What is different about Frontline?
This is probably the most important question for a customer who doesn’t know us and yet it is one of the most difficult questions for us to answer.
Unlike other automation companies, we are not contractually tied to any particular equipment suppliers or reliant upon selling just our own machines and therefore we are free to recommend whatever we think is the best option for any given application. This means that, even though we design and build equipment ourselves, if we think a better option is available elsewhere, then we’ll recommend it over our own but this does not mean we are “tarts” of the automation industry.
We pride ourselves on our high standards and enjoy great relationships with a wide range of automation companies to whom we are very loyal, so long as they offer the best solution; and if not then we look elsewhere until we find it.
In short, unlike distributors, we have in-house engineering design & manufacturing experience and unlike traditional manufacturers, we don’t have to offer something that is not the best option just to keep our factory busy.
How does Frontline work out what is best for each application?
We start by talking through the various issues that a customer is looking to address, which could include a variety of things, including a need to increase output from an existing line, to reduce the manual input required to produce products, reduce the cost of materials or to create a new line in a new factory for example. We gather and assess data such as line rates, pack formats, designs, collations, orgonomics, flow and line layouts and then we check back with the customer to ensure we have understood their objectives. If so, we then use our experience of building and buying automation equipment to work out what might an appropriate course of action might be, which sometimes mean that we challenge a customer to consider alternatives that they might not have thought of before.
What happens after you have carried out your initial assessment?
It may be that our initial assessment shows that more than one type of automation would be appropriate for example, there could be a high-cost fully automated options and a low-cost partially automated option. It may be that we identify automation is not appropriate, or at least at this time or, it may even be that we identify automation is appropriate but Frontline is not the best company to provide it.
Either way, we summarise our thoughts into an initial report and present to the customer with examples of how and why we have come to our conclusions together with some budgetary costs, conceptual layouts and potential benefits.
What types of automation might that mean?
Frontline’s background and experience is predominantly in packaging automation with a focus on what is often referred to as Primary and Secondary applications. In English, Primary means the packaging you typically see on the shelf and Secondary is the packaging required to get your products from you premises onto your customer’s shelf. While our experience allows us to specialise within these areas we do not pretend to be experts in everything, as the subject is far too broad, which is why we are quite happy to acknowledge that we may not be the best people to help after our initial discussion and assessment.
Some examples of our work include complete new assembly & packing lines for green-field new factories, fully-automatic robotic picking & placing systems, semi-automatic packing systems, product identification/verification/marking systems, special purpose packing stations, interconnecting conveyors, product collators and film wrappers.
Is there any cost for this process?
No, we do not charge for making an initial assessment and offering our recommendations.
We only make a charge after an order is placed, which is why we are open and honest from the outset with our recommendations because we cannot afford to waste our precious resource trying to convince a customer to do something that is inappropriate. We also pride ourselves on our reputation for doing a great job and for that to happen, we must be sure to recommend only what is right for the customer and then follow through with a successful project.
We are not however “free consultants” and therefore part of our assessment will include asking questions about the finance for, timing of and commitment to invest in improvements should we be able to identify some suitable options.
What happens if we like the ideas that Frontline has put forward?
We then prepare and issue a detailed proposal that defines all aspects of the project including product and packaging specifications, line rates and layouts etc with detailed costs and time-lines etc.
The content is written in such a way that, if an order is placed, the proposal becomes a working URS (User Requirement Specification) document which both Frontline and the customer can use to define the scope of the project.
This also acts as a reference point to ensure we are all clear on the nature and objectives of the project during each stage of design, implementation and beyond.
What do you mean by “taking ownership”?
This is central to how Frontline operates in that we take responsibility for all aspects of any project we take on. The basics of course are ensuring the equipment does the job that is required of it however, there are many peripheral factors that can effect the success of a project such as, ensuring there is sufficient access for ingress, ensuring the new equipment integrates mechanically and electrically with upstream and downstream equipment, ensuring consumables and packaging materials are present and compliant, providing operator and engineer training, carrying out site surveys and producing installation layouts and so on. In effect, we act as project managers for each project even if a customer has their own project manager because we take it as our job to make sure things go well, even in areas that would normally fall outside of the usual scope of an equipment supply project.
What is the best way to find out if this might be a suitable approach for my business?
Contact Frontline by phone or email for no-obligation conversation to see if it is something worth pursuing.