Want to manufacture a machine that builds customer loyalty? Make sure your customers help you build it. And, then change it. And, make it better. Companies that understand the critical role their customers play in creating and improving their machines are the companies that last.
How do customers define excellence in a machine? It’s a combination of durability, longevity, quality, intuitive operation and cost. A machine should be intuitive to use. When it is well-engineered, customers often don’t need operating instructions. Their people can walk up to the machine and know how to use it. A machine must be both efficient and productive. Every machine and every customer defines that differently.
Reliability the industry can count on
Specify, prototype, design and test—that’s the recipe for a machine that does the job right. When designing a machine, equipment manufacturers need to understand how the customer is going to use it. You need to see where it fits into their process. You need to comprehend what they need in terms of functionality, cost and productivity. Then, and only then, can you design a product that meets their requirements.
While input comes from the customer, manufacturers need to use their own experience in the ultimate design. Customers know what they want the machine to do, but they don’t necessarily know how to make the machine do what they want it to do. They know the problems they want to solve and understand their pain points, but it’s the engineer’s job to translate that into a workable design that improves customers’ productivity and creates loyal customers.
Collaboration is a critical part of the whole design process. Collaborate with sales, technical support, manufacturing, marketing and suppliers.
Machines must not only address the customers’ pain points, but they must also do their job over and over again. That means testing, running the machines for 37 days straight, 24/7. Then, assess the wear and tear, identify strengths and weakness and see if anything breaks or is about to break.
While testing through a million cycles may seem extreme, that’s actually a realistic test for high-use customers, like large shippers. These customers depend on their machines to do the job consistently with minimal downtime. If they do go down, machines need to be easily repairable, so they can quickly get back on the job. That’s another place where good engineering comes into play.
Here’s advice to manufacturers who want to deliver a machine that does the job for customers and keeps them coming back:
- Listen to the customer
- Understand the customer’s applications
- Follow engineering best practices
- Learn from everyone involved with your machines; manufacturing, product assemblers, distributors, sales, marketing and suppliers
- Take a slow and steady approach to challenges
- Don’t be afraid of change
- Fully understand problems before deciding upon a solution. Don’t just react.