process guarantees
Guarantee by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0

Any of us in the engineering business solving process filtration and drying problems are familiar with process guarantees. While any supplier is pinning their reputation on their product, customers still often want the reassurance of a process guarantee.

In a recent Chemical Processing article, “Processing Equipment – Are Guarantees Worthwhile,”  writer Andrew Sloley suggests the client is asking for a process guarantee as a way to confirm the supplier’s confidence. It’s like asking, “are you really sure?” Second, since the customer knows it’s taking a risk, the process guarantee is reassurance the supplier has properly evaluated its risk. “In other words, the customer would like you to assume some of the risk to show that you’re really sure.”

His article got me thinking about the process guarantees that I have given over the years. I have had only three instances in 40 years where the equipment did not meet the process guarantee and I stepped up as part of the management team to take back the equipment. All three times the issues could not have been seen during the lab and pilot testing. One was a pharma project and there were mechanical issues with a new design. Another was a process issue related to zeta potential and Van der Waals forces. The third was related to discharge of the cake.

The process of process guarantees

In his article, Andrew points out that the comfort guarantees “provide can come at considerable cost and complexity.” After all, they increase the amount of contract negotiation time and add more expense and time for performance testing. He concludes, “a provider of equipment or services should make sure it understands the legal implications of providing more than the ‘industry standard’ for a guarantee. Likewise, a customer should carefully decide if demanding a formal guarantee really is worth the extra effort and cost versus simply relying on the reputational risk a supplier carries.”

I’ll tell you that whenever I’m asked for a process guarantee my first response is always “YES!”  Then, we’ll work out the details confirming that we can only guarantee what is tested. This is critical. The guarantee must be based upon the data collected, nothing more. Secondly, the process parameters must be carefully defined such that the data is reproducible. Finally, we’ll outline the action items (for both the equipment supplier and the client) to ensure there’s a plan if the guarantees are not achieved.

Even without a process guarantee, the equipment supplier must stand behind the process solution such that the client is satisfied. That integrity is foundational to business reputation. I live this every day and will always answer when there is a process problem. You can contact me to discuss writing guarantees along with process testing.