Integrating old and new systems

When installing and integrating old & new systems isn’t possible but you still need to upgrade parts of your operation what are the challenges and implications to consider when integrating old and new systems?

We can help you with integrating old & new systems. On top of lost sales and dissatisfied customers there are hidden costs of equipment failure downtime including – overtime, emergency calls and inefficient worker time.  There are also issues caused by having conveyor/component obsolescence – it’s much harder to meet the shorter delivery timescales and options demanded by consumers today without a significant investment in manual labour.

Moving to new premises or taking everything out and starting again isn’t always an option, in this case scoping and implementation play a key part in minimising disruption.

Projects of this nature create a good opportunity to audit a system and plan for future requirements.  This can include replacing out of date machinery, using new technology, improving warehouse layout, standardising processes and improving efficiency levels.  If properly planned and implemented the return on investment can be considerable.  For example a recent review of Automation by AMHSA estimated that smart control systems can achieve a cost reduction as high as 80%.

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Reviewing what you need
It’s good practice to conduct a process review early on so that all parties are aware of what is entailed.  This should include an audit of the existing set up and scoping of the new requirements.  Consider:

  • The timing of changes to minimise effects on your operation
  • Your existing operation – objectives, strengths and issues
  • Future developments/demand forecasts – what challenges are coming up?
  • The impact of the new technology
  • What to look for in a supplier – Consider if you need more than one supplier and the benefits of having an overall integrator vs management in-house.  A good proposal will include a detailed project and cost scope that covers installation, testing, training, ramp up, go live and sign off.
  • Can your existing staff/management cope with the extra workload during the changes.

You should also build the following into your plans and they should form part of the discussions with your supplier.

  • Timing – ideally it should happen at the easiest time of year for the business or when operational demands are low.
  • Consider phasing the changes in to ensure each change works correctly and has the required benefit before making further alterations.
  • Consider a change management process for each part of the business the project affects
  • Commit to staff training
  • Delay an implementation date rather than rush to meet it before you and other areas of the business are ready
  • Manage expectations – so that people understand the limitations as well as the benefits of the project.

 

Return on investment
Despite the costs and timescales involved a business case can be made when you consider the following:

Satisfied customers – a recent report by Research Now on behalf of the Metapack Group showed that 59% of consumers are less likely or unlikely to order from a retailer again if they have a negative delivery experience. 78% of this group are also likely to tell their friends about the experience.

Greater efficiency – a system that works effectively and has been designed with current needs in mind will process higher volumes (especially at peak times) much faster reducing the requirement for overtime and extra shifts.

Less downtime – it goes without saying that a newer, properly maintained system is going to require less unplanned maintenance saving the cost of repair bills and of catching up with delayed orders.

If controls and software have formed part of an upgrade they will provide additional benefits such as

  • More accurate forecasting and planning
  • Faster order processing and despatch
  • The ability to analyse delivery performance
  • Monitoring of system running time for planning servicing and spares

 

Case Study
A good example is Conveyor Networks project with HMV. A new hardware and automation solution that incorporated existing conveyors from a different warehouse unit and a re-designed control system was implemented as part of a new picking and packing operation.  Designed to cope with increased volumes at peak times the system now intelligently processes up to 1200 units per hour.

“The problem of space was an issue, Conveyor Networks came up with a unique and effective solution as well as enabling us to make reference visits to clients in our sector, giving us the opportunity to see the ideas up close prior to installation, this made a world of difference.”

Adam Saunders, Project Manager, HMV

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