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3 Lessons on Navigating Complex Multi-Site Automation Projects

Luke Sutton | 3 March 2021

The word “complexity” usually garners feelings of fear or hesitation.

At Bastian Solutions however, when customers inquire about complex multi-site projects, we view these as exciting and engaging opportunities. Amidst the pandemic, there has been a sudden rise in ecommerce. It is estimated that U.S. ecommerce sales in the third quarter of 2020 was $209 billion, which was an increase of 37% from sales over the same time period in 2019.  With this rise in consumer demand, there has been an increased demand for quick, complex supply chain solutions.  

As an integrator, Bastian Solutions has developed unique and creative approaches which renew existing floorspace without expanding square footage. A recent brownfield (existing building) retrofit was complex as it involved more than 10 different facilities stemming from coast to coast and across two countries.

Being the account manager for this project highlighted the importance of acting as a liaison between the vendors and the customers. The role included managing the logistics and conversion, sourcing management, and synchronization across all sites. While the project was a success, three key considerations made all the difference in working smoothly through this complex project.

1. Communication is Key!

With many moving parts and key players involved simultaneously across the country, strong communication was essential to help the project run smoothly.

Communication on a multi-site project involves multiple phases. As an account manager, the first line of communication was with the customer’s account manager. Once we established the scope of the project, the next step was to recruit a regional Bastian Solutions project engineer or field application engineer. The engineer would then engage local vendors to create their team. Details would then be negotiated between the parties involved before deciding on a timeframe and schedule for the project. Along the way, we worked hard to make sure that the project scope, objectives and deliverables were clear and in focus.

2. It’s All in the Details

Managing the logistics of a multi-site project required strict attention to detail beyond the technology. For example, simple aspects such as managing quotes in CAD versus USD currency could easily be overlooked. In addition, working with multiple staff – vendors, customers, internal staff – and overseeing installation details and payments necessitated thorough organization.

While working on similar projects across the country, materials varied from one region to the next. It was essential to determine which materials were available in each location prior to starting the project. This helped us avoid delays and extra costs in shipment.

3. COVID, COVID, COVID

Due to rising COVID numbers and warehouse capacity limits, many sites restricted access to outside third parties. Depending on the scope of the project, many sites were restricted to a 5-7 a.m. installation window.

Relaying the logistical constraints to all team members ensured smooth access to the building. We were able to provide the necessary safety onboarding and COVID screening prior to entry. This reduced confusion, start/stop situations, and, overall, made sure we used our time wisely. Advanced planning allowed us to complete the project in a reasonable timeframe despite these working hour limitations.

Embracing Complexity

The COVID-19 pandemic has created new obstacles within the supply chain. While there is a decrease in labour due to many factors – restrictions, quarantine, illness and other monetary incentives – there is a surge in ecommerce sales. Businesses are in dire need of solutions and automation that can provide a faster throughput.

The “complexity” of these situations does not need to garner fear or hesitation. At Bastian, we have risen to the challenge of maximizing brownfield existing technology to meet the demands of the end-user. No matter how complex the project may be, we have the skills and resources to ensure greatest client satisfaction.

Author: Luke Sutton

Luke is a Business Development Specialist at Bastian Solutions based in Toronto, Ontario. He divides his time between business development and site supervision in Bastian Solutions. In this role he oversees large Canadian projects while working closely with National Accounts.

Comments

Bob says:
3/3/2021 09:28 AM

The pandemic has created lots of new obstacles. Good points.

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