The Discovery Phase of Your Material Handling Project
Avoiding common pitfalls in the Discovery Phase by asking the right questions, actively listening, and assembling the ideal team.
Each engagement needs to be approached objectively and with a drive to develop a deep understanding of the customer’s needs. Learning about the client’s business and operations will lay a strong foundation for the project and is critical to the project’s overall success. Warehouse solutions vary wildly from one industry to the next but assuming a customer in a particular industry runs exactly like another in the same space is a pathway to disaster.
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Each company’s business model and value proposition is unique from the next. Applying a cookie cutter solution based on a past project within the same industry will result in issues down the road. These unaddressed constraints will manifest themselves later in the areas of order selection or outbound sortation when the system cannot meet the needs of a live operation.
Pitfall #1: Neglecting to lay a strong foundation at the outset of a project by not asking the right questions.
Focusing on the client’s specific needs is critical to understanding the considerations applied during the Design Phase. The “RightFit” warehouse automation solution is shaped through an unbiased process where all the available options are evaluated but only the most appropriate technologies are integrated into the final solution.
Contrast this with the approach used by an integrator who arrives at the best system design only after careful questioning. As the operational concept is objectively crafted and the best in breed hardware is selected and then the software solution required to power it is carefully and responsibly applied. A true integrator will select from the best software available for each system design – even if not their own. This approach elegantly balances the proper blend of hard and soft technology to achieve the project’s goals.
Pitfall#2: A large risk exists in selecting a vendor who pontificates and expounds more than they listen.
High pressure sales people should choose another line of work. Systems Sales Executives instead should be totally focused on the client. Their questions during a meeting are solely geared towards increasing a knowledge of their client’s operations and the processes within their organization. Bottom Line: The seasoned integrator keeps their mouth shut and your ears open – listening more than speaking and crafting carefully designed questions to learn how they can focus their design on the customer’s goals vs. their own
Pitfall#3: Avoid working with a company who is only trying to sell you what they produce internally as those solutions may not be ideal for your operations.
Beware of salespeople that are looking to sell a specific product. Undeniably they will have an abundance of knowledge. It may be easy for them to wow a prospective client into believing it is the “one size fits all” solution to their needs by expanding upon where it fits and carefully under emphasizing where it doesn’t.
When a company is selling warehouse automation that its company produces such as: conveyors, automated storage and retrieval devices (ASRS), palletizers, pick modules or their own Warehouse Control Software (WCS), BEWARE. Often equipment or software can be over applied depending on where these manufacturers or developers have available resources in an effort to utilize what they deem is idle capacity.
Pitfall#4: Not involving the proper stakeholders on a project team from the very beginning is a sure way to miss the mark.
Failing to ensure the proper team members are selected on both sides of the fence is one of the places where either team can fall short in the early phases of a project cycle. Doing so will immediately set the project up for unnecessary hurdles and even possible failure. Choosing the right team can make or break a project. For example, not including a team member from Operations could result in not considering critical factors such as service levels or order cutoffs from carriers that reduce the window available to process orders.
By including the right team members from the outset of a project ensure the project is scoped from end to end. By including a broad group of team members from across the organization the likelihood a requirement will be omitted or miss-represented is drastically reduced.
Now that we have taken a deeper dive into what pitfalls we want to avoid in the Discovery Phase we can look forward to the next phase, Analysis, and how to comb through the big data. Just to recap, here are the pitfalls that you should avoid when discovering what type of automated system is the “RightFit” for your operations:
- Not all industries operate the same way, avoid cookie cutter solutions
- Make sure that the salesperson you are considering for your project is taking the time to learn how they can help vs. sell what they offer
- Don’t let a potential partner who sells a specific product or software solution fit your needs into your solution as opposed to finding the “RightFit” solution
- Avoid not having the right team assembled and causing issues down the road
By taking the time to avoid these common pitfalls you can lay the proper foundation and set your project on the right path towards success. These steps when properly taken will pay huge dividends when embarking on the next phases of the Design-Build Process.