Nathan Dube

By: Nathan Dube on June 20th, 2019

Print/Save as PDF

Packaging Machinery Buyer's Guide: Working With A Distributor VS. Buying Direct

Equipment | The Business of Packaging | Investment | Packaging Psychology

When you are planning on buying new machinery for your packaging line, there are several questions you should ask yourself. Where should you consider buying from? Is buying from a distributor or the manufacturer of the machinery a better choice? What are the differences between the two options? Which is the right choice for your business? Read on to find out!


Buying From A Packaging Machinery Manufacturer: Pros And Cons


When you are trying to figure out where you should buy your packaging machinery from, choosing to go direct to the manufacturer is a common choice. After all, who knows their machinery better than the people who are building said machines? You can be sure that the manufacturer knows their equipment inside and out. As such, they should be able to answer your most discerning questions.


That being said, the manufacturer will obviously be biased when answering questions like "which is the best brand of packaging machinery to buy" or "which manufacturer offers the best service"?


In the article below, we will explore the pros and cons of purchasing your packaging machinery from a manufacturer versus buying from a packaging machinery distributor.


Pros Of Buying Direct From A Packaging Machinery OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer)


  •  Superior Knowledge Of Products

Chances are, no one is going to be more knowledgeable about a piece of equipment or machinery than the company who produces said equipment (at least, one would hope so). VAR's (or value added resellers) often sell the top brands of their industry, but their expertise does not always match that of the OEM when it comes to knowing the products inside and out.


  • 100% Genuine Brand Name Parts

When you buy a machine directly from the OEM, they will almost always be sure to replace worn out or broken parts with genuine, brand name replacement parts that come with a manufacturers warranty. When buying from a reseller, there is the possibility that they may use generic and/or refurbished parts.


  • Guaranteed Certified Service Technicians

When your machine breaks down, you want to be sure that the technicians working on your equipment are certified on your particular make and model of machinery. When buying direct from the OEM, you can be sure that they will be sending certified techs to work on your machines when they are in need of service or emergency repairs.


Shrink Wrapping Machine


Cons Of Buying Direct From A Packaging Machinery OEM


  •  Brand Bias

Unlike a reseller such as a distributor, OEM's tend to only offer one brand... their own. When questioning their sales rep if they are the best choice for your company, or if there is a better fit with another brand, you will obviously be getting a biased answer. It is the OEMs prerogative to sell you on they idea that they are the best fit for your company regardless of that being true or not.


When dealing with a Distributor, they usually have a few brands that they choose to work with and are not biased towards one versus another, other than for quality and reliability. This means that they are better suited to answer the questions above and provide non biased feedback on each of the brands they offer.


  •  Lack Of Diversity In Product Offerings

Another issue when buying from OEMs, is that they can only sell the type of machinery that they make. If you are looking for an L-sealer from a vendor who exclusively sells side sealers and heat tunnels, you are out of luck. Unlike OEMs, Distributors are not limited to one brand and therefore can most likely offer any type of machinery, including custom builds.


  •  Lack Of Transparency

When a sales rep comes to your business to discuss their machinery, it is their job to sell you on their products. Being totally transparent and openly discussing their weaknesses is not often something they are willingly going explain in depth. When buying from a distributor however, they have no reason to hide the cons of each brand they offer because they have a plethora of offerings each of which have solutions to another brands drawbacks.


Need Help Purchasing New Packaging Machinery? Use this Pre-Investment Checklist to help you out!

Get The Checklist


Buying From A Packaging Machinery Distributor: Pros And Cons


Just as there are various ups and downs when buying from an OEM, so it is with a distributor. From cost of goods to customer service and quality in repair work, distributors have their strengths and weaknesses.


Depending on various factors including your geographical location, budget restraints and other dynamics such as your production lines current infrastructure, a distributor may or may not be the best choice for your company.


Pros Of Buying From A Packaging Machinery Distributor


  •  Greater Product Offerings

When buying from a packaging machinery distributor, nine times out of ten, they are going to have a much larger inventory of many different types of packaging machinery to choose from. Furthermore, they almost always carry multiple brands. This means you have a lot more options to choose from. As the distributor is not beholden to one specific brand, they will also be able to give you honest feedback on the true strengths and weaknesses of each brand they are selling. Finally, a distributor will be able to outfit more of your packaging line and help with integrating into your whole production.


