COMPANY PROFILE

P. ANDREW MALCOLM CONSULTING, INC. (PAMC)

P. Andrew Malcolm Consulting, Inc. (PAMC) logo


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32 Carte Place
Pleasant Hill
CA, 95423
United States
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925-997-4626
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Andy Malcolm

Bottling and Packaging Engineering for Today's Wine Industry

As production requirements grow, you may need to upgrade equipment or establish entirely new facilities. PAMC has the expertise to help.

 

We’ve managed projects throughout the winery, from bottling lines to crush pad and cellar installations, as well as individual focused projects such as package design execution and machine upgrades. We’re familiar with all aspects of winery facilities.

 

When packaging and automation needs stretch beyond the capacity or expertise of your existing engineering team, it’s important to work with a firm that brings industry experience into the project.

 

Here are a few of the ways some of the top names in the wine industry have taken advantage of our expertise:

 

  • Manage specification of high-capacity bottling line equipment. Research and vet vendors within and outside the wine industry to supply equipment that best met the customer's requirements
  • Define scope outlining all equipment, facility, and utility requirements for multi-use facility
  • Create specifications and manage installation of packaging and process equipment
  • Specify design and performance requirements for each piece of equipment on a 12,000 case per day contract bottling line
  • Identify and specify tenant improvements for an entire facility
  • Act as Owner’s Representative to developer/contractor

What does your project entail? Feel free to give us a call at 925.997-4626 to discuss your unique circumstance.

 

 

Documenting and Executing a Successful Remote Factory Acceptance Test


The Factory Acceptance Test (FATs) is one of the most critical activities when procuring automated packaging equipment and custom automated systems.  In 20-plus years of consulting, I have been a part of many.  In my last article, I outlined some of the considerations when faced with laying the groundwork for a Remote FAT.  This time, we’ll cover some key considerations for documenting and executing a Remote FAT.  As we well know if an activity isn’t documented, ‘it never happened’. 


Documentation

When coordinating and executing an FAT from multiple locations, a detailed FAT Plan will be more important than ever.  It has always been important to share the document with the Vendor so their team can perform a dry run.  In this case, there will be a further need to pre-plan the technology, acquire it, test it, and determine the locations and methods to best capture each Test Step.  During execution, both teams will want to have a copy of the approved FAT Plan to follow along.

To make the remote concept work, there will need to be new accepted practices for documenting results of the FAT.  There will need to be an agreement on what is to be recorded, how, and where.  It will need a combination of scanned documents, videos, and screen shots.  Planning for the Remote FAT will include agreeing on which Test Steps will be recorded.  The Owner may agree to pay for more in-depth documentation by Vendor technicians in advance (e.g., 100% verification of wiring and screen navigation) followed by spot checks during the Site Acceptance Test (SAT).  A shared file location on the Vendor’s web site would come in handy along with someone assigned to organize and curate the files.  Both teams should also have access to a complete set of manuals, drawings, and technical documentation ahead of time.  As with a conventional FAT, there are going to be times it will be necessary to look things up.


Execution

One of the things we miss by not attending an FAT in person is that participants will not experience the initial thrill and that surge of adrenalin at seeing their new machine or system for the first time as they open the guards and climb all over the equipment.  This experience will need to be replaced by a remote tour.  Waving an iPhone past the machine will not suffice.  It will take a well-choreographed review to orient those watching from the plant and familiarize them with key elements.  Nobody on the receiving end should be reluctant to ask whatever questions they have about what they are seeing.  This is the foundation for the rest of the activities.

By following the posted schedule, participants at both locations can follow along on the FAT Plan, documenting test results.  As with the introductory tour, communications need to be two-way, with an open audio feed, taking into consideration background noise at the factory.  This is where headsets may come in handy. And I would like to emphasize again that no one should be afraid to say, ‘Stop.  Go back.  I missed something.’ 

It will be necessary to capture individual Test Steps with multiple views.  For instance, one camera focuses on the open guard door and the other on the control station with the operator attempting a restart.  As mentioned, some static testing such as I/O checks, wiring verification, and wire-pull tests can be performed in advance with documented results available for review and storage.  However, there are advantages to seeing screen navigation, security access verification, and alarm checks in real time. 

Moving into Operational Testing, testing of safety circuits including e-stops, guard interlocks, and light curtains should be mandatory.  Slow motion capture of quality-related processes such as filling, weighing, and sealing will help the Owner’s team understand details and critical settings as well as how to formulate training plans and quality check procedures.  Fault and alarm testing would also be a high priority as would step-by-step changeover procedures.

Moving on to Performance Testing, the Vendor will have to plan how best to capture all relevant parts of the system on video.  If multiple runs are anticipated, it makes sense to focus on one or two key subsystems during each run.  Although these runs are always time consuming, they are the heart of the process and must be captured in real time. Remember:  No do-overs.  If a run fails, discuss it and understand what happened.  Correct the problem.  Repeat.

As with a traditional FAT, both teams will want to keep lists of follow-up Action Items and a ‘Parking Lot’ to review daily and guide the next day’s work.  And finally, a formal document should still be issued releasing the system for shipment with a list of outstanding issues and responsibilities for resolution.

After all this, try as everyone might, there will be Punch List Items that won’t be identified until the equipment is on site.  Time and expense will need to be allotted to make corrections in the field.  Expect and plan for more on-site time for factory technicians.


Conclusion

Remote FATs are likely to be a part of our automated equipment purchase process for a while.  I’m sure each of you have additional considerations specific to your situation.  If you had to organize and participate in a remote FAT what would be your thoughts and concerns?  Things are evolving.  One thing for certain is that we have not yet seen the absolute best solution.

PAMC has a long history of helping its clients purchase and install equipment.  We have extensive experience participating in and orchestrating FATs.  Contact me at andy@malcolmconsulting.com if you need a sounding board for your upcoming project.  If you want support for your FAT (remote or traditional), we can do that, too. 


News Archive


Helping Our Clients Prepare For the Future
21 April, 2020

One of the opportunities during this time is the chance to take stock of your business. Wine sales are up! Do you have ideas simmering for a new bottling line or new equipment purchase,but the piece that is missing is an experienced sounding board? Being that sounding board is a favorite part of our work. We like nothing better than to help flesh out a great idea and turn it into a reality. 


PAMC remains open for business during this time to help our clients prepare for and invest in their future, now.


Stay safe and healthy,


Andy Malcolm

P. Andrew Malcolm Consulting, Inc.


More Than a Pretty Face, Assessing the Impact of Packaging Changes
02 March, 2020

The functions of ‘the package’ are many and well-documented, especially from a sales and marketing standpoint; shelf presence, brand recognition, image, etc.  The package also provides product protection and meets regulatory requirements. As such, an important aspect of packaging isn’t readily apparent.  It is how the package integrates into manufacturing and production.

Ultimately, the packaging part of a production line effects how efficiently a product is filled, packed and shipped. Frequently, the packaging a product is introduced with rarely endures for its entire lifetime. Although changes to existing packaging also impact manufacturing, production and shipping updates are often perceived as easy to implement and referred to as “just” a packaging change.  However, packaging changes, like any other project, should have a project plan, budget, and a multi-functional team that includes a packaging expert to assess the overall impact of the changes.  For this reason, it is critical to consult a packaging expert early in the project when considering packaging changes.

