The manufacturer said that its equipment hire service often suits smaller companies or those with seasonal lines that do not want to, or are unable to commit to outright purchase. "We know from the feedback that we get from our customers, particularly smaller businesses moving to automate for the first time, or trying to launch new products that this can be invaluable in helping them secure new business," claims the equipment supplier. Project on schedule The company said that its in-house trial facility and the quick turnaround hire service of its PA182 table tray sealer enabled QV Foods' recent development and delivery of a new range of foil tray and board-based packaged potatoes and parsnips for Tesco, well within the project's scheduled time. "Time and time again customers are responding very favourably to our hire deals, especially in areas like this where new products or new pack formats are required," said the company. The PA182 is sealing 400g foil trays at a rate of about ten packs per minute and board based boxes at eight packs per minute, claims its manufacturer. Free trials The company said that breaking into arenas like ready meal production can be difficult for processors with limited resources so its offers a range of services at its premises in Cheshire to support food manufacturers. Its provides free trial and test facilities including a test kitchen with cooking, chilling and freezing facilities and heat sealing machines to conduct sealing tests. "We try to get as many customers as possible to use the test facilities before we take an order especially if it is a new type of product or pack for them. If they are experienced in tray sealing and are already using the materials and process then it isn't always necessary," added Ashton. Packaging Automation said that it will often work with customers to find the correct gas mix for those who want to modify the atmosphere in sealed ready meal packs to increase shelf life, reduce waste and minimize the need for artificial preservatives. Long-term relationships Establishing and building long-term relationships with its customers is driving its suite of support services, claims the company. "We benefit by building a reputation as a good business to deal with; we win a lot of business through recommendation and therefore this is just one way of impressing and exceeding our customer's expectation," commercial manager Samantha Ashton told FoodProductionDaily.com She said that there is also an advantage in involving packaging suppliers in some trials as this helps to build relationships with them and ensures they will recommend the equipment supplier to their customer base. "We also benefit from proving the packaging before we take an order as post installation some problems can arise. If we have done a trial and proved the packaging (we keep samples), we have a reference point to go back to," added Ashton.