Packaged Systems: More than the Sum of Their Parts

Have you ever wondered why manufacturers take the time to pre-assemble products prior to offering to consumers for sale?

Oct 1st, 2008

By Tom Seymour

Have you ever wondered why manufacturers take the time to pre-assemble products prior to offering to consumers for sale? In addition, have you ever wondered why these packages seem to cost more than the “Do-It-Yourself” approach that seems appealing during the evaluation stage of any project?

As consumers, we all face this very same question. However, I would invite you to stop and ponder the long-term ramifications of such a decision for a moment and the factors that drive manufacturers to produce “packaged” products.

The decision to purchase a complex product offers many challenges. Often the first challenge in the process is, “do I buy the product pre-assembled or do I buy the pieces and assemble the system myself?” Certainly, the complexity of the overall project weighs heavily in the decision; however, the path chosen can have a significant affect on the construction, long-term cost and, ultimately, the overall success of the project. In order to illustrate my point, let’s examine the last car you purchased.

Most of us have purchased a new automobile. Although excited with the thought of driving home in a new vehicle, the buying process can be quite lengthy and involved. We do, however, take comfort in the fact that when we drive our new vehicle home, we have confidence that a group of smart people gave consideration to the “engineering” of the vehicle. We don’t have to worry about sourcing tires that match the vehicle’s weight or sourcing an engine that is strong enough to propel the vehicle to “arrest me” speeds.

In the end, the entire system of the automobile is tested at the factory to ensure that, upon delivery, the entire system functions properly. If a service issue arises, there is comfort in knowing that you will be able to get it fixed with one phone call.

There are several compelling reasons that buying an automobile as a “package” makes sense. First and foremost, the buying power of a manufacturer offers much more leverage with vendors. An automobile manufacturer can purchase tires, for example, much cheaper than you or me. This buying power also often results in higher quality parts being used. Second, each part in a package is carefully selected to work in conjunction with each other. The manufacturer does not waste money on components that do not coincide with the life expectancy of the product. Third, the entire vehicle is able to be warranted by a single-source allowing you to typically make one call for service or repairs. This eliminates two different vendors from putting the purchaser in the middle of a service or performance dispute. In addition, the individual assisting you with the purchase is often knowledgeable about the product and can help guide you to the product that will best suit your requirements.

I would submit that buying an industrial “system” which works in conjunction with a larger system involves the same “package” thought process. A sewage lift station, for example, can consist of over 2,000 parts and components which make it work. That said, when viewed in the context of the overall sewer collection system, the lift station is but a small albeit important component.

When combined, similar to a car, all of the 2,000 components work in harmony with one another. Often, future requirements of the station can be designed into the package to minimize additional costs should the requirements of the station change.

Most manufacturers have taken great care with the engineering, component selection and sourcing, manufacture and testing to ensure the system performs as specified. There is always the lure of “going it alone” to save money on the initial costs, however, it has been proven many, many times that the long-term costs of such a decision are often much, much more expensive. WW

About the author:

Tom Seymour serves on WWEMA’s Board and is vice president of sales and marketing at The Gorman-Rupp Company, an Ohio-based manufacturer of pumping systems and related equipment since 1933.

Circle No. 290 on Reader Service Card

More in Home