Proactive Project Management: the key for our growth in the US market
At System Logistics, we believe planning is the key to the success of a project and the long-term operational effectiveness of the system
Wikipedia defines project management as the “discipline of planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals.” The Project Management Institute defines it as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.”
At System Logistics, a company dedicated to deliver innovative, automated material handling solutions, we agree and expand on these definitions.
In small and large systems alike, there is much work to be done for the Project Manager (PM). Equipment such as stacker cranes, miniloads, pallet conveyors, transfer cars, SVL shuttle cars and their associated custom built tracks as well as all necessary controls hardware are products designed and built in our offices and factories in Fiorano, Italy. The custom built equipment is carefully selected during the sales phase and assembled to solve a customer’s particular problem such as space constraints, exploding SKU counts, requirements for faster response times to deliver, preventing injuries on the jobs by reducing repetitive tasks or improve the ergonomics. Such automation projects usually benefit our customers through efficiency gains and cost avoidance. Planning to execute such projects start before they are sold and are discussed with the customer as part of the sales process to match delivery expectations with a suitable execution schedule. Once sold, a PM will be assigned to the job and will be responsible for the planning and execution of the job. The PM is the one responsible for executing the project on time, on budget, to the contractual scope of work (SOW), and to the quality expectations of all parties involved.
In order to succeed, planning is imperative. As a system provider, the PM needs to understand how a particular system is operating and who the respective subject matter experts are. The PM also needs to know his team assisting him/her. These technical experts are generally mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, software engineers, site managers, and vendors supplying equipment we don’t produce ourselves. With so many different disciplines in place, planning becomes essential.
The PM will create a schedule with enough details to define the engineering efforts, the manufacturing lengths, the installation phases, as well as the commissioning and field training work. The more details a PM can plan for, the less unforeseen surprises the project will experience. The details matter.
Human talent and manufacturing resources need to be assigned and made available. Although System Logistics has modern production capabilities, they still need to be balanced to accommodate all the needs for all the active projects. The personnel responsible for the production of our equipment need to schedule materials purchases, and consider capacity constraints of highly specialized machining and welding equipment. They need to evaluate space availability in the assembly areas, schedule the necessary labor force to assemble the products, and optimize the shipping times to have product arriving on the job site ready for installation so work can progress uninterrupted. Timing is of essence, and without planning, delays are inevitable. Planning is equally important for activities by our suppliers. Specifications need to be finalized and times of delivery agreed upon so they can be integrated into the overall project schedule. Next to equipment, our software product Systore needs to be specified and configured. The process of defining the System Functional Specifications (SFS) and developing the appropriate interface points are no small task. Software is the key to an integrated material handling system and it is imperative for the customer and System Logistics to plan all functional requirements right from the start of the project. The clear understanding of a customer’s operation is key. Our software engineers can configure Systore to accommodate just about any special requests, such functions and applications need to be understood by everybody. Changes to the basic operational parameters of an integrated material handling system at a late stage in the project can be costly or in rare cases can’t be physically accommodated. Therefore, planning is key to the success of a project and the long-term operational effectiveness of the system.
With many projects in various stages working their way through completion, organizing the workforce and keeping them focused is not always a simple task. The PM has to keep the team working together towards a common goal. Motivating the team to deliver a quality product on time to our customers is our priority. Regular update meetings and regular checks on the progress of internal and external progress is part of the work. The international nature of our business is adding challenges to these duties.
Modern communication tools and process oriented work procedures help address these challenges, and the long-term investment strategy of System Logistics to train and retain talent in the USA will lessen these impacts. As people and skillsets enter and leave the project work, it is key to maintain dedicated team leaders on the project from the beginning to the end. The PM is one of these resources in order to guarantee retention of project specific knowledge, costs controls, and adherence to the scope of work. The competitive environment of the industry requires a tight cost control on suppliers and our own resources. Our significant percentage of in-house manufactured products and software suites make it easier to forecast and hold estimated costs under control and our dedicated PMs make possible for us to further develop products based on industry knowledge and project experience.
These attributes make System Logistics the ideal partner to work with for system integration projects, delivered with expertise and skills on product platforms that are our own.