Initiating a material handling project


So when is a project officially approved? The initiating phase. As you may in the role of operations or warehouse management, you’re part of the discussion and analysis of whether the business case of the project can be met. For example, will you enhance productivity with a new narrow aisle forklift program? Will the space savings justify the cost? Or, perhaps you’re looking to store 20% more storage with a pushback racking system. Will the cost of upgrading justify the increase in pallets stored in your facility? Will your customer see the benefits of your facility stocking more goods? During the initiating phase, you and the team, and your selected supplier (RACKsteel, of course) will need to do high-level planning to verify the likeliness the project can be completed within the given constraints of scope, time and cost.

Let’s dig deeper into the initiating phase of your upcoming warehouse or material handling project:

Select your supplier (we suggest a project manager).

Determine the existing systems and company culture of your facility. Will there be trials of the equipment you’re purchasing? Who’s involved in the acceptance of the new product or service you’re implementing? Will your software systems interact with the project result?

Collect processes, procedures, and historical information. What type of previous projects in your operation have been successful? What made it successful? Use previous lessons learned to help build the foundation of your upcoming project.

Understand the true business case of your upcoming project. Use economic modelling to calculate payback period, cost-benefits, and others to have a clear view of the project goals.

Assess the feasibility using the tools and methods above to outline the project plans to date to senior management

Uncover the initial requirements, assumptions, constrains, risks etc. Use a high-level approach. Remember, this is the initiating phase, and should be high level at this point.

Start dividing the high level project sections into teams. Who is looking after what? Typically you’re supplier or selected project manager will be involved in this area during the initiation phase (which may be the quoting phase too, before approval). Use this opportunity to give resources a heads up on what to expect, and what will be expected of them once you move along from initiating to planning.

From there, create the high level objectives. When do you want your new equipment or system implemented? When does yours staff need to be fully trained and implementing the project?

Develop the project charter. The project charter will include most of the above information

And, one of the final key items of the initiating phase of your next warehouse or material handling project, must be the identification of stakeholders and what their expectations and influence are. Remember to consider stakeholders of all sorts – not just the groups directly impacted by your project (i.e. if you’re in production, consider the environmental impact of your new production equipment you’re purchasing).

The above information is in no specific order, but based on your organization, use the above ideas to create a initiating plan before proceeding to the detailed planning stage.