Food Engineering

Editor's Note: Human touch a key factor in replacement parts business

July 23, 2003
Food Engineering tradition.



Welcome to the first of what we hope will be another long standing Food Engineering tradition. This issue marks the premier edition of FE’s Annual Replacement Parts Directory.

As food and beverage manufacturers cut costs, improve efficiency and do more with less, processing and packaging equipment must keep up the pace. With increased uptime and more changeovers now being the mantra of all manufacturing plants, keeping the machinery running via improved maintenance planning and effective spare parts management has never been more critical.

Despite trying times with plant closings, consolidations and layoffs in recent years, food industry profits are chugging along slowly but surely. Capital expenditures at the leading publicly traded food companies have remained mostly intact. With the need to continuously upkeep and maintain both older equipment as well as new sophisticated machinery, the spare parts replacement business has become a major profit center for OEMs as well as other suppliers who can answer the call.

As in many industries, a Food Engineering research survey found that the human touch stills makes the difference between success and failure, especially where spare parts are concerned. Many of the FE readers surveyed pointed to both internal and external human factors that hinder the replacement parts buying and selling cycle. Here are some of the findings:

_ Short-staffed food and beverage plants don’t have enough workers to keep track of part numbers;

_ When processors call to order parts, some suppliers’ staffs are not knowledgeable about their own products;

_ Processors face internal red tape getting part orders approved quickly.

Surprisingly, use of the Internet to order spare parts was not a high priority for those processors surveyed, again leading us to conclude that food manufacturers need that human touch to succeed. In addition, while supplier company relationship and reputation are not the number one factor for processors when buying spare parts, our research shows that it definitely has a big impact on purchasing decisions.

It seems as though it takes a village to keep the replacement parts buying and selling system going. That’s where Food Engineering comes into play. This is our first attempt to make your spare parts buying a little smoother. By uncovering the barriers on the buying side and attempting to organize the various attributes of the parts and their suppliers, we are providing a much-needed service to the food and beverage industry.

Our goal is to present an Annual Replacement Parts Directory that makes your work easier. Please e-mail us and let us know how we are doing so we can improve future editions.

Joyce Fassl Editor in Chief

e-mail: fasslj@bnp.com