Survey says: PackML pull not yet matching push

The survey revealed a familiarity gap between OEMs and their end user customers with regards to PackML. Almost 60 percent of OEMs are at least aware of PackML. On the end user side, only a bit more than 40 percent are familiar with PackML.

Machine builders and their end-user customers are exposed to sometimes wildly different pressures, but still usually come together in a manner that’s mutually beneficial. 

With these potential stumbling blocks and pain points in mind, PP-OEM and Packaging World teamed up to conduct a survey of their respective audiences. The idea was first to map out many of the key interaction points between machine buyer (Packaging World’s audience) and machine seller (PP-OEM’s audience), and then identify areas of noticeable friction. 

On many of these topics, builders and buyers seemed to be in agreement, by and large. But that’s not the case across the board. The survey brought into focus several important gaps that separate the two camps. Buyers have pain points they’d like to articulate if given an opportunity. And builders have their own ideas about ways in which the gaps between the two might be better bridged, if only they had the chance.

The survey revealed a familiarity gap between OEMs and their end user customers with regards to PackML. Almost 60 percent of OEMs are at least aware of PackML. On the end user side, only a bit more than 40 percent are familiar with PackML.

These survey results seem to substantiate Scott Reed's, VP, Sales, Marketing & Customer Service, ADCO, Sanger, Calif., sense that while PackML has been pushed for some time throughout the world of automation, the end user has yet to ask for it frequently enough to create a corresponding pull. He says ADCO specifies PackML with or without the customer request, because from a competitive standpoint, not doing so could be a negative differentiator.  “Even though the market isn’t necessarily asking for it now, we look at it as a potential competitive leveler,” he says.

And for those end users that are interested in implementing PackML, cost can be a hurdle. “Everybody wants it, nobody wants to pay for it,” says Mark Green, manager, Global Engineering, Abbott Nutrition, Columbus, Ohio. And Barry Heiser, president, Global Filler & Integrated Solutions, Pro Mach, Cincinnati, has had the same experience in dealing with CPGs.

“It’s interesting when a CPG buys multiple machines in line, and because Pro Mach uses PackML as a standard, we explain that the programming architecture is the same whether it’s a sleever or a case packer, and when you go to the HMI, all the screen navigations look the same,” Heiser says. “If they’ve never heard of it, they tend to love the idea, but immediately ask if they are going to have to pay for it. If we say ‘no,’ then they continue to like it.”

“If it’s there, it just makes the integration of the systems easier for us as an end user," says John Giles, manager, Operations Engineering, Amway, Ada, Mich. "The problem we’ve run into is when we want to see it implemented, then the OEM wants to charge us for the development of it.”

This is a sore spot for Giles and end users in general. They often feel they are paying for development of a new custom technology or capability, in this case PackML, that the OEM will then be able to add to its standard offering at a standard price. So Giles doesn’t want to pay a premium for custom development of something that his competitors will be able to get off the shelf from the same OEM.

Green adds that while PackML had become a new standard for Abbott and is onboard any new lines they might buy, adoption is much slower in replacing components of older or existing lines.

“Consider bringing just one new machine in to replace an existing component on a line,” Green says. “Suppose I’m replacing a labeler. If it comes standard with PackML, but the rest of the line isn’t PackML-ready, then I’m not going to pay the extra money to convert the rest of the line over to PackML. Can you then say that a line that’s using that new labeler with PackML is up and running with PackML? I would say no.”

See where OEMs and end users align and differ on other equipment procurement pain points: Survey says: OEMs, end users share sore spots on path to purchase

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