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What You Really Wanted To Ask About Automation Projects And Now You Don't Have To

Any of the automation projects that your company may contemplate undertaking should be preceded by some very specific questions and explicit answers. First of all you need to determine what the objective is for wanting to take on any of the automation projects. More specifically, what is the competitive edge that you are trying to achieve by automating some part of your business. During the process of answering this question you should find out the details on such topics as what are the current action of competitors in the market. You should define as many of the demands that are in the marketplace as you can. Also it would best for you to know what technologies are available to help you complete your possible automation projects.

Going down to a lower level of definition, it would be to your advantage to look inside your own company to find out what are the targets for your in-house systems that could support automation. Find out if the systems are in place to be able to do this support now and in the future. Find out if there are plans or movements toward supporting technology for automation projects. If there is no support now what is the plan for future support and when can it happen. The availability of systems support for automation is necessary for automation projects to be considered for any business. Once it is determined that there is or will be systems support for automation projects there should be well-defined detail of the level of support that can be expected from in-house systems. Actually there could be a situation where automation projects and system support them could be implemented simultaneously to achieve the proper level of increased production efficiency.

Company personnel have to be involved in the tasks that are part of any automation project that you might endeavor. One or more teams of employees should be formed to perform the analysis concerning possible automation. Not just any employees will do, those that could successfully assess and implement the correct automation must be involved. Usually management is not aware of the difficulty and the demands that an undertaking of automation will make on a business, physically, financially, and psychologically. Those folks who have vision for positive company change should be involved. Employees who have the most technical experience, like engineers, computer operators, equipment operators, and mechanics are the ones that might be best. This does not mean that they alone should be selected. Those folks that manage these types of function would also be very good members. The tasks for such teams should include the evaluation of new employee skills that might be needed to support automation, what levels of maintenance might be needed for automation, and what levels of computers might need to be available.

The evaluation that is done by a project team should include an audit, then possible simplification of any existing automation before attempting to set up new automation. A detailed audit will force a close scrutiny of current capabilities and let the project team become aware of the strengths and weaknesses of current operations. There should be an application of the adage "Don't buy what you don't need". Close scrutiny will help to apply this principle and keep the cost of a project down.

In deciding what is the optimum way to apply automation, you need to determine what is the best combination of equipment to achieve the desired result. To do this it is a good idea to have more than one alternative combination of equipment that will fill the need. There can be a range of possibilities in these alternatives, technically and economically. There may even be a way to mix and match different types of equipment to get different alternatives. Not only would the technical ability of any given solution be examined, but also the economic impact of that alternative solution on the business would be scrutinized. You are not interested in throwing money at automation solutions, so you want to get the best technical solution in place that has the lowest cost possible. You should use net present value as one of the ways to calculate the economic feasibility of any alternative. Be sure and include both physical and perceived benefits in the calculations. The solution that you decide to use should have a positive net present value as a result of this calculation. This will provide one concrete way to compare alternatives before implementation. An optimum automation solution should contain any part of the existing compliment of current automation that can be useful with the new automation that is purchased.