There are many reasons to refresh packaging, but first and foremost, the team must assess what is driving the packaging change. Is the new packaging meant to improve sales, increase demand, respond to customer needs, change product sizes, implement new technology, or respond to regulatory requirements?  What is the intended return on the investment? Ultimately, the change must lead to a positive impact on the bottom line. Not taking the time to evaluate all the effects of a packaging change can lead to expensive, unexpected consequences.

For example, the marketing department at a successful winery with a well-defined process for reviewing package changes was anxious to roll out a new bottle shape. As a result, the review process was by-passed. The change was made without consulting production or packaging engineering personnel. The result was a design that jammed on the filling lines and pallet loads that could not be handled by existing equipment. The alternatives: Run slower. Add personnel. Make major modifications to existing equipment. Some combination of the above. None of these options were budgeted.

Engaging with a packaging expert who has broad experience implementing packaging changes is a great way to get a 360° view of all the impacts of the change. They coordinate with the team to scope the cost, timeline, and marketing aspects of the project including the following:

  • Machinery Requirements: New machinery is expensive and purchasing it can make or break the return on investment for a packaging change. One of the first steps in evaluating a packaging change is to determine whether the current machinery can be updated to handle the changes or if new machinery is required. Are the modifications such as change parts or the purchase of new equipment justified by the projected increases in sales? Depending on the answer to this question, teams may want to consider design alternatives that minimize this impact. Often, the desired effect can be achieved using a less impactful technology.  Is it feasible to decrease costs by leaving out features, innovative technology or complexity?
  • Production Impacts:  Whether updating existing machinery or purchasing new, the full scope of introducing packaging changes into production should be well understood. Can the production line handle the packaging change? Keep in mind, machinery changes are not just about the footprint; utility capacity, speed of production, personnel requirements, and ramp-up time are all important considerations.
  • Shipping & Packing Efficiency: Seemingly minor changes can affect how the product is packed, shipped, and received. Packing efficiency, weight per pallet, pallet configuration, easy of packing, loading, unloading and unpacking - all impact supply chain costs. Shipping, receiving and incorporating new packaging materials on the line also impacts on production.
  • Stakeholder Requirements: Packaging serves multiple purposes, and it is important for any new packaging changes to consider the needs of all the stakeholders. Does the new packaging still meet regulatory requirements? Does it trigger new ones?  Does it still fulfill customer requirements and expectations?  Is the new packaging durable enough to survive the supply chain while protecting the product?  A new label stock that looks good on mock-ups in the designer’s office can have the opposite effect on the store shelf if it is scuffed or otherwise damaged when it gets there.  The wine industry is littered with tales of label changes that were seemingly simple but could not survive the process of getting the product to the retailer without special handling or changes to the secondary packaging. 
  • Additional Resources: Capital equipment costs include more than just the price of the machinery. There are personnel costs involved in implementing new machinery or procedures into production. Are additional personnel needed to run the line?  Do your personnel have the skill sets to work on and maintain the machinery?  Do you need to hire specialists? Can training bridge that gap?  How much testing will be required?

These are just a few of the considerations when looking at a packaging change holistically [from production to shelf]. The key is capturing the tradeoffs between marketing needs and manufacturing needs early to ensure a packaging change is profitable.  Even implementing regulatory requirements that increase cost with no expectation for increased sales, need to be evaluated.

Packaging changes can breathe new life into an existing product, refresh a brand, and increase sales. However, a successful packaging change requires thoughtful integration of new materials, the machinery, and the personnel into production without costly surprises. The key is consulting with stakeholders early and utilizing internal or external packaging experts for insights and guidance to ensure packaging changes minimize shipping disruptions and increasing sales.

 

If you have a packaging change on the horizon and need advice on how to move ahead strategically, give me a call at 925-997-4626 or shoot me an email at andy@malcolmconsulting.com.


Invest in Your Project's Success
17 December, 2019

Budgeting for a detailed Factory Acceptance Test is an investment in your winery project’s success. If you’ve ever had trouble convincing whoever makes and approves the capital equipment budgets in your organization to invest in a thorough FAT, read on…

Packaging World recently featured an article “Successful FATs Improve Equipment Start-Ups” by Jim Chrzan. While his recommendations may add some cost, and the payback may be hard to quantify, your system will start up faster and achieve higher efficiencies when you invest in a detailed FAT. Below I’ll describe a few additional hot buttons that I am particularly adamant about when I work with my clients.

 

Preparing the Plan

First, I insist on a detailed test plan.  To me, this is a ‘no brainer’. I can’t imagine approaching an FAT any other way. In the life sciences industry, the FAT Plan is extremely detailed. In addition to the performance runs, it often includes verification of every wire, sensor, and HMI screen. It is reviewed and approved ahead of time. Such an approach is costly but it reduces risk down the road; an imperative in that world. In a less regulated environment, you still need a written plan including drawings and lists to be verified.

While we’re on the subject, there are two schools of thought as to who should be responsible for writing the FAT Plan; customer or vendor.  With proper planning, either approach can work.  Some are of the opinion that having the vendor write the FAT Plan is a little like having the fox guard the hen house; that the vendor’s incentive is to put together a plan that is less rigorous to ensure the equipment passes.  To make either approach work, the vendor needs to be totally in tune with the level of testing that will need to be performed.

I’ve helped clients create a ‘sanitized’ FAT Plan to demonstrate the level of detail expected.  We include this as an attachment to all Requests for Proposal which, in turn, helps to avoid the need for conversations about whether the vendor budgeted enough resources on their end when they quoted the project.

The advantage of having the vendor prepare the plan is that it eliminates the need to ‘reverse engineer’ the system to write the plan.  When the customer writes the FAT Plan, it is necessary to have final versions of drawings and documentation ahead of time in order to do the aforementioned ‘reverse engineering’.  This can lead to longer time lines waiting for documentation to be finalized.

Either way, it is incumbent on the customer to thoroughly review and approve the FAT Plan ahead of time.  In addition, the better (and smarter) vendors will use the document to pre-execute the FAT prior to the customer’s arrival.

 

Assembling the Team

I am a huge proponent of engaging the operators and technicians. Get your people involved early. Have them actively participate in the FAT. Insist that your people set up and operate the machine with vendor oversight. Have them navigate their way through the HMI screens and understand how to respond to alarm conditions. Also, this is a great opportunity to start drafting your operating procedures. If the vendor will accommodate the participation of lead operators and maintenance personnel during debug, do it!

Better yet, provide for this activity in the purchase agreement. It is often difficult to get management to approve the costs associated with this level of participation (e.g., travel, wages, time away from ongoing production), but it is well worth the investment. Your people will be more familiar with the equipment, take ownership in it, and be better equipped to troubleshoot it without external support.

 

Executing the Plan

Nothing does more to set the wrong tone than arriving at the vendor’s facility without a plan for executing the FAT.  I create and distribute a matrix showing what parts of the plan will be executed hour-by-hour during the FAT and by whom. I share it with the vendor and revise it based on their input.  It is then distributed to all concerned.

