Project managers are vital in planning and executing automation projects, ensuring that high speed assembly and metrology systems are delivered on time and within budget.

Automating the metrology and inspection process is a complex job, from reviewing requirements to developing the proof of principle to creating a realistic timeline, and finally, to successfully executing the project. Project management is a critical element from the start of the proposal process to the completion of the automation project.


At DWFritz, certified project managers (PMs) provide systematic, timely and controlled oversight to make certain that the delivery of automation projects is on time and on budget.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) reports that the manufacturing industry wastes an average of 11.8% of every dollar invested in projects due to poor project performance, which is more than the global average of 9.9% across all industries.
 
In automation project management, PMs are change agents — they manage the project goals and use their communication skills and organizational expertise to inspire a sense of shared purpose within the project team, according to PMI. They can readily shift between the big picture and the small but crucial details, keeping the customer and the engineering team in sync, effectively moving the automation project forward.
 
There is no “one size fits all” approach to automation project management. The PM tailors the project management approach to fit the manufacturer’s industry and operating mode as well as the project’s risks and complexity. For example, a medical device manufacturer or construction firm may follow a largely predictive project management life cycle with a heavy focus on verification and validation of the metrology system’s performance at the end of the project. In this plan driven model, work on each phase is completed before starting the next phase.
 
At the other end of the spectrum, speed to delivery is often a vital competitive advantage for consumer electronics manufacturers. In this instance, an iterative and incremental project management approach is more effective when the scope may vary, but the timing and the costs are fixed. This approach allows the solution to be delivered in a fast timeframe and built upon in further iterations.

Starting with the Proposal Process

At DWFritz, PMs are a part of a collaborative multidisciplinary team that guides the project proposal process. From mechanical and electrical engineers to controls software and vision engineers, the company brings more than 45 years of experience building automation equipment. As seasoned professionals with engineering or technical backgrounds, PMs often bring relevant work experience from the same industries as customers.

DWFritz project management teams use a custom resource planning tool to keep on track.


During the proposal phase, the team invests a significant amount of engineering time in developing an effective approach to solving a customer’s manufacturing challenges. This extensive project proposal includes detailed design methodologies based on early customer input on specific requirements.
 
Active listening is a critical factor in an automation project’s success, and it happens from the start of the proposal process at the project kickoff. After the customer shares their requirements, the team communicates back the engineering principles that will solve the problem with the goal of understanding the customer’s needs as quickly and effectively as possible. That solution also includes identifying existing inefficiencies in the manufacturing process that may hinder the automation process. It’s not just about delivering a metrology system — it’s about creating the best solution for the customer.
 
Active listening also means meeting customers where they are at on the automation continuum. The pace and adoption of automation varies among industries and manufacturers, according to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute. Some manufacturers have an internal automation group driving a high adoption of automation on the factory floor while other companies are just beginning the automation process. The project management team meets the customer’s current need for automation, whether it’s providing additional expertise or bandwidth to an internal group that has a fully elaborated equipment specification, or helping a manufacturer with a general idea to determine requirements for a successful automation solution.

Onward to Automation Project Management

Once project planning is complete and the proposal has been accepted, the project management team can hit the ground running.
In the project management process, the most crucial success factor is effective communications with all stakeholders. PMs should spend 90% of their time communicating about project goals, responsibility, performance, progress and status, expectations and feedback, according to PMI. The institute found that highly effective communicators on project management teams are 71% more likely to deliver projects on time and 76% will deliver within budget.
 
Through weekly meetings and status reports on the automation project, PMs tailor communications for different stakeholder groups, providing clear and detailed information needed by engineering, quality or project management counterparts. Through open and consistent communications, customers can make real-time decisions before an impact is felt on the scope or timeline. PMs become advocates for the customer by always asking: What would the customer want?
DWFritz cultivates an innovative atmosphere where engineers get excited about finding creative ways to deliver solutions, both inside the company and with customers. The project management team ensures that creative solutions are delivered within agreed upon time and cost boundaries to best meet the needs of customers.
Learn how DWFritz develops, designs, builds and supports engineered-to-order high speed automation systems. Find out how the DWFritz project management process works.