Automated warehousing has had a somewhat chequered reputation over the years, although the number of problem installations seems to be fewer than in earlier years. The projects that are successful have built upon the lessons learned and the contractors involved are now much more experienced in delivering these installations and working with Logistics Consultants.
However, the success of these projects is not just due to the contractor alone, the client will played a major part in creating the outcome. In fact, right from the conception of the project the client will have had a major influence on the way in which things will turn out.
Contractors will tender against a specification and so it is imperative that the client puts together a specification document that the contractor knows is delivering the clients requirements. At the stage of the final specification the client will sure of what he is asking for and will have detailed the aspects of the solution that are critical to him. If the client is preparing an initial expression of interest or is looking for various ways to approach a logistics problem by issuing a performance specification then various assumptions may be made by the contractor that do not match the client’s expectations, and could lead to major cost or timescale differences, so these should listed, however trivial they may seem to be. This could include such things as company electrical standards, IT compatibility or the requirement for all handrails to be stainless steel.
Once a contract has been awarded, most clients expect the contractor to proceed with design, but unless the clients requirements have been specified fully and completely, the contractor’s standard designs and ways of working that were not obvious at first will start to be apparent during this stage. Many of these will be acceptable to the client, but sometimes the question is not asked until it is too late to easily make changes.
The management of changes during the project is another area where the client can have a major influence on the success of the project and particularly the timescales and budgets. This reinforces the need for a clear and detailed specification to ensure that the design and construction work can proceed along the lines originally intended.
Another area of the specification that should be set out in appropriate detail early in the project is the client requirement for testing the automated warehouse. Although it is in both parties interests to carry out sufficient testing to ensure the completed installation meets the specification there are often differences in the scope of this testing and indeed, whether it should be carried out before or after handover. Provided the financial aspects can be satisfactorily agreed the client should normally expect to complete the tests that show that the system meets his requirements before the handover of the complete system. Tests which attempt to measure reliability and availability of the functioning system can, however, be carried out after handover.
The final details of the tests often cannot be defined until the system is fully designed but the client should make sure that his intention to test the system is made clear to the contractor.
So having originally defined a clear specification at the start of the project , a successful project is rounded off by a series of meticulous tests that show the contractor and the client that the system is preforming within the bounds of that specification.