For each section, a customer operator or technician is identified for the hands-on work.  That person is paired with a vendor technician to familiarize them with the exact location of components and how to execute test scripts.  Having a third person, often an engineer or supervisor, read off the test scripts and record the results as an added bonus.  This approach demonstrates to the vendor the importance given to the FAT process.

 

The Big Picture

Keep in mind the purpose of the FAT. The goal when you leave is to have confidence that the system will perform in your facility. This is a team effort. It is in everybody’s interest to have a successful FAT. It is more important that the system starts up with as few hiccups as possible. Focus on issues that are better solved at the factory than on your floor. It is much, much easier to modify software than machine parts in the field.

Speaking of parts, insist that the complete set of spare parts that you ordered with the machine will ship with it. Inventory them during FAT. It is a given that some part will fail or get damaged during start-up and you want a reasonable chance of avoiding extended down time waiting for the part to arrive.

 

This article brings back some vivid memories…both good and bad. What has been your experience?


Ensure Company Success with Good Vendor Relationships
02 December, 2019

Do you think of equipment vendors only as line items on the budget for your capital equipment projects?  Maybe you should think of them more as valuable resources with more to offer than just pieces of machinery.  Every relationship that you can draw on to make your projects successful is an asset that you bring to the table; another tool in your toolbox.

Here are some tips for making the most of your vendor relationships.  As you read through them, you’ll likely realize that these relationships take time to establish along with sustained effort.  One way to jumpstart the process is to partner with a consultant who has made it a priority to establish and maintain relationships with quality vendors.

Think of Vendors as Assets

Keep in mind that vendors provide equipment to industries outside of wineries. Through their experience with a variety of customers, they’ve often encountered unexpected challenges not too dissimilar to the ones you face and successfully implemented creative solutions.

Take advantage of vendor insight and knowledge as if they possess a kind of foresight or sixth sense. Keep in mind; these contacts are also valuable after the capital project ends. They offer troubleshooting tips from experience or can share lessons learned in the field.

Reciprocate Relationships 

There is that old adage: treat others as you would like to be treated. Reciprocity is especially valid with vendor relationships. Remember, relationships with vendors are a two-way street. Utilize their expertise, but don’t waste their time or keep them waiting unnecessarily. Even if you decide to engage with another company, reward their efforts with other opportunities and refer them to colleagues or other friends in the business.

Reciprocating also means treating consultants and vendors with respect and gratitude. There will come a time when you leave a message for a vendor, and you will expect a call back even if they can’t help with your request. So, always return calls even if it is to say, “I don’t need anything at this time.”  Use the call as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship.

Stay in Touch

Do you have one of those friends who only calls when they need help with something? How does that make you feel? This is similar to how some companies treat their vendors. Relationships with vendors are ultimately predicated on a business transaction.  However, sometimes you just need that favor; a budgetary price or the name of someone you both worked with a long time ago. Maintaining contact with a vendor between those requests can mean the difference between “Who are you?” and “We are here for you!” when you call.

Consultants have many customers. Maintaining contact with them between projects can elevate you to ‘preferred client’ status. And it doesn’t take much. It can be as simple as sending company holiday cards. Make arrangements to catch up over lunch (and offer to buy occasionally) or during tradeshows.  Be sure to show an interest in their latest offerings.  You never know when it will help you solve a problem.

Pay it Forward

Keep in mind, vendors are invested in the success of your project as much as you are. It is also a good idea to invest in their success. The more successful they are, the more insight and support they can offer you.

Beyond the success of any individual project, pay forward achievements by sharing leads, offering testimonials, and providing your project insights. Be sure to meet with vendors after a project is done to share successes, provide honest feedback, and to find what you can do to help them out.

Work the Network

In the grand scheme of things, the wine industry is small and niche. It is no surprise that vendors, consultants, and producers either know each other or are familiar with one other…and their reputations. As such, you partially derive good standing in the network from good relationships. Since your reputation precedes you, it’s worth the effort to make sure yours is a good one.

These five points are a few of the keys to maintaining good vendor relationships, but ultimately, the best reason is satisfaction. Seriously, as long as we all have to work for a living, we might as well enjoy it.  There is nothing better than enjoying what you do for a living. Interpersonal relationships are a significant part of any job. Things just run more smoothly when you share common ground.  And good relationships are the difference between dreading a two-hour meeting with a vendor and genuinely looking forward to spending the time working with people you like. When relations are friendly and pleasant, work is just plain more fun.

 

At PAMC, we embrace the familiarity among members of our network and encourage their interaction through our PAMC Networking Gatherings. During packaging shows, we invite clients, industry peers, and vendor representatives to gather and network with each other. The gatherings have proven to be an excellent way of building strong inner-industry relationships.  If you’re not receiving announcements for these events, contact us at info@malcolmconsulting.com to get on the list.


Saying Thank You is So Important
20 November, 2019

As we give thanks for what we have in our personal lives, it is natural to reflect on your business, and to make sure your community knows how much you value their support and contributions. We feel honored that we have clients who place their trust in us to help them accomplish their goals and build their business as we grow ours.


To be in business for 20 years requires having incredible people in your organization. We are very grateful that they contribute their time and creativity to make our business successful in every way.

We would like to thank our network of peers, many of whom are fellow consultants. Some have become advisers. Many are now friends. Although it is supposed to be work, we feel that we should enjoy what we do and the camaraderie of the people with whom we do it.

In the end we are grateful to have the opportunity to serve you and are thankful for what we do.

 

Thank you! 

Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

PAMC


Pre-owned equipment makes sense. Here's How to Keep from Being Burned.
06 November, 2019

The good news is that business is going well, and your winery or craft brewery is ready for an expansion or upgrades. The bad news is that capital equipment is expensive. Pre-owned machinery is one way to save money on that equipment. In our last post, we reviewed when to consider buying pre-owned equipment. Now that you’ve decided pre-owned equipment makes sense for your project, it’s time to separate the valuable from the junk and other equipment that won’t work for your needs.

As often as I’ve worked with pre-owned machinery, I felt like it was worthwhile talking with a friend who has been buying and selling pre-owned equipment for 40 years.  Surprisingly enough, even though his sales are ‘as is, where is’, it really doesn’t help his business, or his reputation, if what he sells does not ultimately solve his customer’s problem.  His additional insights were enlightening and are included here.

We cannot emphasize enough, the most critical factor when considering pre-own equipment is whether it meets your needs.  Those specifications should already be outlined in your user requirements document. So, before diving into looking under the hood of a piece of pre-owned equipment, revisit your user requirements.  Know what features are the highest priorities and what features have room for compromise. Keep in mind, not all compromises are equal, so make sure you establish early how much the project can afford.

Here are a few ways to ensure any piece of pre-owned equipment you select is right for your application.

 

Make Sure It Solves YOUR problem

Budgets are naturally high priorities for any project. Lower costs make pre-owned equipment easy to fall in love with.  However, buying pre-owned does not mean settling for the wrong piece of equipment just because it’s a “really great deal.” 

Remember, the original owner bought the pre-owned equipment for another project based on different user requirements. As such, the pre-owned equipment is not likely to be a perfect fit. This is why it is so important to treat your user requirements as an authoritative guide that ensures any “really great deal” is also “really what you need.”

