Selecting the right solutions provider is only the first step in a distribution center’s greater automation journey. Once a vendor figures out what technologies will optimize material flow, then comes the all-important step of project management.
From project planning, design, production, assembly and testing, to installation, commissioning and acceptance—effective project management ensures smooth, on-time implementations so facilities can start reaping the benefits of automation. Before embarking on a major automation project, make sure you have the following project management essentials in place.
1. An organized and detailed project manager
Project managers serve a vital role in overseeing the whole process between the sales phase and final handoff to customer support. They set tight but realistic timelines with precise, targeted milestones so that projects are completed on time, within budget and with the utmost quality.
As an intermediary between the solutions provider and distribution center, a project manager needs communication and collaboration skills, as well as the ability to think through problems from different angles. An indication of a strong project manager is certification through the International Project Management Association (IPMA).
2. Appropriate project management structures and teams
In addition to an overall manager, project teams will typically include:
- Technical managers
- Commissioning managers
- Software project managers
- Site managers
- Mechanical, electrical and software designers
- Additional subsystem specialists
Your vendor should clearly define team members and make their respective responsibilities fully transparent. The team structure and size will vary depending on project type, size and complexity. Larger and more complex projects require more planning, monitoring and managing, so they require larger teams to ensure everything is covered.
3. Proven experience and expertise
Experienced solutions providers offer wisdom and insight into what challenges may arise during projects, and how to avoid them. On international projects, consider the level of expertise your project teams have in working with different languages and nationalities. That way, nothing is lost in translation and you can prevent culture clashes.
In the end, project management boils down to know-how, experience and trust. Good project managers and teams help ensure that you get a solid return on investment and that the automated systems ultimately meet your needs—with top quality and minimal risk. They lay the foundation for what will be a long-term, beneficial relationship for all.
Author Jari Jylli