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The Changing Role of a Site Supervisor

Tiffany Joseph | 16 March 2020

In 2018, the Hillman Group, a fastener company producing nuts, bolts, screws, keys and signs decided to consolidate seven facilities into its Markham super-facility. As an industry leader in hardware, the company’s new distribution center needed to match its impressive scope, as well as its demand for picking, packing, sorting and transportation. The resulting facility covers an area of several thousand square feet, where a team of Bastian Solutions Canada employees provided Hillman’s turnkey solution.

In projects of this scale, prevention is always better than a cure. Successful projects need a successful site supervisor. Luke Sutton was the site supervisor for Hillman, and in this blog, we will discuss what it takes to have a successful turnkey solution.

1. The value of a dedicated site supervisor

Luke Sutton served as the site supervisor, under Project Engineer Jacob Notten and Field Application Engineer, Cody Caissie. After being trained on the project and moving full-time to the site, Luke went on to oversee the implementation, testing and quality assurance of Hillman’s total system.

Looking back at the last year, Luke describes his part in the Hillman Group project: “My role on site varied over the last nine months. I started as a junior site supervisor and transitioned into a full-on site supervisor role including planning with contractors, helping with the install, troubleshooting problems on site, software to mechanical, as I became more familiar with the site.”

2. Key Factors for Successful Projects

Luke identified three key factors for successful project implementation: timeline, organization and preparation. Luke believes in the importance of sequencing the phases of the project to ensure the correct resources – human and material - are on site when they need to be. This is the dynamic nature of on-site coordination: looking far enough in advance to have weeks-long shipments arrive on time, but reflecting regularly on your day-to-day schedule to ensure that your contractors, employees and engineers are on site, ready to use the materials, install parts, and troubleshoot issues. These require sufficient planning, coordination and project management, and are often the key responsibility of the supervisor and project manager.

Luke also believes in the value of treating your customer like your teammate. He works to ensure that he keeps all stakeholders happy and believes that by ensuring the satisfaction of the customer he builds trust and keeps his team’s morale high. After all, working to meet the needs of a customer is working to see the combined success of the project – and together, we are guaranteed to see results which go above and beyond the expectations of the solutions team and the customer alike.

3. The Changing Nature of the Supervisor’s Day-to-Day

Over the course of a project, a site supervisor’s role will vary from administrative lead and the single point of contact to project manager, on-call support, and technical support. The diverse expectations for this role typically vary by phase of the project. Some of Luke’s key tasks throughout the Hillman project by phase included:

Phase 1: Conveyor Install

On-site regularly to:

  • Coordinate contractors.
  • Oversee and troubleshoot installation of conveyor, controls and other equipment.
  • Ensure requirements for install are smooth, easy, efficient and accurate.
  • Maintain regular contact with the customer’s teams and provide weekly or biweekly updates about progress.

Phase 2: Storage Installation

  • Collaborating with the storage supplier to quickly and efficiently install storage. This might include automatic storage and retrieval systems, racking or infrastructure for automated systems.
  •  Coordination of labor and materials as this is a high-labor phase.
  • Being in regular contact with the customer’s teams and provide weekly or biweekly updates about progress.

Phase 3: Mechanical Installation

  • Clear and consistent communication with the customer, who may be active during this phase.
  • Optimization of install to make the best use of contractors’ and engineers’ time.

Phase 4: Electrical Installation

  •  Ensuring that electrical contractors are onsite for all wiring, circuitry and troubleshooting of the electrical system.
  • Optimization of time to maximize contractors’ and engineers’ presence on site.

Phase 5: Testing and Go Live

  • Having a comprehensive understanding of the system in preparation for Go Live, when your system can be run, tested and optimized.
  • Frequent tours of the facility to ensure that you understand how well each part of the system works.
  • Pushing the system through its minimum, typical and peak throughput to ensure it can handle the customer’s seasonal variations and actively tuning the system to improve efficiency.

Phase 5.5/6: Training

  • Development and execution of training for customer’s employees, delivered in person in lecture-style sessions and/or tours.
  • Safety training to expand capabilities of operators and employees.
  • Provisioning of all training and relevant materials for later review.

Key Takeaways

Luke also believes in close coordination with the project managers, who may be a Field Application Engineer or Project Engineer at Bastian Solutions, or a General Manager or Special Projects Coordinator at the customer’s company. Luke places high value on safety at the work site, which is largely facilitated through proper training, high presence close to and during go live, and ensuring that the customer has full and transparent access to all documents needed to operate and maintain their system.

As said before, in projects of this scale, prevention is always better than a cure. As such, Luke utilizes preventative steps to reduce the impact of issues that arose or could have arisen. These include being proactive in getting the best solutions, engaging heavily with the customer’s employees so you can always find issues in the system early, and building relationship with the customer.

Author: Tiffany Joseph

Tiffany is a Project Engineer with Bastian Solutions Canada’s Ontario office. Tiffany has a Bachelor of Engineering from York University – Lassonde School of Engineering. Tiffany joined the team in Fall 2019, and supports her colleagues on ongoing projects, works with customers to meet their RFQ and RFP needs, and enjoys learning about Bastian’s warehousing design and logistics solutions. 


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