covered the importance of choosing equipment suppliers with expert-level knowledge, an in-depth understanding of the industry, and the resources to cover skills gaps in your company. But how do you identify them? What qualities and practices indicate a supplier has the expertise necessary to help you solve problems and optimize your operations?
Here are some things to look for.
Company history and employee experience
Building up a high level of knowledge and experience takes time, which is why it’s important to learn about a company’s history. How long has the supplier been in operation? During that time, were they working with other industries or focused solely on food?
It’s not just the age and background of the company that gives insight into their level of knowledge. Newer OEMs and suppliers can still have extensive expertise, but it will come from within their workforce. Take the opportunity to visit your supplier’s facility and get to know them. Quiz them on their understanding of the industry, find out how long they’ve been working in the field, and learn what kind of skill set they have to offer.
Unfortunately, there’s no Yelp for the food processing equipment industry. While you undoubtedly hear things through the grapevine, processors are often tight-lipped about their equipment with because they don’t want to give away competitive information.
However, most happy customers are willing to at least give a testimonial about their experience with suppliers. When you read these testimonials, look for ones that specifically call out the suppliers’ expertise and ability to solve a range of food processing problems.
Association memberships and involvement
Memberships in industry associations, like the Food Processing Suppliers Association, show that a company is actively involved in moving the industry forward. They’re more likely than non-members to be up-to-date on industry news and events and take advantage of continuing education opportunities.
Even better than just being a member of an association is being involved. Does someone at the company sit on relevant industry boards and councils? Do they host workshops, webinars, or educational sessions? These activities indicate that the company is a leader in their field.
A sales process that includes a site visit
With today’s technology, we can accomplish a lot without in-person interactions. But there are still some limitations. Expert suppliers will want to make sure they understand your problems and processes so they can provide a product that meets your specifications. That means they’ll want to see your plant’s operations firsthand.
If a site visit is part of the purchasing process, you know you’re dealing with a supplier that is readily available and committed to making the equipment work for your business.
Test facilities and R&D support
The best way to know if a product will work for your application is to conduct a trial run. Look for suppliers that have specialized facilities where you can take their equipment for a test drive with your products.
Test facilities are also useful when you’re developing new products and formulations. You won’t have to stop the production lines at your facility for R&D. Instead, you can take advantage of your supplier’s testing capabilities and their experienced staff to perfect new processes before you purchase new equipment. This will speed your product development process and help you stay ahead of your competitors.
A supportive partnership that continues after the sale
Your relationship with your equipment supplier shouldn’t end after the purchase, installation, and initial training. An experienced supplier will be aware of shifts and trends in the industry and what your competitors are doing to get ahead. As a result, they may suggest ongoing process improvements, provide guidance on product development, and alert you to new market possibilities. In other words, they will be your problem-solving partner, not only when it comes to choosing and operating equipment, but in helping your company thrive.
If your suppliers are just equipment providers and you don’t see them as trusted allies, you could be missing out on opportunities to get ahead. Every supplier you choose should have all of the qualities on this list, because your business deserves the best.
The Naegele Bakery Systems team has many decades of experience serving the bakery industry. Contact us to learn how we can put our expertise to work for you.