Ease of Use, Customer Service and Support

    questionnaire

    In finding the perfect inspection system to meet your needs, you may focus on specifications, numbers, or statistics, but systems from several companies may qualify for your application. During the average lifespan of a 100% inspection system, it’s likely that you’ll need to interface with your supplier. It’s very important to determine whether or not the company will provide service, support, and upgrades over the life of the system.

    What are the supplier’s policies on internet, phone, and email support, trade-ins and upgrades, and most importantly, do they provide a written money back guarantee of performance?

    On the following pages, we’ve put together a guide to helping you pick the right supplier.

    Ease of Use

    A good indicator that a company is customer-focused is the product itself. In the case of inspection systems, it can be seen in the design and the user experience.

    Installation

    Who will be installing the system, how in-depth is the installation, and how long will it take?

    There’s simply no getting around the installation of your new system on the press or rewinder, so it’s important to know what will be required. For engineered or custom-installed systems, much of the installation can or will be handled by the manufacturer’s factory engineers. Proper installation should include hardware designed to fit your press or rewinder. The camera and hood arrangement should not extend beyond the frame or interfere with the operator. If you are installing your own system, it’s important to know how difficult the installation will be. Be sure to ask questions about how the product may be shipped, installation documentation, additional materials such as brackets, stands and rolls, that will be needed, and expected time to install. The prospective supplier should be happy to answer any of these questions for you.

    Continuing Training

    How long will it take your operators to learn the system?

    Any new system is going to have an associated learning curve. Your supplier should be available during this time to ease the curve, getting you up and running quicker. It’s important to determine if their available training venues will be a good fit for your company. Many companies will spend face-time with operators, walking them through using the system step by step. Often, training is accompanied by documentation: guides, user manuals, and quick reference sheets. This kind of material should be readily available long after training is complete.

    Additionally, many companies offer remote training and support for their systems. This can be done through email, over the phone, and through the use of desktop sharing applications. Be sure to discuss each of the options with your supplier to determine which will work best for you.

    User Interface

    Is the system easy to understand, and was it designed for someone with your needs?

    A more manageable learning curve can be facilitated though a well thought out user interface for the software. Intuitive control, easy access to the most often used functions, and self-explanatory button names are a few of the features to look for Request either a webinar or demo of the system with your sample rolls. This will give you the best feel for whether or not the system will truly fit what you need instead of what the supplier thinks you need.

    Make Ready

    How long does it take to make ready, what are the steps involved, and can you save each setup for later recall?

    This is largely a function of the user interface, but is affected by many other factors as well. Make ready is the amount of time it takes for the setup of a project- everything up to the first label, carton, or fold. Many of the factors that affect this are not related to an inspection system, but it’s important to consider those that are. The greatest use of time setting up some systems is the time required to train a master for comparison. Complicated labels can contain many points of inspection, and can be tedious to train on an improperly designed system. For this reason, it’s again important to request a demonstration of the software – preferably using a typical sample of your own product. To help decrease setup time for repeat jobs, you should be able to save your trained project for future use.

    Customer Service & Support

    Customer service starts before the system is installed, and extends for the life of the product. You can learn a lot about the providing company from just your first interactions.

    Response Time

    How long does it take the company to answer your questions, respond to support calls, or schedule a service call?

    In some situations, a malfunctioning inspection system can cripple production for hours or even days, and that translates to money lost. A responsive supplier can reduce your downtime if there is a problem, and can help prevent future problems by responding proactively to your questions or concerns. If the supplier is in your geographical area, be sure to get an idea of how they run service calls- how far out available appointments are, how much a visit from a technician or engineer may cost, and how long typical calls take. If the supplier is outside your region, this by no means indicates they cannot make service calls, but there may be more efficient options, such as telephone or remote support. If a company is reluctant or takes a long time to answer these questions, consider what that may indicate about their response time once they’ve already sold you a system.

    Support

    How long will the supplier support the proposed system, and what do you do if your system is no longer supported?

    Each manufacturer has an expected support life for their products. As new technologies emerge, support for older technology can easily fall to the increasing demand those new technologies drive. Some companies will retire systems at that point, no longer providing parts, labor, or any kind of support at all. After this point, many problems with the system can permanently cripple it, leaving you without inspection. It is important to make sure your supplier will support your system through the lifetime of your product so you don’t end up with money lost through downtime and the expense of a new system. The supplier can give you information on their support policies, but you can also request contact information of their other customers. It’s often a good idea to speak with people who have had long-term experience with your supplier, as they can provide a perspective closer to your own.

    Product Knowledge

    How knowledgeable is the staff about the product they sell?

    It may be difficult for you to tell how knowledgeable your supplier’s staff is about their products unless you have at least a basic understanding of inspection systems in general. Last month, we offered a quick guide to some of the more critical specifications you will encounter when researching a system. You can find it here. Your supplier should be receptive to any questions you have about their system- after all, it’s in their best interest to make sure you understand and are happy with your system. Keep in mind that not every person at the supplier’s company will know everything about every product, but they should be able to provide the answers you need in a reasonable amount of time.

    Customer Knowledge

    How well does the supplier understand your industry and your needs?

    Nobody knows your business better than you do, so it’s vital that your supplier be willing to listen to you needs, learn about your business, and present the most appropriate solution for your unique situation. Industry knowledge is also a must. A supplier should have a good understanding of the most current technology available. This is not limited to the technology of vision equipment, but should include the methods, materials, and machinery that other companies in your industry use. These things together will help them find the best fit for your company’s investment.

    Courtesy

    Does the supplier seem genuinely interested in helping your business- not just getting your business?

    Every company has a personality, and just like when hiring employees, it’s important that the supplier’s personality fits with your business. Plain and simple, with an investment like an inspection system, your life will be easier if you can easily communicate with your supplier. This isn’t just gauged by how responsive they are, but how they treat you and how willing they are to understand your needs. Look for a common level of respect from your supplier; you shouldn’t feel they’re just trying to add another sale to the ledger.

     
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