 

Bring Along the Experts

Just as you sought input from various stakeholders and experts when writing the user requirements, they should be part of the decision when evaluating pre-owned equipment. It is also a good idea to engage an equipment expert to evaluate pre-owned equipment, especially when dealing with an unfamiliar process or higher level of technology. Bear in mind, the best expert for the evaluation may not be on staff. An outside equipment consultant is a valuable resource for finding and evaluating pre-owned equipment.  

We’ll talk in a few weeks about the value of building relationships with equipment vendors.  For now, suffice to say, if you have a good relationship with the original manufacturer, another option is to enlist their help, even offer to pay for their time, to do a ‘once over’ assessment for you. 

 

Do a Little Detective Work

At the risk of stating the obvious, the quality of pre-owned equipment varies widely. It runs the gamut from ’brand-new but never used’ to ‘decades old with thousands of operating hours’. Unfortunately, there isn’t an equivalent to CarFax to consult, so the buyer needs to do their homework.

The seller may provide some of the history, but it is always a good idea to dig deeper. Contact the manufacturer, request maintenance logs, and contact companies servicing the equipment. Ask about the original installation, modifications, updates, warranty repairs, service, and maintenance. Use your network.  Ask around.  You’d be surprised what you can learn.  Find out if there is a history of problems with the brand or model of the equipment under consideration. Then, assess the risk posed to your application by the piece of equipment.

Also, view equipment available on the internet with caution. It is often difficult to assess what is good or bad via an online advertisement. Physical verification is a must. Reputable dealers will encourage a site visit.  Pass on anyone who discourages one.

 

Assess Risk

Given that pre-owned equipment isn’t going to be an exact fit for your user requirements, make sure any compromises are well understood. Remember, the equipment might be readily available, but parts, upgrades, and any customizations require time and money. Be sure to include the lead time, cost and labor when assessing an acquisition.  

One increasingly important item that is often overlooked is software. Check whether the software licensing and support are included with the purchase. Make sure the operating system is up to date and that the manufacturer still supports it. Also include time and resources for programming and training as well.

 

Validate the Equipment

Alongside inspecting the equipment itself, it is just as important to inspect the supporting documentation that comes with it. Documentation should be part of a pre-purchase inspection and explicitly mentioned in the contract.  Manuals, guides, drawings, and specifications are expensive to recreate, reverse engineer, or purchase. Proper documentation for the equipment is the difference between new equipment sitting idle for weeks or months and bringing it online immediately. This is especially true in heavily regulated industries. Also, the contract should specify how any warranty transfers are executed unless the equipment is sold “as is.”

For all the reasons we mentioned in our last blog, pre-owned equipment can be an excellent way to go. With due diligence and enough precaution, there are tremendous bargains to be had for pre-owned equipment in excellent condition.  The keys are to know what you’re getting and always make sure it meets your specifications


When to Consider Buying Pre-Owned Equipment
01 November, 2019

When deciding whether to buy a new or used car, the decision depends on a number of factors - and money isn’t always number one.  Determining whether a new or pre-owned equipment purchase makes sense depends on the situation. As an engineer or production manager, it is always fun to dream of all the possibilities that the custom features and built-to-spec options offer. But when the rubber hits the pavement, there are many advantages to opting for a used car instead. Similarly, pre-owned equipment can offer several advantages over buying new.

 

There are many reasons pre-owned equipment is available, and it is worthwhile to consider it as an option.  Before reading further, note that pre-owned does not necessarily mean used.  There is a significant difference. It is often possible to find pre-owned equipment that has never been used or is only lightly used. The seller may have purchased it, but never installed it for one reason or another. It may have been a back-up or temporary unit used for a brief period to bridge a gap in production or to launch a product that never took off.

 

The Big Two: Time and Money

Most capital equipment is built-to-spec after the order is placed; the buyer gets exactly what they want with features tailored to their specific application. Buying new also ensures the buyer gets what they want by way of warranties and support packages. If the buyer has the budget and time for this, new equipment is probably the way to go.

 

However, when time is an issue, vendors don’t typically have a large inventory of equipment sitting around ready to ship. In many situations, the lead times for made-to-order equipment don’t fit into the project timeline.

 

The cost of brand-new, customized equipment may also be prohibitive. This can be especially true for start-ups, new product launches, or when addressing unbudgeted capacity increases.  For these reasons, pre-owned equipment can be an excellent option for saving money and shortening timelines. It is typically discounted to listed catalog prices and ready for immediate delivery.

 

Here are some additional tips to bear in mind when considering pre-owned equipment.

 

Meeting Your Specifications

We cannot emphasize this enough – any piece of pre-owned equipment must be able to meet the project’s goals and expectations.  This is where equipment expertise becomes invaluable.  In fact, though it may seem odd, there are strong arguments for writing a specification prior shopping for pre-owned machinery.

The price and availability of pre-owned equipment might be attractive, but if its specifications do not match the need, then it’s not the bargain it seems. Certainly, a piece of pre-owned equipment may not precisely match desired specifications, but not all compromises are equal. Make an informed decision on pre-owned equipment by evaluating the time and costs associated with adjusting for any compromises and compare that to the bottom line for buying new.

 

Urgent Need

Determine whether fast timelines are because an urgent need must be addressed or because of artificially imposed deadlines. If there is an urgent need – a spike in orders, failing equipment, new demand – then consider pre-owned equipment as a stop-gap measure to meet that need while new equipment is made. This might sound like an additional expense but reselling pre-owned equipment once new equipment is online can recoup much of that expense.

 

Proof of Concept

 In some cases, pre-owned equipment might serve as a prototyping tool to test a concept. An innovative production process might be under consideration, but it is risky to invest in new equipment on an unproven idea. Pre-owned machinery is an excellent way to do proof-of-concept evaluation to test the new process without the hefty investment. An added benefit is that teams learn what does and doesn’t work allowing them to dial in specifications for the new equipment before it is purchased. Think of renting the car you’re interested in buying to see if it works for your transportation needs.

 

Market Entry

For producers starting up or entering a new market, pre-owned equipment offers a lower cost and faster time to market than new. Teams can test out new products on a limited basis to evaluate market demand and estimate the size of the market. Gaining quick market entry is a valuable way to establish yourself as a forerunner in an emerging market or to quickly gain foothold in a new market segment. As the new products gain market share, pre-owned equipment can be phased out, and new equipment can be purchased to fulfill the demand.  The pre-owned unit(s) can be sold or re-purposed as back-up capacity, for R&D, or as a pilot plant.

There are many reasons to consider pre-own equipment, but as with a used car, buyers should proceed with precaution. Kicking the tires, looking under the hood and even test-driving is, of course, necessary. Beyond assurances that the pre-owned equipment functions, remember that the most important consideration before investing in pre-owned equipment is that it must meet the expectations of the users and goals of the capital project.

 


Our Approach to Your Packaging Project
23 September, 2019

 

First, we take the time to get to know you, your needs, priorities, and team culture. We meet with personnel in all departments that will be affected by the final project results. We find out what your team needs to accomplish and what they expect out of a successful project. Then, we execute it.

We treat the project as if we will be living with the results ourselves.

