Successful material handling system go-lives require advanced planning and an attention to detail.
The only constant is change. We have all heard this saying in one form or another, some crediting a great grandfather, others the Greek philosophers, but the statement rings especially true in the automated material handling industry. The technologies behind industrial IoT, augmented reality, collaborative robots, and autonomous vehicles grow exponentially with each day. Meanwhile, mobile devices, omni-channel marketing, and e-commerce platforms are quickly evolving our modern culture. And where do these two fields of change interact? Inside a distribution or manufacturing facility! You may have just installed a new material handling system but rest assured, changes are coming. Let’s explore the key steps that make for a successful system modification.
1. Ensure Facility CAD Layouts are Current and Accurate
With any project, you must identify the scope of work. This is especially critical when modifying an existing automated material handling system as you are physically tying into or interacting with fixed structures. Accurate as-built drawings are a necessity. Likewise, electrical schematics and well-labeled PLC codes further reduce the project risk by ensuring clear communication between old and new.
2. Create a Comprehensive Schedule
Once the ship date for the new equipment is confirmed, it is time to finalize the implementation schedule. It is important that this schedule is as comprehensive and detailed as possible. The end user and the integrator must identify daily work areas and shut down periods, phased testing and go-live procedures.
3. Update the Operations Team with Progress Reports
No doubt the system modifications are going to alter current operations within the facility. Using the schedule created in step two, the operations team will modify daily processes to still meet required throughput. If the installation is ahead of schedule or lagging, it is critical to inform the operations team as soon as possible so they can prepare for any changes that may impact their throughput.
4. Test, Test, and Test Again
Before you can use the material handling system, you must try to break the system. Be sure to allot time in the schedule for testing as well as operational resources to handle test product. It helps to create and follow a test checklist to document successes and address failures. This will put you one step closer to a smooth go-live.
5. Save a Seat for Murphy
Despite all the engineering, preparation, and communication, something will always go wrong. The worst possible time for this to happen is during system go-live. Regardless of how much testing you have successfully completed, it is always wise to have a manual contingency plan if an issue arises during this critical time. The landscape of distribution and manufacturing facilities will change greatly in the coming years. Change requires work. Work requires energy. Energy is exciting. Embrace it. Keep these five steps in mind as you embrace your next material handling system project, and you might just end up one step ahead.
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