With the summer project season just around the corner many industrial manufacturing companies are shoring up plans for their big projects. I recently had the pleasure to walk a manufacturing plant from front to back and back to front again in search of automated material handling opportunities. It certainly was a shocking experience because in this case, the client went naked! While this client was the expert on their systems and operations, a trained eye in material handling-- especially robotic --was a welcome investment of their time. Like most companies, their capital budget was already allocated to projects which they felt necessary to grow their business. However, this company wasn't satisfied with just growth but was striving to achieve the most efficient way to grow. In order to get the most bang for their buck, they called me in--the material handling systems expert--and challenged me to find ways in which they could achieve the efficient growth they wanted and needed. This was an exceptionally well led group who valued the opportunity to get some outside feedback on their current operations, and as such, they decided to go naked for our walk through. No really, they shared any and all information relative to manufacturing practices, problems, and long-term metrics for which they would be measured; there were no sacred cows. Within a week of the walk-through, (which I call a survey) I was able to submit a survey report, which used their terminology to identify where and what could be done to spur growth efficiently. The survey report included:
- 12 potential ideas
- An estimated budget and ROI
- A preview of first steps
- A vision of how their manufacturing facility would change with the improvements in place
They then took this list and put their own ROI filters on the 12 potential ideas to see which two to three areas should be the focus of their upcoming fiscal year. While some processes were unique to this facility, this manufacturing company had multiple plants running other processes across the United States. We're currently looking at partnering with them to implement five different projects at four plants, some of which I suggested, some of which were already on their to-do list. Generally speaking, a lot of thought is normally put into capital projects in order to prepare for the formal proposal phase. I often see significant definition delivered in the request for quote (RFQ). For a complex material handling project, these details dramatically affect the performance and pricing of proposed solutions. In this case, the rewards of going naked (a.k.a. providing all necessary information) and dealing with one integrator across all their projects greatly outweighed the cost of sourcing multiple integrators for each project and the time spent educating each new vendor on what would need to be done. Now, imagine if you were able to significantly reduce the amount of time spent planning projects, which may or may not be the ideal solution to solve your business challenge. Imagine what would happen if you had a partner at the very beginning, who within a week's time, could give you a road map toward future industrial automation that would help solve your facility issues. Imagine what would happen if you simply opened the door by challenging a material handling integrator or consultant with a single question, "can you do better?" Honestly, the only way these things were possible was due to my client's willingness to openly share all information relative to the project. Together we were able to save time and money across five capitol industrial automation projects because they allowed me to become a partner, instead of just a vendor. If you have experienced a similar situation please leave a comment below. I would also love to hear about your thoughts on inviting consultants into your facility. Do you find it helpful?
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