Providing these 5 pieces of information will lead to a more detailed and accurate proposal from your integrator.
When a client comes to an integrator for assistance in solving facility issues, they walk the fine line between sharing too many views and ideas or not providing enough information. Unfortunately, both situations can be detrimental to the proposal process because too many thoughts on what the solution should include limits the integrators’ ability to best solve issues and sharing too little information prohibits integrators from thoroughly evaluating the situation.
The best results are achieved when clients allow an integrator the freedom to utilize their experience and expertise. This becomes even more amplified when multiple integrators are involved in the process. To provide the optimum solution, any integrator would like to receive these 5 pieces of information before responding to a request for proposal:
1. The Goal
What are you trying to accomplish with this project? There is a reason, or a list of reasons, this project is being considered. Corporately, there is a goal to be attained by bringing this project to fruition. Is this an existing facility that has an issue you are trying to resolve or a new product that is being manufactured? Is this a new facility being built due to growth in the business, or is this a necessary relocation? Knowing the reasoning behind why this project is being looked at, can provide the integrator valuable insight into the key issues you are trying to solve. By outlining the goals of the project, it will also help the integrator understand the reason for and some of the background behind the project.
2. Facility Layout
What is the space the integrator has to work with? Is this an existing building or a new one? In either case, what area is available? Are there any constraints in the building? For example, is it not possible to use ceiling supported hardware, or is there existing equipment that cannot be relocated? If it is a new building, the integrator typically has more freedom in the design of the proposed system. Even then, it is helpful to know the size of the building. Providing the integrator with an accurate AutoCAD drawing is a must. This allows the integrator to draw their equipment directly into the building to present the most accurate reflection of what the final system will look like.
3. Product Specifications
What is being handled? Typically, a list that shows the maximum and minimum length, width, height, and weight is supplied. Though this information is very important, even more useful is a full list of all products that are to be handled. This shows if there are abnormalities such as an extremely long, thin, or light product or a tall product that may cause tipping issues. If pictures can be included, that will be even more helpful in providing a solution that can accurately handle the greatest percentage of the product spectrum and determine those products that may need to be handled in a more specialized manner. Does the product need to be placed in a tote or on a slave pallet? Does the conveyor need to be all belt or close roller centers? Does the sortation or storage medium need to handle small product or jiffy bags? The more information on the product specifications that can be given up front, the more likely the integrator can provide a more accurate means of storing and moving that product.
How much? How fast? An accurate representation of data to provide information on the amount of product the system will need to store and move is vital for the integrator to select the correct forms of storage and automation for the project. Knowing how much product is being moved (volume) and how fast that product needs to move (throughput) allows an integrator to determine the type of hardware they can recommend. This applies to loose pieces, boxes, totes, pallets, or any other type of container. The combination of volume and product specification will determine what forms of storage mediums can be best utilized, both automated and not. Is the product best stored in pallet flow, carton flow, or in an automated manner (ASRS or carousel)? The storage medium coupled with the throughput will determine how the product is picked (manual via paper, RF or possibly via light or voice directed picking). The throughput will dictate the type of transportation and sortation used. Is conveyor a good route or can the product be moved by cart or pallet? Does the product need sortation, and if so, what type – plow arm, pusher, pivot wheel, narrow belt, shoe sorter, tilt tray, cross belt, etc.
5. ROI and Budget
Has this project been approved, and if so, what is the budget? If the integrator’s proposal is being used to set the budget, then communicate this fact. What are the expectations for ROI? Is it an 18 month expected payback? Is the justification expected to be totally on reduction in labor? By knowing what the budget is, if there is one, will help the integrator know what forms of automation are even possible. If the budget is approved this has a tendency to peak the attention of the integrator and push them to provide a more pointed and less budgetary proposal. The integrator can also check their design against the expected payback to determine if they are on target with their recommendations.
The more information that can be imparted on the integrator, the greater chance they will be able to provide you with an accurate, detailed proposal that meets the needs and desires of your project team. If too many items are left to assumption, it may not provide the results you are expecting. Like most relationships in life, the more open and thorough the communications are the better the relationships work for all parties involved; material handling is no exception.