  •  Consumables And Supplies

Just as the distributor is able to offer a larger product offering in regard to machinery, so it is with consumables such as shrink wrap, stretch wrap and related supplies for your packaging line. Once again, as a distributor is likely carrying multiple brands of consumable supplies, they will be able to show greater transparency in the strengths and weaknesses of each offering.


  •  Parts Availability

When working with an OEM, they almost always want to sell you genuine brand name replacement parts and avoid generic or refurbished options. When buying from a distributor you have the option to choose the latter. In most cases, generic and/or refurbished parts are considerably more affordable.


Where the question of quality and warranty availability comes in, the distributor will have information on the pros and cons of each. Many distributors offer service contracts that replace the need for warranties on refurbished components that provide essentially the same protection to the customer.


  •  Variety In Purchasing Options

When getting a proposal from a distributor, you have the opportunity to get a quote for several different brand offerings. Each brand has their own pros and cons in regard to reliability, ease of use, parts availability and more. Unlike purchasing from a manufacturer, you are not limited to only one option in regard to the brand of the equipment you are looking to get a quote on.


Heat Tunnel                

Cons Of Buying From A Packaging Machinery Distributor


  •  Product Knowledge

While many distributors are quite knowledgeable in each of their product lines, it is unlikely they are as well versed in the fine details of a brands products to the extent that a rep from the OEM is. To figure out if a distributor is as savvy on the products they are selling from an OEM, there is a simple test to conduct. Host separate sales meetings with a rep from a distributor and an OEM.


Have a comprehensive set of questions to ask each rep in advance of the meeting. Take notes (and if possible, record) on each presentation. Compare the performance of each rep after both meetings are complete. This will allow you to see which of the two reps are more knowledgeable about their product offerings.


  •  Service And Repairs

Most of the time (but not always) distributors are limited in their geographical reach when it comes to service and repairs. As OEM’s are usually much larger companies, often being global brands, it is likely that their geographical range is larger than a distributors. That being said, this point is negated if you have access to a distributor within a short geographical distance from your company’s location.


When your machinery needs to be serviced, you will always want to be sure that the work is being done by a technician who has the right certifications for the make and model of your machinery. When working with a distributor, there is the possibility that their technicians are not certified.


In some cases, they may not even have their own technicians. Some distributors subcontract the work to techs from third-party companies. In this respect, customer service may become convoluted when there is a middleman involved in the service and repair of your equipment.


  •  Cost

Any time you bring a middleman into the equation, you are likely going to pay more for the products you are buying. When buying from a distributor, they are adding an additional cost to the items they purchase from an OEM and reselling to their clients. If cost of service, supply and goods is of utmost importance to you, using a distributor may not be the best choice. That being said, when working with a distributor who may have a higher cost, if the cost is associated with dedicated service, better response time and more products and services, it may be worth the extra investment.




When you decide to buy new or refurbished packaging machinery and related supplies for your business, you should take all of the information above into consideration. Write down a set of questions based on the content of this article and present your questions and concerns to at least three different vendors. Be sure include at least one OEM and one distributor.


Taking the time to do your homework in advance of said meetings will allow you to educate the employees you will present to the sales rep from each vendor. Know what questions to ask and what pain points to reveal to your potential vendors. This will give you an edge in the sales meeting process and equip you with the appropriate wisdom needed to choose the best vendor for your business.


When meeting with potential vendors, it is also important to ask each rep about doing an analysis of your current fleet to identify strengths and weaknesses on your packaging line. This will allow each vendor to present potential solutions to enhance the quality and efficiency of your current packaging machinery and supplies. Some of these solutions may actually be things you can do yourself.


Finally, be sure to choose a vendor who offers a strong preventative maintenance program with certified technicians. Check to be sure they are geographically close to the physical location of your packaging line or that they can service your area (IE: industrial packaging will fly out to service large accounts outside of our normal geographical territory). With the proper preventative maintenance program in place, you can expect little to no downtime and a packaging line that consistently runs at peak performance.


Download Your Packaging Machinery Pre-Investment Checklist


About Nathan Dube

As the Digital Marketing Specialist at Industrial Packaging, I am honored to create content for such a phenomenal company and work with one of the greatest teams in the Packaging Industry. Whether creating a video, writing blog posts or generating other pieces of content and multimedia, I am always excited to help educate and inspire our prospects and clients to reach their highest potential in regards to their packaging processes and needs.