When I first entered the industrial oven industry, my primary focus was identifying what is important regarding proper design of an oven and what is important to customers when choosing an oven manufacturer. In this article, I will provide a list combining these two topics to create a tool that I hope will help enhance to your evaluation process. Here are five things to look for when preparing to select an industrial oven vendor and equipment.

1. Select a Vendor with a Process-Based Approach

Often, the most optimized solutions arise from situations in which the oven manufacturer is a partner in developing a specific solution for a process challenge. The oven manufacturer you choose to work with should strive to understand your process and goals. This method helps ensures that your oven design is chosen based upon your current and future needs rather than selecting one strictly based upon operational parameters.

Traditionally, if the general process parameters are a match with the general specifications of an oven, then the assumption is that they are a good fit. After all, if the oven experts say it will work well, then it must, right? Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Simply supplying what you ask for may not result in the best heating equipment for your process. The best oven manufacturers are solution partners.

2. Be Focused on Increased Process Productivity

My customers generally share one common goal, increased productivity. This can be achieved in many ways: reduced labor, increased throughput, smaller footprint or improved process quality, to name a few. Increasing productivity requires added attention to your unique process as a whole. With this added focus, the customer and oven manufacturer often can identify seemingly small yet impactful design alternatives. Frequently, the opportunity to offer an improvement idea based upon a similar process or solution is present. The best oven manufacturers will drive this focus and work to make your heat process more productive.

3. Ask the Right Questions of the Industrial Oven Manufacturer

In sales, you will find a common belief that those who ask the right questions are more likely to close the sale. There is truth to this concept: With the right questions comes a thorough understanding of what the customer wants and needs.

Though many customers are familiar with ovens, the manufacturer generally is relied upon as the expert. It is important for the oven manufacturer to have a clear understanding of your preferences and, more importantly, an understanding of what drives them. Commitment to asking the right questions ensures both the customer and oven manufacturer build mutual confidence in the oven’s ability to meet all expectations.

4. Design What You Need, Plus a Little More

As you evaluate oven manufacturers in consideration for your purchase, it is important to form a method to determine whether the design itself is a proper fit. To put it simply, oven capabilities can fall into one of three categories with regard to proper fit for the process:

  • Not quite enough.
  • Just right with room to grow.
  • More than is reasonably necessary.

This can be relative to heat input, throughput or airflow, to name a few. As a customer obtaining oven bids, he or she will likely receive a range of conflicting data. While prices and specifications will vary, they should not be wildly different if all companies are focused on a process-based solution tailored to maximize productivity and help the customer get where he wants to with the process. Imagine the expense of buying an oven that does not get the job done or unknowingly buying an oven that far exceeds your need. Look for an oven manufacturer that uses its fact-finding process, experience and expertise to get your oven just right.

5. Seek an Oven Manufacturer Who Will Answer Tough Questions

One of my favorite questions from customers is, “Do you have experience with my product or process?” This can be a tough one for oven manufacturers when dealing with opportunities that are on the edge of their area of expertise. After all, what classifies as experience? Oven manufacturers that are staffed with well-qualified, creative and capable members make it easy to commit to a process or product that is just outside of the company's area of expertise.

 For some processes and products, the nature is such that the company can provide a quality solution. For others, it may be best to work with a company with more direct experience with a similar product or process. As a customer, it is very important that you ask tough questions about the company’s experience and ability to design around your product or process. Top oven manufacturers will be upfront and honest and can provide descriptions, photos or even references, as permitted, for similar products or processes. If that information is not available, but the manufacturer remains confident that your project is still within their scope they should make every effort to learn about your process, share what experience they do have and determine with you whether they are a good fit.