Automation Fair

Remote support capabilities differentiate OEM solutions

By Mike Bacidore

Nov 22, 2019

Sponsored by Rockwell Automation

As manufacturers continue to see their human resources diminish due to retiring employees and a shallow pool of trained candidates, OEMs look for ways to provide their customers with equipment solutions designed to alleviate the strain caused by this shortage of skilled workers.

Kraft Heinz, for example, is a $2.6 billion company, fifth largest in the food and beverage world, and operates more than 40 facilities in North America with 42,000 employees. Yet the company is challenged to fill open positions in maintenance and engineering, according to Manochehr Sadri, associate director, engineering, Kraft Heinz, who spoke at the OEM Forum during Automation Fair 2019 this week in Chicago.

“We convert raw materials to finished product in our facilities,” explained Sadri. “It’s complex manufacturing.

Ownership and meritocracy help us to meet the challenge of a shortage of skilled workers. Most of our facilities are in the middle of nowhere. It’s challenging to bring and maintain talent to our facilities. To address those challenges, we’ve been working closely with Rockwell Automation to bring remote support to our facilities.” For Sadri and Kraft Heinz, the differentiator for OEMs—the reason to choose one manufacturer’s equipment over a competitor’s—is their ability to support assets remotely.

“We have put our strategies into our standards, not to tell you how to build equipment,” said Sadri. ”It’s about the KPIs we need, and it’s about real-time performance measures. How does your machine fit in our manufacturing lines? If yesterday was about outcomes, in tomorrow’s world, it’s about being able to validate that we have the right ingredients. You need to build those features into your equipment.”

At a large consumer packaged goods manufacturer like Kraft Heinz, expenditures are measured over the long haul, too. “Initial cost of ownership is important, but we’re looking at total cost over 10 or 15 years,” added Sadri. “We’re looking at energy usage and carbon footprint, too.”

The OEM perspective

At Paper Converting Machine Company (PCMC) in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the 100-year-old OEM builds equipment for a variety of customers, from mom-and-pop shops to Fortune 100 organizations.

“We are working with a lot of different customers out there,” said Jill Thiede, director, smart & connected technologies, PCMC. “The challenge we see is a struggle to find good operators and maintenance people. How can we better support our end customers through the use of Industry 4.0 tools?”

New disruptive technologies are coming too rapidly to allow for a look five or 10 years into the future, so PCMC has developed a “do, learn, do” approach to implementing new digital tools. “We pilot digital tools to see how they work on our machines and then onsite with a customer’s machine,” said Thiede. “If you wait for the perfect plan, you’ll never get there.”

The data and insights that new technologies allow are important, Thiede stressed, but the action taken because of those insights is the real differentiator. “You have to do something and enable the customer to make a difference,” she explained. “Our unique value is the ability to bring smart features and connected services. Throwing data on a dashboard is not enough to improve productivity. Close the loop on the data, take action.”