When it comes to making a decision regarding the purchase of material handling equipment, everyone talks about Return on Investment, or ROI. While ROI is important, there are also many other critical factors to consider. To make the best decision for your company, you need to fully research the manufacturer and integrator you will be partnering with. And in return, the manufacturer / integrator team needs to fully understand your company and your unique business challenge. Below is a list of 20 questions that buyers should ask themselves when getting ready to purchase an expensive piece of equipment or sizeable system. 1. What is the business model of the manufacturer? Often, you can find this information out simply by doing some digging on the company’s website. If not, ask. 2. What are the business philosophies of the integrator and the manufacturer(s)? You can find this information on a company’s website, but I would encourage you to ask the employees you are working with from that company. See if their answers align with what the website is touting; do they embody their company’s mission and values? 3. How long have the manufacturer and integrator been in business? Look for companies that have deep roots in the material handling industry. 4. Does the manufacturer advertise new and innovative solutions using the product they make? Look for a company that is on top of the latest trends, and responding to the needs of the marketplace. 5. Does the integrator have a website with information that covers their capabilities and experience? Case studies, photos, and video make a big impact and can certainly help influence who the customer decides to work with. 6. Does the manufacturer have a website that fully explains the product being quoted along with examples, pictures, and videos? The website can be a powerful tool for educating customers. 7. Does the manufacturer develop products that are industry driven solutions or engineered solutions?8. Does the integrator have application experience? Have they worked on projects similar to yours in the past? 9. How good is the integrator’s presentation to the customer? Do they show themselves as a company on the leading edge of technology? Presentation is key. Do they do a good job of introducing their company and capabilities? Do they seem to understand your unique business challenge? Do they have the right experience to improve your business processes? 10. How long have the manufacturer and integrator worked together? Is this their first time teaming up for a project? If so, there may be some kinks they will need to work out until they establish their communication flow. 11. How well do the manufacturer and integrator work together and communicate? Communication is key. Have they worked together before? Was it a successful partnership? Don’t be afraid to ask those questions. 12. Communication – what is your preferred method? Do you only like to communicate via the phone, or do you prefer to have an email paper trail to refer back to? Make sure that you communicate this to your manufacturer / integrator team and that they respect your preferred method of relaying information. 13. Who is the point of contact from the manufacturer / integrator team? Once you have that contact, also evaluate how easy is it to get in touch with that person. Do they respond quickly to your questions and concerns? 14. Does the manufacturer provide tools to help the integrator expedite drawings and pricing? 15. Are the manufacturer / integrator team responsive to you throughout the buying process? You are getting ready to invest a lot of money, and it’s only right that you expect speedy answers to your questions, alternative solutions (if you require them), and prompt delivery of quotes. 16. Is the quotation prepared in a manner that is easily understood and broken down as the customer requested? Are both the quote and the initial presentation available electronically? 17. Does the integrator / manufacturer show alternatives to help provide the best possible solution? It’s never a good sign when the integrator / manufacturer are locked into a design and won’t budge, insisting their solution is the best and only solution. You want to make sure you are working with a team that is willing to listen to your suggestions, trim the fat where needed, and be flexible. 18. Have you obtained references from other customers who have used this team? Look for customers with similar system size, complexity, industry to yours. 19. Is product training provided as part of the system implementation? Are installation manuals provided for all units? The last thing you will want is to be left with a brand new, shiny system and no clue how to operate it successfully. 20. Are spare parts readily available?
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