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Project Plan Blunders You Need To Avoid

Don't make these automation project mistakes

Project planning on whiteboard
Rushing with your automation project can result in some common mistakes
that can be avoided. 
(Image by Pixabay.com)

When they’re in a rush to polish off an automation project, a lot of people seem to make the same kind of mistakes again and again. Sure, it’s important to keep a business productive and strive to meet your targets. However, this kind of approach can often lead to all kinds of problems, like delayed schedules and cost over-runs. Seen as you’ve made it to this blog, I’m sure you want your automation project to go as smoothly as possible. Here are some major automation project mistakes you need to avoid.

Forklift AGV with Straddle
There are numerous automation projects in today's industry, such as this automated forklift.
(Image by Wikimedia - courtesy of Egemin Automation, Inc.)

Making broad assumptions about the work ahead

The first, and sometimes costliest mistake you can make, is making broad assumptions about all the work ahead of you. Think of when you’re tackling the definition phase of an automation project. It can often be easy to assume that everything ahead of you is going to be straightforward and simple. The motors in the system just need to move your materials from point A to point B all synched up with each other. Simple, right? It’s often the case that in these situations that some integral detail like the power and signal cables being routed together can be totally forgotten. This is where the whole project can hit a terrible setback. I’m sure you don’t want to spend a lot of time searching for the source of some strange equipment issue. Don’t make assumptions, and try to understand every last component in the system.

UTP (Unshielded Twisted Pair) Cable
When preparing your project plan you have to well aware of some critical details,
such as power and signal cables being routed together. 
(Image by Wikimedia)

Starting work on components instead of integrator

Another common mistake we often see in automation projects is managers who start with the components, rather than the integrator. Let’s say you chose and purchased a set of stainless steel drawer runners, and then later hired an integrator to get them to work within your system. You’ll probably find out later that all the time you spend trying to get a mix of different components to work together within the same system is extremely inefficient; compared to designing a system from the start with components that are all guaranteed to mesh. In the long run, you won’t have to spend any more and will be able to avoid various headaches later down the line. A good integrator will strive to design a system which fulfils your needs, and minimises the amount of time they have to invest.

TGW Stingray Shuttle
A perfect example of some of the newest automation projects is TGW's Stingray Shuttle,
designed for very high throughput rates. 
(Image by Wikimedia Commons)

Failure to understand the impact of handshakes

Finally, failing to understand the impact of handshakes. When project managers don’t pay attention to handshaking signals, or don’t apply input/output handling properly, it can often lead to massive equipment damage. This, in turn, leads to more downtime. When there are two machines that have to work together in an automated model, proper handshaking signals are very important. You obviously want to avoid damage to machines or cells! Allowing the end user bypass safety is another big source of problems, usually more serious than a little lost time or money! When your automation project is being designed, make sure the cells are made so that workers can’t bypass any safety measures.

Although I haven’t covered everything here, avoiding these three mistakes is essential to the success of your automation project. With a careful enough approach, your project should be a breeze!

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