In the conceptual and planning phases, we try to anticipate and address all eventualities. We pay close attention to the details and ask ourselves, ‘What would happen if…?’

During the execution and start-up phases, we follow through and adjust as needed. Although we all like to think there is such a thing as a perfectly planned project, we recognize that this is seldom the case. Our strength lies in how we anticipate and adapt to the unexpected to achieve the desired result. Great planning without the ability to adjust will not be successful and vice versa.

And, when the project is completed to your full satisfaction, we go away until the next time you need us. But not without making sure that you know how to reach us – we’re just a phone call away for questions and follow-up.


A Project Plan Is a Roadmap to Success for Your Capital Project
11 September, 2019

The start of a capital equipment project is an exciting time, much like a journey.  As with a journey, it is worthwhile for your whole team to participate as you develop a project plan that can be used as a roadmap to achieve your goals.

 

Think of it this way. You embark on a trip with your family with the goal of reaching your destination within a certain time frame.  You’re not really sure how to get there, however you figure you’re a smart person and can just wing it.  You head out.  Without directions and proper planning, your trip soon descends into chaos and the family threatens to jump ship!

 

Now imagine that same trip with a roadmap. You start by picking the destination, and then determine the route. This activity forces you to think about all the turns and stops you’ll need to make. Perhaps you’ll even re-think the destination if a better opportunity arises or include some ‘milestone’ stops along the way.  

The effort that goes into the planning makes the trip run smoother for everyone.

 

Unfortunately, we’ve seen that generating a project plan can be viewed as unnecessary.  It can be challenging. It is time-consuming. And it can be daunting with many options to evaluate and decisions to be made. 

In our experience, we find creating a project plan helps keep everyone on track and focused on the finish line.

 

The beauty of a project plan as a roadmap is that it reduces the likelihood of having to deal with “surprises,” costly detours and circuitous routes. Rather than being distracted by missteps, your team can focus on the project goals and enjoy the journey.

 

There is a misconception that when preparing for a capital equipment project, creating a project plan stifles spontaneity and limits choices before you’ve even hit the road. The thinking goes, “If we have a detailed itinerary, we might miss the opportunity to try something new (innovative technology) or off-the-beaten path creative solutions.”

 

At PAMC, we’ve found the opposite to be true. The process of developing a detailed project plan provides the opportunity to consider innovative technologies and creative solutions. Furthermore, including input from all the passengers (stakeholders) in creating and reviewing the project plan and getting their buy-in ensures there is less bickering and more enjoying the ride.

 

To get started, here is an overview for creating a project plan as a roadmap for success.

1. Set the Destination: Project Goals

Ultimately, a capital equipment project is not an adventure for adventure’s sake. Stakeholders, investors, and customers have expectations (improved production, quality, efficiency, cost, etc.) and the first thing a project team must tackle is clearly identifying the destination.

Questions:  How do we meet expectations? What outcomes do we want?

 

2. Plot the Route: Timeline, Budget, and Milestones

There is more than one way to get from Point A to Point B. The next step is to set a few constraints. Available time and budget sensitivity are typically overarching limits. Setting time-based, budget-based, or stage-based milestones establishes a rough route for the project.

Questions: What are the constraints? What are the priorities?

 

3. Talk to the Passengers: Stakeholder Engagement

Get various perspectives on the advantages and disadvantages of the options. Now is the time to talk to your ‘passengers’. This includes all job functions that will be impacted by the project.  Each of them has expertise and insights that can help a project go forward smoothly. Now is also the opportunity to review the project plan and look for opportunities to explore side destinations and innovation.

Questions: What are the User Requirements? Where can we innovate?

 

4. Preparing: Revision and Consensus

After gathering ideas and input, use them to plot and commit to the the route. Some suggestions may compete with others. Trade offs will be necessary.  Share the plan and negotiate.  The result will likely include some compromises. That’s fine, if it means everyone can buy into the resulting document.  

Questions: What are the trade offs? How do we reach consensus?  How do we inform stakeholders?

 

5. Hitting the Road: Project Launch

Questions were asked and answered. The project plan was created. Be sure to publicize the plan so all stakeholders remain well-informed.  Time to ‘load up’ and get started.

 

6. Detours and Roadside Attractions: Deviation and Re-engagement

Treat the project plan as a living document. It is a baseline. Refer to it frequently, especially when you feel like you are straying off course or are at a crossroads and aren’t sure which way to proceed. When traveling, a roadmap shows alternative routes. One of the significant advantages of the project plan is the opportunity to evaluate the impact of potential deviations on the timeline, budgets, and milestones, allowing for a decision whether to adjust or stay the course. 

Questions: Does it make sense to deviate? Are we still on track to meet expectation?

 

It does take time to create a project plan, to consider all the possibilities and then define the steps to pursue those possibilities. However, it is critical to invest in the effort to ensure your capital project is headed in the right direction.

If you need a firm that has been involved in a wide variety of projects, from mid-range to complex – and asks the right questions up front, PAMC can lend its expertise to keep your project on track and on budget.


Hidden Costs in Budgeting for Your Capital Project
12 August, 2019

As mentioned in our previous post on budgeting for your Capital Project, it is often thought that “unforeseen” costs inevitably push projects over budget. However, the costs are typically less “unforeseen” and more “overlooked.” Examining a project budget and asking key questions early in the process can ensure a project stays on track.

Many of these hidden expense fall into one of five categories: travel, training, testing, spare parts and regulatory compliance.

Each phase of the project should be scrutinized to ensure expenses falling into these categories are not overlooked. Furthermore, each should be captured under its own budgetary line item. And finally, at the end of the process, it is imperative to include budgetary contingency to manage risks.

 

Travel

Scouting out new equipment requires traveling to multiple vendors; often internationally. That means a potential for multiple trips before a quote is even requested. Once a piece of equipment is selected, additional travel will be necessary to kick off the project, work out and update designs, inspect equipment and perform acceptance testing. As much as we rely on electronics in the digital world, face-to-face is still the best method of communication in many instances and there is no substitute for seeing machinery firsthand. Travel is also not limited to the project manager or lead. It should include operations, maintenance, and quality personnel, as well as engineering and other key stakeholders.

 

Training

Early in a project, determine who will need to be trained and whether training will be conducted at the vendor’s factory, on your own site or both. Figure that managers and line operators will need to receive training; not just production leads.  Vendors do not always include travel and training fees in their quotes. They also do not always include training aids and documentation in those fees. Keep in mind, a custom piece of equipment may require the vendor to create custom materials at an additional cost.

 

Spare Parts

It is hard to imagine having to replace parts on equipment before the project even begins, but the reality is that parts break and machinery wears. Many startups have been delayed for lack of a seemingly simple widget.  Although future supplies will likely be rolled into operating costs, it is important to make sure that an initial set of spare parts is on hand when the equipment arrives. Accountants may have something to say about whether the initial stock of spare parts is expensed or capitalized, but they need to be accounted for and not pushed off until the next budget cycle.

 

Testing

Before the equipment arrives at your site, it will be operated at the vendor’s facility for initial setup, debugging, and for Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT). Most vendors provide for an FAT in their quotes.  Be sure that their idea of what constitutes a satisfactory level of testing matches yours. Staffing over and above the vendor’s allowance will come at a cost.  The same applies after installation at your site.

