Friday, April 22, 2022

How to Prepare Your Plant for an Upcoming Automation Rollout

Kyle Kidwell, Application Engineering Manager  

Implementing a new automation system represents a transformative change for everyone at a plant. The use of novel technology is sure to alter workflows and recalibrate responsibilities for managers and operators alike. 

Despite the scale of the change, an automation rollout doesn’t have to be disruptive. The key is to plan properly for a seamless transition. If you keep these tips in mind, you should have no problem integrating new systems into your plant’s daily routine – allowing you to immediately benefit from the increased efficiency that robots can provide. 

Put Someone Directly in Charge of Implementation

There’s a reason militaries around the world aim for a rigid chain of command. Coordinating operations is much easier when everybody knows who’s in charge. That’s why you should appoint a single manager to take control of the implementation process. This person – preferably the plant manager or someone else with an in-depth knowledge of the plant’s operations –  can serve as the focal point between everyone else involved with the rollout. 

Work the Automation Rollout Into Your Plant’s Schedule

While a well-planned rollout should avoid major disruptions, you won’t be able to continue with business as usual during the first days of implementation. To avoid missed deadlines and plant-wide frustrations, try to build the rollout into your plant’s agenda. 

Don’t schedule the rollout during peak production times, and avoid taking on massive orders as the day of the implementation approaches. For the rollout to be effective, everyone at the plant needs a few days to focus on the details of the transition. With the right mindset and a bit of strategic thinking, you should be able to give your workers the leeway necessary for a smooth implementation. 

Plan Plenty of Hands-On Training

Robots can significantly boost your plant’s productivity, but only if your workers know how to use them. That’s why training is such an integral part of the automation rollout process. You need everyone at the plant to understand the ins and outs of the new equipment. Workers won’t gain the in-depth knowledge necessary with a few quick lectures or a slideshow presentation in a classroom. Only hands-on training, conducted with experts from the technology providers, can prepare them for using the equipment on a daily basis. 

Try to plan sessions for the times that will least disrupt the plant’s normal operations, and talk with the robot providers to schedule on-site training. This initial commitment will pay off in the form of greater productivity in the weeks after implementation. 

Be Prepared to Make Adjustments

No matter how well you plan the automation rollout, there’s little chance of getting everything right at first. Workers might balk at a certain way of doing things, and managers might prefer an alteration to critical workflows. Making these post-implementation adjustments is a normal part of the process. 

Once the new systems are up and running, take a moment to reassess your general goals for the technology. If you were hoping to lower costs, investigate how the technology is affecting the bottom line. If the goal was to increase efficiency, look into how productivity is increasing on the floor. Then, consider ways you can get even more value from the systems at your disposal. This constant commitment to improvement will help you get the most from the automation process. 

Conclusion: Get Up to Speed Faster With a Well-Planned Rollout

Effectively integrating new technology into your existing workflows doesn’t have to be as disruptive as it sounds. You can keep operations running smoothly by:

  • Designating a point-person
  • Building the rollout into the plant’s schedule
  • Planning hands-on training sessions
  • Preparing to make adjustments after the implementation.

The smoother the transition to a new automatic system, the faster you can reap the benefits of automation. That’s why overseeing a smooth rollout is so essential.

Robotics Automation