5 Questions to Ask your Packaging Machine Manufacturer About Service & Maintenance
Whether you are just starting to investigate automated packaging equipment or already have ten full systems, it is always a good idea to assess your equipment maintenance and service needs. Here are 5 questions to ask your packaging OEM about their maintenance programs and service offerings.
1. Do you provide operator training?
Training of machine operators is a very important part of any overall packaging machine maintenance program. Operators should receive cursory training as to how to set up, calibrate, and properly operate the machine. More in-depth training can focus on common maintenance issues, including troubleshooting of mechanical and electrical components. Operator training usually isn't free, so ask your packaging machine manufacturer for clarification when considering an equipment purchase.
2. Will you provide spare parts recommendations?
A packaging machine has many mechanical and electrical parts, some of which wear out more often than others. Your packaging machine manufacturer should provide you with a spare parts list upon purchase of the equipment which will include all wear parts, classified by how often they are typically replaced. At Viking, our parts are classified as follows:
- A - High wear parts. These parts have a shorter lifecycle or are not standard items and have a long lead time.
- B - Medium wear parts. These parts have a longer lifecycle and may or may not ever fail.
- C - Low wear parts. These parts should never fail.
In general, it is recommended to keep high wear parts in stock at your plant. The last thing you want to do when your machine is down is wait for a part to be fabricated or shipped. Every minute your machine is inoperable during production hours is money down the drain.
Also find out if your packaging machine manufacturer offers an online solution for parts requests. After all, sometimes we just don't have the time (or patience) to make a yet another phone call. An online solution saves time and streamlines the ordering process.
3. What kind of remote support is available?
Most modern packaging equipment can be accessed remotely, with at least 90% of problems diagnosed and remedied with a phone call. So at a minimum, the technical service department at your packaging equipment manufacturer should provide phone support. Sometimes it is included in the initial cost of your contract, and sometimes not.
With the advent of video call services like Skype and Facetime, packaging machine manufacturers and their customers now have an additional visual resource at their disposal. However not all manufacturers use these technologies for technical service, so inquire about its availability and related costs.
Today's top packing machine companies also recognize that reaching technical support by phone is inconvenient at times. And some clients just prefer requesting service online. Find out if your equipment manufacturer has a place on their website to request technical support online.
4. Will you visit my plant for periodic service audits?
Having a certified technician visit your plant periodically is like visiting the dentist twice a year. They provide a full service audit and inspection, perform preventive maintenance, look for issues that need remedying in order to prevent bigger issues in the future, and provide expert advice as to how to maximize (machine) health.
Usually provided at an additional cost as part of a preventive maintenance program, most packing machine manufacturers have comprehensive plans in which a certified technician visits your facility either once or twice a year to perform service audits.
5. Are your service technicians in-house or third-party-provided?
This is very important. While we're certainly not saying that third-party equipment service providers don't know their stuff, choosing that option invites a certain amount of risk. Risk that they may not have a high level of experience with your particular machine brand or model, risk that they may not be certified by the OEM, and risk that you may not have a ton of recourse if things go south.
At Viking, all of our service technicians are highly-trained direct employees with many years (decades for some) of experience with our machinery. They report to us, so if there is a problem with your machinery, they have a stake in making sure it is properly remedied. Not only that, but the only place you can find Viking equipment-certified technicians is right here.
Service Audit & Preventive Maintenance Planning
Are you considering an automated packaging machine, or do you have one already? Download our free packing machine maintenance checklists & planners today as part of your preventive maintenance strategy.
Originally published 2/16/17, updated 6/20/19.