A substantial amount of production-quality materials, as well as their corresponding shipping and disposal costs, are needed for on-site testing and debugging. These costs can add up quickly and are one of the most overlooked and underestimated. In addition, initial testing and debugging may require running maximum load, cycling and extended break-in periods. So it is important to consider energy and water consumption during testing.  A vendor can provide initial estimates, but it pays to make sure everyone agrees on what testing must be performed and how long it will take.

 

Regulatory Compliance

Sometimes costs associated with atypical regulatory requirements get left out of the budget. For example, in earthquake prone California, seismic evaluation and anchoring is required for fixed equipment that weighs more than 700-lbs. The evaluation and design of custom parts may be a substantial cost that will require the services of a registered structural engineer.

Getting familiar with your municipalities unique regulatory requirements is also key to staying ahead of unexpected regulatory fees. For example, some municipalities require UL rated electrical cabinets. If a vendor is not suitably qualified, third-party certification may be needed before operation can begin.

Of course, unexpected things always pop up, which is why a properly prepared budget includes a line for contingency. Contingency is a reserve of money that is not allocated to a particular part of the budget. The assumption is that the contingency will be spent – it’s just not clear on what. The size of the contingency is based on risk levels which may lead to scheduling delays or acceleration, scope adjustments, or other extraordinary events. Contingency is typically calculated as a percentage of the total budget. It is unrealistic to apply a 0% contingency by assuming all eventualities can be predicted.

Ultimately, creating a budget is less a work of art and more a product of experience and expertise.  PAMC specializes in project management. Our experience can help provide insight and guidance from budgeting through project completion.


Outsourcing Your Packaging and Automation Engineering
30 July, 2019

You can't staff for all of the demands placed upon your engineering team.  When that extra project hits, we've got you covered.


Complete Project Management

When an equipment purchase or production line implementation is beyond your in-house expertise, we’ll handle the whole project. We’re known for being thorough to make sure there are no surprises and you meet your objectives.  [Read more]


Engineering Staff Augmentation

Deep industry and engineering expertise allow us to come up to speed quickly, immediately easing the workload on your engineering team. We adapt to your company’s practices and documentation — or can contribute our own based upon decades of experience as needed.  [Read more]


Representative Projects

Since 1999 we’ve helped our clients in life sciences, wine, and food & beverage industries tackle complex packaging and automation challenges or simply supplement an existing engineering team.  Our projects range from up-front work of planning and budgeting to start-up support and efficiency studies.  [Read more]


Budgeting for Your Capital Project
17 July, 2019

Like crafting a signature red blend, creating a budget for a capital project can sometimes feel like a cross between guesswork, sorcery and luck. As any project management expert will explain, there is no black magic involved. Instead, budgeting for a capital project requires insight, forward thinking, and an attention to detail.

 

Projects begin with a business need and a goal for fulfilling it. “We want to achieve X by improving Y.” This is where budgeting begins. A budget sizes up the opportunity and creates a starting point for what is affordable. This sets the stage for what capital equipment purchases can be justified.

 

Once identified, the project requirements should guide the selection of equipment.  It should be a straightforward exercise to figure out how much that equipment will cost.  However, capital project expenses include more than just the price tag of the equipment.  Other considerations contribute to the final cost.

 

To determine these costs, most project managers will then ask the following questions:

 

1. What facility modifications are needed?
It might seem obvious that additional space is needed to house new equipment, but the impacts of integrating the new space and equipment may not be apparent. Will plumbing need to be rerouted? Is there enough electrical service? Is new fire-safety equipment needed? Does the floorplan need to be modified? Will equipment fit through existing doors (don’t laugh) and, is specialized machinery required for installation?

 

2. Does your in-house staff have the expertise and bandwidth?
During the project, additional engineering resources may be needed for implementation. Your staff may or may not have has the technical expertise to run the project. Will an added project take too much time away from performing “their day job”? You don’t want to see quality or performance suffer in the daily operations that facilitate your growth.

 

3. How do we minimize disruption of current production?
While it may be feasible to integrate new equipment without disrupting ongoing production, it isn’t likely. However, it is feasible to minimize downtime through planning. Facility modifications can be accomplished in advance during planned shutdowns and, with planning, multiple procedures can be completed during each shut down period. Either way, the costs associated with bringing in staff or mobilizing contractors for shutdown work is rightfully a project cost.

 

During the project planning phase, capturing all budget items is a vital part of the process. Asking the right questions up front can ensure a project stays on budget and still includes all of features that allow it to meet its long-term expectations.

 

When a capital improvement project overruns its budget, a winery is left with a difficult decision. They can abandon the original plan and reduce scope. This means that anticipated production improvements are downgraded, and the project will likely not achieve its justification. They can go back to management, owners, or investors to request additional funds. Both options also lead to erosion of trust with key stakeholders making it harder to get projects approved in the future. So, it is critical to get the budget right before the design process begins or the first piece of equipment is purchased.

 

In budgeting for a capital project (and we can’t stress this enough) unforeseen costs can push projects over budget.  Typically, the costs are less “unforeseen” and more “overlooked.” Carefully examining a project plan and asking key questions early in the process can ensure a project stays on budget with no luck required.

 

Stay tuned – in our next blog, we will address some hidden “budget buster” costs that are all-too-often overlooked.


PAMC Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary
01 July, 2019

 

 

 

PAMC is proud to announce our 20th year serving the Wine, Food and Beverage, 

and Life Sciences industries.

 

Our Story

Andy Malcolm always knew he wanted to own his own company.  He just didn’t know what type of business it would be.  After graduating from Cornell University with a Degree in Mechanical Engineering thanks to a Navy ROTC Scholarship, Andy entered the US Navy and was stationed aboard the USS Barbour County.  It was here Andy developed his ability to coordinate and motivate diverse personnel to complete critical projects.

 

As do so many in the industry, Andy fell into packaging quite unexpectedly. Working as a Maintenance Supervisor at Owens-Illinois Glass Company, he gained practical, real-world experience troubleshooting and maintaining production and packaging equipment along with industrial facilities.

 

Up next for Andy was a transition to the wine industry as the Production Engineer for Sutter Home Winery, where he learned the ins and outs of all aspects of winery operations, from crushing, through the cellar to bottling. Andy is proud of his achievements here – in particular, his involvement in executing an award-winning redesign of a full line of wine packaging.  While he was at it, Andy earned his MBA at St. Mary’s College of California, further convincing the entrepreneur in him that he should start his own business.  Consulting seemed like a viable option.

 

An opportunity to be the Manager of Packaging Technology for Eichleay Engineers allowed Andy to learn the consulting business and formalize his approach to managing engineering and capital equipment projects. Andy credits Eichleay with his exposure to and subsequent involvement in the Life Sciences industry.

 

Ultimately, in 1999 Andy struck out on his own starting P. Andrew Malcolm Consulting (PAMC) and for the last 20 years has been an independent consultant working on a wide variety of winery, life science, and food and beverage projects.

 

Andy has enjoyed the diversity of the projects and feels it has benefited him by strengthening his ability to work with a broad range of clients and packaging projects.

