R.A Jones Speaks to NBC About the Importance of Quality Packaging Equipment & Service During the Pandemic

R.A Jones helps NBC News viewers understand how packaging equipment plays a major part in the supply chain for manufacturers to ensure their products are available for consumers to purchase. The video clip above is part of the interview that recently aired on 140 NBC news stations across the United States. The entire transcript of the conversation between Jodie Nicholes from NBCU with R.A Jones' Chief Sales Officer and Customer Service Director is below.

Jodie Nicholes: The pandemic has affected every corner of our world, including manufacturing. And it really kind of put things in the forefront of how the supply chain works, and that people weren't very familiar with this work. Give me a little background on what supply chain is and how it's important and imperative to keep goods coming into our homes.

Paul (Customer Service Director): Yeah, so, when we look at the supply chain, specifically from a packaging standpoint, the manufacturers manufacture their goods, which the consumers utilize in their homes. So, you know, meat, food, cleaning supplies, paper towels, hand sanitizers. And this whole supply chain starts with them putting their product into a container that consumers can utilize. And taking that container and putting it in a package that you can ship to and buy from a grocery store or buy from anywhere and consume. So, the supply chain starts from when they're manufacturing the product all the way to shipping the items to the consumer or the grocery store.

Jodie: And what has the pandemic done to this supply chain? Overall?

Paul: So, one of the challenges that the supply chain sees is a change in demand from the consumer side. A lot of our customers that use packaging equipment have multiple types of products that they produce, some for restaurants, some for commercial use, and then some for consumer use. The pandemic has changed the demand cycle of our customers, providing their products to consumers who are using more products at-home versus at work, in restaurants or while traveling. The demand is getting pushed to a consumer-based home use compared to commercial use. So, the size of the package changes, the shipments change, the supply shifts from going to restaurants to going to the supermarket. It adds stress to the supply chain because inventory and delivery logistics must change quickly as the demand changes.

Brian (Chief Sales Officer): The manufacturers have also had to change a lot of their safety protocols for their employees. So, you think about the meat industry, you know, twenty thousand individuals were infected or sick. A lot of safety protocols have been implemented across their facilities. Masks, gloves, gowns, plastic screens, plexiglass separators to maintain social distancing. It has also impacted machine maintenance and repair. The pandemic has caused a lot of facilities to restrict access, so maintenance repair that used to be rather easy has become rather difficult. A lot of organizations have sought to do remote support, which we offer. Remote support is very important right now. The pandemic has shut down a lot of physical access to the facilities.

Jodie: How can you guys keep production lines running and minimize downtime during the pandemic and keep people safe at the same time?

Paul: We focus on customer service. We've developed remote assistance, so we're able to help manufacturers remotely if they have downtime. We can do it virtually by having a virtual meeting with them. We've got tools that allow you to video chat at the machine. We can join the machine PLC (programmable logic controller) live and have our engineers work on the machine remotely. We also have service technicians located around the nation, so when there are travel restrictions, we're closer to the customers. This network helps us get service technicians to the manufacturer's facility faster. We also maintain a large stocked level of parts for our machines. So, in the time when supply chain and logistics are harder, in certain situations we can actually make our own parts and ship them directly to the customers. So, we've been making a lot more parts lately and helping our customers stay in production along with the inventory that we have. We've also supplied our customers with preventative maintenance kits, so as they go through downtime, they can use these kits to keep their machines running, and they don't have to get multiple shipments because it's in one large kit.

Brian: And along with providing the service support that they require; manufacturers need to be looking at and making sure that they're buying very flexible quality equipment. They need equipment that can do quite a few changeovers quickly. You know, we're noticing a lot of manufacturers and customers that we're supporting are really going to their less customized products, to more standard products right now. And they need the speed and flexibility to do that regularly. So, along with the service support, they need some flexible equipment that can operate at high efficiency.

Jodie: And what does that mean long term for manufacturing?

Brian: They're going to have to produce at a higher capacity. They're going to go more towards standardized, less customized equipment, and less customized products. They're going to need to put in all the safety protocols to make sure that their employees are safe and healthy. They're going to need machines that require fewer operators, and that is significantly more flexible. Nowadays, you can't predict the products that consumers will want five years down the road. So, you know 30 years ago, you could make a machine that ran one product for 15 or 20 years. Today, consumers are changing their minds quite frequently. Manufacturers are required to make sure they have high-end equipment that is flexible enough and at a capacity to run at a fast speed to be supportive of the market and the change in demands that are going on right now.

Jodie: I think that plays into this next question. Going forward, companies need to be investing in better equipment, better technology now to meet those demands six months, a year from now, correct?

Paul: Yeah. That's a great idea looking at flexibility, looking at high efficiency, looking at ways that when the demand changes, you can turn on a dime and be very efficient at filling the demand as it's created in the dynamic world.

Brian: Companies right now should be looking at robust, quality equipment that comes with strong service and support. You can see that traveling internationally has become very difficult right now. Manufacturers and suppliers should be looking at US-based support, because, obviously, international travel is restricted. So absolutely, they need to invest and find a partner that can meet their demands, that can work with them on customization.

Jodie: What has the industry, as a whole, learned as a result of the pandemic?

Paul: I think one of the things the industry learned is that they need to be dynamic and flexible to meet not only quantity demand, but also the demands of a changing market quickly. If they are set up to only do one style or size product all of the time, and the market demands a change in style or size, it puts them in a bind as far as producing items. So, they have to focus on their long-term strategic plan of how to meet consumers’ changing demands and be flexible when it comes to size and style. It will change whether it’s a pandemic or just consumer habits. They have to work on their flexibility of the design from their equipment standpoint. 

Brian: I think they've also learned that they need equipment that requires minimum operators and maintenance. They need equipment that can run for a long time without a lot of operation support. Illness has shut operations down, so the fewer people that are supporting the equipment, the better right now.

Jodie: And which set of the industry has been forced to change or pivot the most during this? I know some meat processing plants have outbreaks, and they have to kind of change the way they do business. But then there's also, you know, the paper products and all that other kind of thing. Have you guys seen on your side of the business one area of consumer use that has changed the way people do business?

Paul: I think we've seen quite a bit across the board. A lot of the manufacturers who provide consumer goods have had to change their supply chain methodology because of the changing demand. So, we have lots of products, lots of machines that supply products in the grocery stores and restaurants throughout the world for consumer use. And they've had to switch their packaging from a ten-pound package of meat to a one-pound package of meat. A ten-pound can of coffee to single-use coffee. So, across the board, in the packaging world, they have had to change their sizes to match the demand. And it's been universal for all our customers.

Brian: Yeah, I would agree. There has been a significant impact on how the meat industry operates. Like I said,  they have had to implement some serious safety protocols for their facilities. In the cereal industry, it is booming. The beverage industry has grown significantly in the last five months. You think about the snack industry, again people that are at home are snacking more, so the snack industry has expanded quite a bit. So, I think, to post a point, a lot of the consumer-based products have caused an expansion over many levels.

Jodie: Anything last minute we should touch on?

Brian: I do think it's important that manufacturers out there are identifying good partners. Somebody that can support them and has a long history. R. A Jones has over a hundred years of industry experience, but manufacturers need to find somebody that can support them both with the flexibility in the equipment as well as making sure that they have a robust service support. Because in these times, it's just very difficult to get maintenance and repair done on your equipment for some of the industry.

If you would like to learn more about the packaging equipment and service/support R.A Jones engineers for various industries and markets, please complete the form below or email info@rajones.com.

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