Working with a Systems Integrator: Implementation
When you decide that you are going to work with a systems integrator to design and build your warehouse or distribution center (DC), you know that a lot of groundwork must be laid before any implementation can begin.
The Discovery & Analysis phase allows your integrator to fully understand the goals, challenges, and specifics of your project, and Design process ensures that the end product will meet the expectations of all of the project stakeholders. Only once those two phases are complete can the actual implementation begin.
Implementing Your Systems
The actual implementation of your systems will by necessity take a number of steps to complete. Below is an outline of the typical steps and key milestones that must take place during implementation to make sure that a project concludes successfully.
1. Kick-off Project Meetings
Before any building begins, the very first step of the project is to have a kick-off meeting with all of the members of the project team. This will include all project stakeholders.
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During this meeting, scope of work and the project schedule will be reviewed so that everyone is on the same page before any work starts. The kick-off meeting will also help your systems integrator understand how information will flow during the project, and how it will be distributed among various team members.
The kickoff meeting will also include the “acceptance protocol,” a document which will outline the performance criteria that the system must reach in order for the end result to be accepted and signed off on by the customer.
2. Functional Definition Document
This is a document that will be distributed to all members of the project team, who will then jointly revise and execute it. The document outlines the operation of the system, how it interfaces, and also outlines the deliverables by both the client and integrator.
3. Change Control
Change Control is the process by which changes can be proposed and made to the project. It is not abnormal for a project to require a change or tweak here or there once actual implementation begins, as even the best laid plans can hit a road bump when being carried out.
That being said, if changes are proposed, it is crucial that the entire team understands both the financial considerations of implementing a change and the schedule impact of implementing a change on the scope of work.
4. Project Schedule and Critical Path
Once the plan is settled, a Gantt chart will be assembled to display all of the milestones in your project. The document will include tasks such as approvals, design phases, manufacturing, installation periods, debugging, training, and commissioning/support periods. In short, it should include all tasks associated with a project.
This chart will be used to guide the project forward, and any changes made to the scope of work at any point moving forward will need to be reflected in it to ensure that the project stays on track.
5. Implementing the System
When it comes to actually implementing your system and building your facility, there are countless possibilities. From selecting your systems to deciding what technologies to use to settling your schedule, there is no way of saying “this is what the typical implementation will look like.”
That being said, there are certain qualities that a good systems integrator will display when they are executing your project. The most important ones are:
- A quality concept, which is developed to fit your operational needs to a T instead of forcing a cookie-cutter solution onto you.
- Great craftsmanship, which shows that your systems integrator takes pride in the solution that they propose and ultimately implement.
- Commitment and follow through, which shows that your systems integrator wants to be a partner in your shared success, not just someone who leeches funding from you and then cuts and runs.
6. Test Plans and Acceptance Protocol
Finally, prior to work beginning, the system must be tested. This is achieved with a written plan that tests the system mechanically, as well as each subsystem’s interaction with the host system.
7. Hand Over
After the facility has been built and the systems are live, the handover will occur. This is the point in the process in which the client is trained on the system. Typically, this training will include everything from operational use of a system to maintenance to safety precautions so that the client can use the system in a live production without the direct oversight of the systems integrator.
8. Lifecycle Service Orientation
Just before the system goes live, spare parts will be received on site by the client. These parts will be reviewed with the maintenance personnel, categorized, and stored away. This will ensure that the client knows how to properly fix any issues that arise so that, in the event of system malfunction, the operation doesn’t need to remain offline for long.
Many Steps Leading Forward
As you can see from the outline above, it takes a lot to design a warehouse or DC and push it live. At each step of the process, proper communication of expectations, goals, and challenges is critical to ensure that the project stays on schedule and on budget; that’s why there is so much documentation involved before and after the actual build.