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Design for Competitive Advantage

One thing frustrates me greatly when I’m talking with many packaging machine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). They are so drilled into thinking that their only competitive advantage is low price that they don’t look for other ways to add value to their products.

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In the December 2012 issue of Automation World's Packaging Automation Review, Greg Farnum investigated how engineers are using the concepts of mechatronics in order to make better machines. He interviewed Frank Langro, manager of product management at Festo U.S. (, who told him, “By making use of integrated sizing tools, components can be matched to application and performance data, eliminating oversizing and the added associated costs with that.” Using these tools also reduces installation and commissioning time.

Remembering where we usually lost money when I was in that business, I’d say that if the company only accomplished those latter two things, they’d be many competitive dollars ahead.

Think about the other things you could do to make your machines more competitive. Could you redesign to take out some complexity? Take out more mechanical? Streamline your controls by closely thinking about the state model developed by OMAC as PackML? Find ways to use technologies such as OPC and networking to make your machines interoperate with the customer’s line better?

Hey, go for it. Get creative and build a better machine. Your customers will thank you.

>> Video: Technology Trends—Walk the Pack Expo 2012 show virtually via Automation World's video coverage and discover what OEMs are producing. Visit

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