Automation and Robotics
Advances in automation and robotics are opening opportunities for many companies to improve their operations and also to address some of the challenges they are facing. Traditionally automation had a reputation of being complex and expensive. However, with the advances in better sensing systems and more responsive safety systems, together with AI, cloud and distributed systems that is changing. Developments in goods to man systems, robot picking, cobots and AMR are bringing automation within the reach of many more companies and operations. There is not only more choice in systems capability, but automation is more flexible and scalable and cost effective than ever before.
LPC has long experience with automation in devising an automation strategy and designing solutions, assisting with procurement and contracts and implementation support including:
- Strategy and Potential Options
Given the ever widening range of automation and potential options, it is sensible to consider your strategy, whether a phased approach or partial or full automation is the optimum solution for your operation. The strategy should take account of growth and potential future developments.
- Validation of Options
There may be a variety of potential solutions for your operation containing either partial or full automation, each with differing capex requirements and opex. The costs and benefits should be calculated for each and for the conventional option to determine the optimum solution
- Tendering and Contracts
An organised approach that determines interest and capability from potential suppliers followed by a comprehensive tender or RFP/RFQ that clearly sets out your requirements and performance expectations generally work best. When you have identified your preferred partner, the contract needs to be agreed and the detail worked out and agreed. This should include the performance criteria and the testing schedule to demonstrate that it is delivered as well as the usual programme and payment terms. It is best to use an engineering contract rather than a construction form. Any requirement for maintenance and support should be identified and agreed at this stage.
- FDS and FAT
Successful automated projects depend on getting the functionality to support your operation. It is very important that the functional design specifications (FDS) for the automation cover the setup and configurations you require and that the acceptance tests (FAT) are thorough.
While the system is being delivered the planning for takeover, occupancy, training and go live and run up should be developed and any operational support identified. The project is not complete until you are in a steady state operation.