 

As Andy says, “There isn’t much I haven’t seen or can’t figure out.” 

 

As we celebrate our 20 years in business, we would like to thank our clients for their loyalty and confidence in our work.  We especially appreciate the network of friends and peers who have supported us and made the journey so enjoyable.  Although it is supposed to be work, Andy feels that we should enjoy what we do and the camaraderie of the people with whom we do it.

 

If you would like to contact Andy to talk with him about your upcoming bottling or packaging project or expansion, please reach out to him a andy@malcolmconsultants.com or 925-997-4626

 

To learn more about Andy and PAMC, visit malcolmconsulting.com


Production Matters
04 June, 2019

As production requirements grow, you may need to upgrade equipment or establish entirely new facilities. 

If this is you, you might be looking for someone with the expertise to help you manage projects ranging from crush pad and cellar installations through bottling lines, as well as individual requirements like package design and testing.  At PAMC we are familiar with all aspects of winery facilities.

When packaging and automation needs stretch beyond the capacity or expertise of your existing engineering team, it’s important to work with a firm that brings industry experience into the project.

Here are a few of the ways some of the top names in the wine industry have taken advantage of our expertise:

  • Defined scope outlining all equipment, facility, and utility requirements for multi-use facility
  • Created specifications and managed installation of packaging and process equipment
  • Specified design and performance requirements for each piece of equipment on a 12,000 case per day contract bottling line
  • Identified and specified tenant improvements for an entire facility
  • Acted as Owner’s Representative to developer/contractor.

If you have plans for an upgrade or expansion feel free to give us a call at 925-997-4626 to discuss your unique circumstance.


Does the Winery Equipment You're Investing In Really Fit Your Needs?
21 May, 2019

Outfitting your winery is an exciting task but browsing equipment specifications with similar descriptions and little guidance for what truly fits your needs can be daunting. New equipment selection can feel like a distraction from the art of wine making as well as from more urgent production and sales activities. It is not unusual for a winery to base equipment purchases on what worked for neighboring wineries or the recommendations of an equipment dealer. Purchasing capital equipment is a major cost and a decision that should be made carefully.

 

Not all capital equipment purchases are created equal. Each winery has unique circumstances based on production requirements, business organization, personnel types and skills, location, varietals, facility capabilities and more. What worked for one winery doesn’t necessarily work for all wineries. Understandably, an equipment representative is looking to fit their equipment to your needs, but have you taken the time and asked the right questions – to clearly assess your project.

 

For this reason, it is essential to spend time on two principal activities for a capital equipment project – framing the project and defining user requirements.

 

Frame Your Project

Typical questions that might be asked could include:

 

  1. Is this a quality improvement project?

Home in on the aspect of quality you want to improve and determine what drives it. Perhaps it is efficiency or consistency or aesthetics or process inadequacies or product flaws. Knowing what is affecting quality helps define where to focus a capital improvement project. It also allows you to prioritize any peripheral systems under consideration.

  1. Is it a capacity building project?

A capacity-building project is more than focusing on current bottlenecks; a company’s history and future goals should inform it. Of course, there are limitations. Sure, a winery may hope to increase production by 10-fold in the future but is that a realistic goal relative to the ROI for the investment. Consider a multi-phase approach.  Perhaps forecasting double or quadruple capacity in the next few years results in cash flow to a future expansion on the way to that 10-fold increase.

  1. Is it to diversify or improve a winemaking style?

Expanding and refining product offerings should not be confused with expanding capacity. They are similar but with different considerations. Adding a new product may not increase production; it adds capability and requires new skillsets. Perhaps the goal is to increase capacity and expand product offerings. That is fine if they are differentiated from each other.

 

Rather than a “here and now” mentality, think about these questions holistically. Looking only at a winery’s historic growth and its current operations may lead to purchasing equipment that is quickly obsolete because it doesn’t fit future needs. Consider near-term and long-term forecasts and select equipment that balances the two. The funds may not be available to fulfill every long-term plan, but it may be possible to incorporate preparations for future improvements and expansions.

 

Based on the answers to questions like the above, you can formulate investment objectives that drive the project forward. Clear objectives help maintain focus on goals and inform not only the project’s strategy but the company’s strategy.

 

User Requirements Specification

Once familiar with the reasons behind undertaking a capital improvement project, it is time to create a User Requirements Specification (URS). Dedicate adequate time early in the project to creating a URS. Although gathering requirements and preferences from multiple user groups ranging from operators to maintenance to production seems like a lengthy process, it can save money, time and headaches down the road. A URS doesn’t only list the needs and desires from users; it also builds confidence in final decision tradeoffs and provides a road map when things begin to feel like there are straying off course.

 

As you build the URS, it is crucial to keep in mind the original goals for the project. When asked open-ended questions, users enjoy dreaming up pie-in-the-sky concepts that creep outside of the scope of the objectives laid out earlier. Continually look at suggested requirements and ask, “Why is this necessary?”

 

Every capital project is different, but that doesn’t mean lessons from other projects are not translatable. A significant advantage of working with a consultant is their experience in multiple projects and even other industries. PAMC brings this experience to every project to help define the scope, build a URS and allow you to make equipment purchases that fit your growth strategy.


Choosing Equipment Wisely for Your Winery
06 May, 2019

The purpose of a User Requirements Specification for your winery is to clearly and specifically document the requirements for the machine, system, or upgrade that you plan to buy or implement. (For our purposes, let’s call it a machine.)  The User Requirements Specification provides the project manager or engineer with her marching orders. ‘Go get us the machine to do what it says in this document.’

 

Project managers and engineers in large corporations and highly regulated industries know that the URS is the foundation upon which a capital project is built.  But this applies to the winemaking process as well. Done correctly, the URS specifies a machine that will repeatedly and reliable perform its role in grape and wine processing or bottling.  Equally if not more importantly, done wrong, you’re instructing your engineer to obtain a machine that is too much: too complex, too expensive, too big, or all the above.  It can be like buying a big rig to deliver pizzas. The flip side is that not scaled correctly, you may have a machine that you outgrow too quickly.

 

Everything costs something.  Be aware that every feature your team of users adds to the list as a ‘requirement’ is going to cost more money or more time to obtain. And, it will need to be tested to make sure it works as requested.  Is it really necessary to have frames made from stainless steel or would powder-coated mild steel meet the need?  Are servo-controlled positioners a ‘must have’ or would a couple of hand cranks work just as well?  Do you need to collect and store thirty pieces of data on every bottle the system fills, or can you narrow it down to three to five critical parameters that should be monitored?

 

Learning to ask ‘why?’ can be a valuable tool.  

As your team develops its list of requirements, it doesn’t hurt to politely and respectfully ask Why do we need that?’  What makes this necessary?  Is it something that the process requires or is it something that a member of the team wants because he thinks it would be cool to have?  Does it fulfill a regulatory requirement?  Does it make the machine more reliable or easier to maintain?  Is the machine still safe to operate without it?  Is it a ‘requirement’ or a nice-to-have ‘want’?

 

The Importance of Buy-In at the User Requirements Specification stage cannot be underestimated. 

