Technology in today’s material handling world is changing at a record pace and will only continue that same trend. As I see this pattern, it reminds me of how history really has so many lessons for us today.
My Dad the Farmer
My dad was a farmer. When I think about all the changes that he saw over the years, I can’t help but admire his ability to keep pace with technology and to raise a large family on even a small operation. He was born on the farm and never had a job off that farm a day in his life. The farm was his life. And yet, there was Old Bob.
Dad grew up working with horses. He loved horses and had some of the best teams in the area. When technology began to change, he bought a couple of tractors and larger machinery to keep up, but he loved his horses. Even after he was farming with tractors and power equipment, he still kept his last team around (Old Bob and Tony) just to “do utility work.” He just couldn’t imagine having a farm without a team of horses around. When reality finally set in, he realized the team was totally unproductive and were only around for nostalgia, so he finally broke down after a few years and sold that last team.
Do-it-Yourself or Integration Partner
The same mindset permeates itself into the way businesses are often run. It’s sometimes easy to stay in the comfort zone of what we have done rather than to step out into where we should be. That’s the advantage of bringing an independent integrator into the early stages of a proposed project. Often there are many overlooked questions during the growth of a company’s operation that could be avoided by including an outside professional. Questions like:
- Is there an advantage to using only one manufacturer’s equipment when upgrading our system, or is it more effective to pick the best of multiple manufacturers?
- Is faster always better, or does it sometimes makes sense to save money on a project by using less expensive answers?
- Do we get the full advantage of upgraded equipment without upgrading the information system?
- Do we need to add personnel to maintain the new material handling equipment, or does it make sense to outsource that service?
- What training will we need to provide our current workers to utilize the new technology?
- What existing equipment can be integrated into the new system? Does it all have to be new?
An analysis done by an independent integrator at the beginning of a proposed project can help avoid many issues that often seem to show up throughout the course of the implementation. Bringing in an unbiased, outside source gives you the opportunity to find the “Old Bobs” in your distribution, warehouse, or manufacturing operation. A fresh perspective can give you the chance to step out of your comfort zone and create an innovative and efficient solution to your challenge, while ridding your operation of its unproductive aspects.