Finding the right packaging equipment

7 tips to buying the right packaging equipment

7 tips to buying the right packaging equipment

Packaging machines are the quintessential tool for safe and effective product packaging. Starting with your chosen packaging format as the main determining factor will set you on the right path, but then the variety of companies offering similar equipment may seem staggering. How do you make the right decision when comparing various technologies, price points, and quality? We have determined 7 key points to consider on your buyer journey.


Have a plan

Whenever possible, purchasing packaging machinery should not be a last-minute thing. Otherwise, the critical decision-making factors become lead time and price, arguably two of the worst metrics to consider for a business decision!

Moreover, having a plan means you can have a complete packaging line designed on paper and the ability to execute this line in phases, starting with the items that will provide quick ROI first.


What is your team’s previous machinery/packaging experience?

Upgrading current machinery is ideal for key people in maintenance, cleaning, machine operation, safety, QA, and production management as it requires little to no supplementary training. Additionally, they can share their experience and pain points to improve on the new equipment purchase.

If it is entirely new to you and your staff, it is a great idea to ask other manufacturers in your network to share their experience with similar equipment. People are usually glad to tell you which vendors are doing a good job and even more eager to tell you which are doing a poor job! Alternatively, requesting insight from an independent technical consultant is something to consider.


Establish the main goal to accomplish

Knowing what pain points you want to address, or how you wish to innovate your packaging should be determined before contacting vendors. Is your goal to increase productivity? Do you want to innovate and sell your product in totally new packaging? Is the machine part of a long-term plan to expand into new markets?

Packaging machinery is more versatile than ever before; however, keep in mind that no machine can do everything! And if it can – you can be sure that there will be setbacks in terms of set-up times and changeovers that will cost you both in time and the cost of skilled technicians.

Furthermore, you should know the basics:

  • The maximum/minimum sizes of packaging you will be processing.
  • The speed requirements (output) for the smallest and largest sizes.
  • The packaging types that the machinery needs to handle.


Compose your URS (User Requirements Specification)

This document will become the blueprint for your project and provide guidelines for vendors to quote accordingly. It will also be easier to perform a point-by-point comparison of the different solutions quoted. It should clearly define:

  • The environment that the machinery will occupy
  • Any specific component brand you prefer (i.e. Festo pneumatic, Allen Bradley Control etc.)
  • Compliance with local safety and electrical standards
  • Documentation required (user’s manual, maintenance schedule, drawings, copy of programs)
  • Performance warranty

If it’s your first time or not sure where to start, consider working with an external consultant or engineering firm. An external consultant may also help analyze other factors such as existing capacity, employees, ROI, and auditing vendors.


Involve key suppliers

A trusted supplier will inform you of the latest innovations and where the market is heading. They typically know which machine is more efficient with their packaging and how the vendors support their customers in the field a few years after commissioning.


Price should not be your only determining factor

We all want a better deal, but you do get what you pay for. Machinery pricing accounts for more than components and the labor to assemble them! There is engineering time, technical writing, testing time, intellectual property, and overhead cost like any other business. Compromising on any of the above will result in poor after-sales support, whether by lack of proper documentation, wrong information for spare parts, patent infringement, or simply sub-standard equipment performance.

While some low-priced machinery is of good quality, most problems come from a lack of technical support. Will you have access to a certified technician for this machinery? Can you find components such as sensors, pneumatics, motors, controls locally? Can you order size parts or change parts and be confident they will work on your machine? What is the manufacturer’s track record when it comes to meeting safety and electrical standards?

Your relationship with the vendor should also be an essential factor to consider when buying packaging machinery. How easy is it to visit the factory where the machine is made? Who will provide training to your employees? Will the supplier be able to upgrade your machine in the long run?

The simplest way to avoid pitfalls is to ask for references in your area, or at least in your country!


Know your financing options

There are pros and cons to each method of financing, depending on your track record, assets, and type of business. Talking to a trusted financial advisor is certainly the best thing to do, but you should know about a few options.

Purchasing means your company will amortize the cost over a given period. Some banks will finance more than the value of the equipment to include additional expenses such as integration, shipping, and commissioning.

Leasing means preserving your working capital and maintaining your financial flexibility. However, you will not own the equipment, and you might end up forking over more money when buying back the equipment at the end of the lease agreement. Renting packaging equipment is more interesting for short-term punctual needs like specific contracts.


Build a relationship with an expert

Over the years, we have helped many companies roll out 2, 4, and 6-year plans, adding new pieces of equipment every year as sales increase. Working with a packaging automation expert from the start will probably save you money and certainly help you avoid many pitfalls.


Contact us for more guidance

Jean-François Biron

Sales and marketing background in the automation and packaging equipment industries. Strong interest in technologies, new packaging development, sustainability and marketing strategies.