Change Process Guidelines: Material Handling Solutions


Making changes to your operational projects, such as new forklift, pallet racking, or processing equipment orders, are challenging to say the least. It’s important to acknowledge the difficulty in implementing change. From the suppliers view, it’s difficult to implement change when no such change stipulations are in the contract or quotation. Larger quotations should have terms and conditions of change, but often do not. From the customers point of view, it’s important to implement change to ‘get it done’ the way it needs to be. This may come before really analyzing the change, such as analyzing the options available and impact it will have on the overall project.

RACKsteel implements a comprehensive change strategy to avoid conflict, unexpected costs, and scope creep whenever dealing with warehousing projects in material handling and storage. Here are some guidelines for you to consider (Note: Both the end user and supplier should have their own change process):

Identify the change: Did it come from the operations team? Senior management? Perhaps it was the staff, or the supplier. Make sure to do your best in identifying them early to avoid as much disruption as possible. Perhaps safety bars were not the ideal pallet safety option after all, and instead wire decks make more sense for your racking. If you catch it early, not only will there be significant cost savings, but also will prevent schedule overruns by extending project lead times. Measure the change and see how it affects the baseline – the expected result of the project.

Look at the impact carefully: Ask the questions: Does the scope, cost, quality, or schedule change? How is this change idea really affecting the overall expected end result of the project, i.e. the performance baseline?

Create a change request: Use a revised quotation, updated proposal, sign-off sheet, end-user request form, and other documents that both parties (or more) can review and reference if needed. The process of all changes should follow the same process.

Assess the change: Is this change going to affect the project in a significant way? Is the change perhaps a separate project altogether? Let’s even ask the more obvious question – is the change even needed? Perhaps, referring to my example above, wire mesh decks aren’t really needed. Perhaps this change was requested halfway through production of the racking equipment which included safety bars. Are all stakeholders aware what the safety bars do? Are they aware the project included a safety aspect? Let’s also point out that forgetting to order wire mesh decks is probably not a typical change. It just wasn’t captured in the requirements. But, for sake of argument, you can see that replacing the safety bars with wire decks may not be needed after all – once explained to the stakeholders involved.

Look for options: What are the options? What can we do differently vs the change request? What the opportunities with this change and what are the threats? For example perhaps there was a pushback racking system approved by your management team. Everything is in place but no equipment has been scheduled for production yet due to the implementation scheduled in 15 weeks. If you were looking for ways to change the project to reduce cost due to some unforeseen event, you may consider double deep racking. This will save cost, perhaps improve lead time, and speed up installation. Although it may not offer the same density (although back to back double deep is an excellent dense option), it will offer the benefits above which save the project. The design or the racking layout may not change all too much, but simply the system in which it is used. Remember to evaluate what it impacts – moving to a double deep system requires a special deep reach forklift. Does that fact rule out the option?

Approval? Small changes or revisions can be approved by the client (warehouse manager, operations team) and supplier (project manager, sales professional). Large changes may need approval for the customers senior management. Or, the supplier may require to consult with manufacturers, engineers, and other partners.

From there we look to update the documents as needed and send the results to the key stakeholders. We always will do our best to accommodate customer change requests, and from our experience it’s important to utilize a professional approach that tracks change requests and identifies all the factors involved with a successful change implementation – big or small.