It’s an exciting time to be a manufacturer. Technology continues to revolutionize how we do business, how we make things, and how we keep up with customer demands. There are new solutions every day to improve processes, reduce waste, gain quality control, and ultimately increase your bottom line.
Whether you are investing in your first robotic work cell or planning for the coming world of the Internet of Things, we know that selecting the right technologies and automation strategy is equally scary as it is exciting. It’s a complicated journey with a high risk of costly speed bumps. Unexpected delays mean downtime. And downtime means loss of profit. Sometimes an automation upgrade can feel more like a headache than an enhancement. However, selecting the right integrator will make a world of difference. With a knowledgeable integrator, your vision will become a reality with a seamless, low-risk experience.
So, how do you find an excellent integrator? The answer is a project methodology.
A project methodology is absolutely essential to the success of any automation project. Although each project has its own unique challenges, a methodology provides the structure for:
- Completing the project on time and within budget
- Outlining clear expectations and responsibilities of both the integrator and the manufacturer
- Communicating the project status at any point in time
From design and implementation to testing and training, the project methodology of an excellent integrator will outline how they will work with you to meet your needs and handle unexpected problems over the entire automation integration process. It is an integrator’s promise to you that the upgrade will be completed as fast as possible while minimizing downtime.
In short, a project methodology means peace of mind.
So, you’re considering an integrator and they have a project methodology. How do you know if the methodology is effective and complete?
A Proven Project Methodology Begins with a Proposal
Each manufacturing plant has its own unique needs and goals, so your project proposal should reflect that. An integrator’s proposal must answer three questions:
- What are your desired results and what is integral to making those solutions a reality?
- What are the integrator’s responsibilities and duties? And what are yours in return?
- What is the cost and timeline of the project?
Proposals for complex projects may take a few months to put together. This planning time is crucial, so everyone understands the scope of the project. Once a proposal is approved, it’s time to put together a plan.
At Concept, we love a good plan. That’s why we provide our partners with a Project Management and Quality Plan. This document identifies the key people on the project team. The plan also spells out how we will stay on budget, when we will meet our obligations, and how the team will communicate throughout the rest of the process.
Do not underestimate the need to get these details in writing. Whether your automation integration is expected to take three months or three years, this document is the foundation of a smooth process. No project is simple and no plan is perfect. Problems will arise and a project management document lays out who and how the unforeseeable will be addressed. A project management and quality plan ultimately prioritizes your time and resources, keeping your project on schedule as best as possible.
How A Project Methodology Tackles Design
Designing equipment and systems does not, as you might think, begin with a computer. Rather, communication (and lots of it) is key. Before you can dive too far into design and development, it’s important that your integrator takes the time to have a robust understanding of your specific system requirements. When researching project methodologies, this step cannot be overlooked.
When in the design phase of an automation integration, remember that the lifespan of your manufacturing system relies on maintenance. A system that is easier to understand simplifies documentation and employee training. That is why, a strong project methodology is rooted in functional design. Functional design assures that each individual part of the system performs with minimal secondary effects on any other part. A knowledgeable integrator knows that a functional system is a sustainable one.
Design deliverables are the next step in a proven project methodology. It is time for your integrator to prove to you that they are following through on their proposal promises. You began this project with a list of needs. A detailed design document must go down your list and show you how the automation design will provide solutions to these problems. Before any implementation begins, you can expect to see full electrical schematics, materials lists, detailed assembly drawings, and complete software specifications.