There’s a reason more than one person signs off on a URS. Before a team member or user places a signature on the signature page, he has to be comfortable that what is written inside truly represents the requirements for the project, including his own.  One of the benefits of having a cross-departmental team involved in authoring the User Requirements Specification is the ability to synthesize thoughts and challenge the requirements on a cross-functional basis.  A good project manager will not ask for those signatures until she is confident that it contains only requirements, without the wants.

 

PAMC understands the importance of upgrading and / or choosing your new equipment wisely to handle the demands of your customers and your team.  Check out some of our work in the wine industry and contact us to help you with your next project.


Considering a Capital Project? Put the 'User' in User Requirements Specification.
25 April, 2019

The User Requirements Specification (or URS) is the foundation of any serious effort to buy or implement a machine, system, or upgrade.  Somebody somewhere decided that there is a need in the organization to be met.  More than likely, that decision was made while evaluating the situation from 10,000 or 30,000 feet.  They know that maintenance costs are too high, capacity is insufficient, or efficiencies are substandard. They gave someone money and authority to do something about it. Management set the project goals (cost reduction, capacity, efficiency) but that person became the Customer.

 

So, why is it called a User Requirements Specification?  It’s not a Management Requirements Specification or a Customer Requirements Specifications.  The purpose of the User Requirements Specification is to drill down to the next level and capture the attributes required by the Users of this new acquisition in order to meet the project goals.

This clarification begs the question:  What is a ‘User’?  A User is any person or group that is going to interact with the piece of equipment or have an interest in how it is used.  In the case of a filling machine, the most obvious user is the Production Manager or Supervisor whose people operate the bottling line.  But, does this manager or his people know the process parameters to be met?  Not necessarily.  Is it possible there is more than one User?  Yes.  Right away, we add Process Engineering (or Winemaking) to the list of Users.

 

What about the people who will keep the equipment running?  Do you think Maintenance should be consulted?  Absolutely.  They probably have preferences regarding the control system and other components they would like to see.  Their people are trained on particular platforms and they have spare parts in inventory.  By now you can see what we’re looking for.

 

Is Quality interested in how a new filling machine is going to be used?  Yes.  Quality is a User.

 

What about Facilities Engineering?  What type of electrical power is available and how much?  Is there enough compressed air to run the new machine?  Will it fit through the door?  (Don’t laugh.)  Better put them on the list.

 

And remember, If this is a winery project, be sure to involve Winemaking from the start.  They above all others will have a vested interest in how the wine is treated.

 

The Importance of Identifying All Your Users.  To be clear, not all of the Users need to sign off on the User Requirements Specification .  But it’s the author’s responsibility to make sure that the list of Users is complete, all of them are consulted, and their requirements considered.  Many of us have been involved in projects where one person learned of the project well after key decisions had been made.  Perhaps the order had been placed or (horror) the team was preparing to leave for the Factory Acceptance Test.  This person had a vested interest in the success of the project, but nobody had thought to consult him.  The next thing you know, everything comes to a screeching halt while the Project Team attempts to verify that the machine in question meets local safety or corporate engineering standards, or that it will accommodate a new product scheduled to launch six months after start-up.

 

Many times the tendency is to keep the list of those providing input to the User Requirements Specification to a minimum in order to save time and perceived complication.  Seldom is that a good idea.  Not every idea that one of your identified users comes up with has to be included, but they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand either.  Just now you saw where EH&S, Production Planning, and Marketing should have at least been asked for input.

 

Now, you tell me, did I miss anyone?


PAMC is Heading to WiVi!
12 March, 2019

Heading to WiVi tomorrow; lot's to see and hear about - If you would like to meet this evening or during the show, please contact me to talk about how we can help you or your in-house engineering staff tackle your project challenges,. 


You can e-mail here or at andy@malcolmconsulting.com or call 925-997-4626. Looking forward to a great event in Paso Robles! 

Complete Project Management

When an equipment purchase or production line implementation is beyond your in-house expertise, we’ll handle the whole project – on time and on budget. 

Our extensive experience in project management for Wine,

Food & Beverage companies allows us to lead projects from developing user requirements to defining scope, to implementation, startup, and validation.

Affiliations with additional experienced resources and our familiarity with equipment suppliers often allow us to execute on a project more quickly than in-house teams that are less specialized. Review some representative projects, or schedule a complimentary Engineering Project Assessment.

Deep industry and engineering expertise allow us to come up to speed quickly, immediately easing the workload on your engineering team. 

 

Using PAMC for engineering staff augmentation allows you to maintain the lower overhead of a smaller engineering team while knowing you can handle additional projects when demands require.

Here are just a few of the ways we may be able to help:

 

  • Define scopes for expansions and new facilities
  • Act as owner’s representative to contractors
  • Develop project plans for executing capital equipment projects
  • Manage purchase, installation, and start-up of custom-designed systems for bottling, packaging and processing
  • Develop best practices documentation
  • Perform efficiency studies on existing equipment and processes
  • Prepare specifications for new equipment to be purchased

Because of our experience in engineering staff augmentation in the Wine, Food & Beverage Industries, we are able to become productive members of your engineering team quickly.

Feel free to give us a call at 925-997-4626 to discuss your unique circumstance.

Project Manager for fully-automated, high capacity bottling line for WBM Top-30 winery.  Incorporated project tenants of flexibility, quality, efficiency, synchronization, and automation to identify innovative, leading edge equipment capable of running cased and bulk glass.

 

 

Project Engineer for Scope Definition phase of a greenfield, multi-use winery facility comprised of bottling, warehousing, and barrel handling operations in the Napa Valley. Developed detailed scope definition documents outlining all equipment, facility, and utility requirements for this state-of-the-art installation. Specified design and performance requirements for each piece of equipment on the 12,000 case per day contract bottling line. Identified and specified tenant improvements for the entire 150,000 s.f. facility. Acted as Owner’s Representative to developer/contractor.

 

Co-leader of project team that executed the complete redesign of a full line of wine packaging for a large Napa Valley winery. Responsible for equipment specification, procurement, and installation. This package earned an AmeriStar Package Award.

 

Project Manager and Engineer for the design and installation of a new bottling line created by combining equipment and conveyor components from three existing lines.

 

Production Engineer responsible for coordination and execution of multiple projects ranging in scope from package design and testing through packaging and process equipment specification, acquisition, and installation for a six-million plus case winery.

 

Project Engineer for winery cellar and crush pad expansion. Cooperage project added 4 million gallons of refrigerated cooperage on two sites including catwalks, wine transfer lines, and associated structures. Quintupled press capacity with the largest multiple grape press installation in the industry to that date; eight 50,000 liter bladder presses fed by a progressing cavity pump and extensive pomace discharge system.

 

Project Manager for installation phase of fast-track project to upgrade spirits processing facility in support of new products. Scope included adding stainless cooperage with associated pumps and instrumentation, new product transfer lines, modifications to existing piping, new RO filter, and modifications to hot water boiler system.

 

As Project Engineer, developed User Requirements Document for new bottling line equipment from de-casing through load building. Document clearly defined equipment requirements for a line capable of bottling full range of 750 ml package configurations including CIP-capable filler, cold glue and pressure sensitive labeling, cork and ROPP closures, label and case coding, and all conveying systems.