Project Management: A Tool for a Successful Automation Implementation

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Automation project management

Nowadays we discuss automation projects in all industries, from food and beverage to logistics in distribution centres. One might think that this is a difficult or time consuming activity, but in all honesty it varies. It all relies on several factors, and I believe that one, if not the most important, is project management.

There are several stages in a project’s lifetime that we can learn from a book and would give us an adequate understanding of the responsibilities, but in reality there are a number of factors that are above our control and, at times, increase the level of difficulty.

Thus, I would like to summarize the significance and the role of a project manager in an automation project in respective to my own experience.

Development Stage

It is vital that the project manager be involved in the assignment from start to finish as he/she will be onsite making calls to correct any mishaps or if product specs do not comply with the initially designed. The project manager should be aware of any solutions being implemented in an assignment because he/she will essentially be responsible for its potential success or failure.

Manufacturing/Purchasing Stage

Suppliers are a key factor in an integration project as their part can measure in the success or failure of a project. The project manager, in this case, would see to it that all cogs in this stage are functioning accordingly. In doing so, the project manager should be well aware of all lead times, develop rapport with suppliers, and maintain an open and frequent line of contact with suppliers so as to avoid any unnecessary delays.

Execution Stage

During the execution stage, the project manager should be in attendance 60-80% of the time. This is essential because at this point, he/she is the most knowledgeable in regards to the system. He/she must be present to direct instructions to site supervisors and engineers in regards to installations. The project manager must also maintain constant communication within the operations team and most importantly with the customer. Correct execution of an assignment rest predominantly on the project manager and he/she should be aware of every complication that may be encountered along the way and meet it with a solution that is the most time and cost effective.

Management of finances also play among the responsibilities of the project manager as he/she should prevent or avoid a project from going over budget. If a project is to go over budget, he/she is to then investigate why and how it can be avoided in the future.

Go Live Stage

During the ‘Go Live’ stage, a project manager should be in constant communication with the customer for a number of reasons: to establish a timeframe for proper and sufficient product testing and approval, notification of the ‘list of open items (punch list) discovered during testing, and to receive confirmation from the customer upon completion of the project.

Every project is different from one another; however, it is my belief that having a strong project manager with an effective skill set can make a significant difference between a well-executed or poorly executed project.

Alejandro Gracia
Alejandro Gracia is a Field Applications Engineer for Bastian Solutions, working from the company’s Mexico City office.

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