Case for Replacing Familiar Feeder Convinced Even Production Line Staff

Plastic manufacture and processing


Woman manipulating a machine


The manufacturer featured in this case study was enjoying good performance and planned to replace and expand its manufacturing equipment. The manufacturer's existing feeders were regularly beset by circuit board malfunction, prompting the purchasing team to decide to replace them as part of the equipment upgrade. However, this decision met with strong opposition from the manufacturing team.



While Continual Breakdown Drained Money and Resources, Workers’ Response was Unexpected

Whenever one of the manufacturer's existing feeders broke down, not only were expensive repairs required, but the feeder would remain out of service for around two weeks, creating significant problems including decreased productivity.

A member of the purchasing team recalls:
"Whenever a feeder broke down, deliveries were delayed, thereby not only inconveniencing clients but also creating a risk of reputational damage. This prompted us to discuss the replacement of the feeders as part of the production equipment upgrade."

At the time, the manufacturer used a European model of feeder that incorporated a high-performance digital load cell. While the employee wanted the replacement feeder to match the existing model in terms of performance, he was worried that sticking with the same manufacturer would further add to equipment introduction costs. The employee was informed that if the manufacturer stuck with its existing supplier, technical support for breakdowns would remain unchanged. That supplier was therefore eliminated as an option early on.

Working on the assumption that the existing feeders would be replaced, the employee decided to ask the manufacturing team on the factory floor which feeder they favored. However, many of the manufacturing team expressed opposition to the replacement.

"Many of the engineers in the factory said that they didn't want us to change the manufacturer or feeder model because they had become accustomed to the current feeders. I guess after working with the feeders for so long they had grown to like them. Many workers actually said that they would prefer to continue using the existing feeders while maintaining them themselves," says the employee.

While the manufacturer could not keep on allowing its customers to be inconvenienced by unreliable feeders, the employee was at a loss how to respond to the strongly-felt requests from the factory team.

Summary of the Issue

  • The manufacturer’s existing feeders broke down frequently, consuming money and time and inconveniencing clients with delayed deliveries.

  • The manufacturing team on the factory floor had grown fond of the existing equipment and were strongly opposed to replacing it, with many workers saying they wanted to keep the existing feeders and repair them themselves. This created an impasse.

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