“Last year, Refresco placed four orders with Krones for various plants in North America. This summer, it was time to do the Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) for a blow-molder-filler block from one of those orders. Travel restrictions made it impossible for Refresco’s project team to travel from Florida to Neutraubling for the test. Knowing this, we got an early start on developing a Plan B – a remote FAT. We quickly realized that a remote FAT couldn’t be the same as a live test with everyone on site at Krones’ plant. So, we used the live FAT agenda as a basis and developed a unique schedule for the virtual FAT. Refresco provided a prioritized list of the topics and indicators most important to them, and we verified whether the requested items could be covered in a video conference. In the end, we scheduled two days for the remote FAT, with three hours for each machine.
The main tool we used – besides the blow-molder and filler, of course – was Microsoft Teams. Krones’ sales team and product specialists dialed in to the video call, as did various representatives from the customer’s side. The number of participants varied depending on the topic at hand. Overall, though, far more people were able to participate than would have travelled to Neutraubling under normal circumstances. To give the team in Tampa, Florida, a live look at the machines in Neutraubling, the respective product specialist and I, as project manager, were each equipped with a cell phone, a gimbal, and a microphone. Those tools enabled us to walk Refresco’s representatives through their machine, demonstrate test runs on a variety of container sizes and speeds, and answer technical questions. Since processes like molding cavity changeovers would have exceeded the time allotted for the meeting, we ran those sequences ahead of time, recorded them with a GoPro camera, and made the video available to Refresco.
Since that first virtual FAT, we have been able to run several remote FATs per week at Krones, for all of our machines. And the feedback has been consistently positive. For me, close coordination and good preparation are essential. Expectations and key topics absolutely must be clarified in advance so that we can set up an agenda that meets our customers’ expectations and fits reasonably into the online framework. When we do a remote FAT, the customer is placing a lot of trust in us. Instead of spending two or three days physically at the machine, they only get a brief look at it via video chat. But they trust that we will deliver the same quality they have come to expect from Krones.”
Project Manager for the North America region
Due to the dynamics of the global pandemic, we asked Krones to pursue virtual FATs of our purchased equipment in place of in-person FATs. This would allow us to answer many of the most pertinent questions, and complete most of the major validations before shipment of the equipment. Krones was able to flex and provide the facilities, staffing, and hardware to make this work with fairly short notice.
Sr. Manager, Procurement at Refresco North America (Tampa, FL, USA)