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When facing uncertainty, preparation is key

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Although the title of this blog may seem strange, I chose it for a reason. Indeed, how can you ‘prepare’ for anything if you don’t know what lies ahead? However, what 2020 has shown us is that parcel and warehouse companies must prepare for every eventuality.

After all, safeguarding a reliable process leads to predictive system behaviour, high availability and excellent overall performance. The main question to answer is: what steps can we take today, in order to better prepare for an uncertain future?

Author

Ivo Seevens

Commercial Solutions Manager Services

Co-author

Shivam Kapoor

Service Product Engineer

System continuity

Even without a global pandemic, planning operational and system modifications can limit the impact of unforeseen changes. By doing so, it prepares a company for when business slows or picks up again. With this in mind, life-cycle plans (or LCPs) can be of tremendous value.

LCPs ensure continuity and safeguard the operational effectiveness of a material handling system (MHS). At its heart, the aim of an LCP is to avoid – or minimise – unexpected downtime and maximise the lifetime of a system. This factors in wear and tear, as well as end of product lifetimes.

A number of reasons drive the need to have an effective LCP in place. As many systems can be active for decades, there is a high probability that an OEM may cease manufacturing certain components. There may also be a decline in the levels of service support or spare parts, posing further risk.

If these risks are not identified and accounted for in advance, a situation can quickly arise in which a system is not able to perform its core function. In addition, a scanner might not be able to read a barcode, and a server failure may result in an ineffective SCADA system.

Support for life

LCPs are an in-depth, ever-evolving record of what has been installed and how to keep it in the best possible condition. As a systems integrator, we communicate with all of our suppliers to understand their product life cycles. By managing this information, we can pass on the value to our customers, who are completely relieved of this burden.

The reality is that an MHS is highly complex. That starts with high-level controls, through to IT infrastructure and the (electro)mechanical aspects. We can handle this complexity and – by creating an LCP – have an overview to evaluate and analyse the entire system.

We then compare our findings against the knowledge we have about system life cycles and OEM information. Based on this, we develop an LCP roadmap reaching up to 10 years into the future. Our customers know precisely when to take action per asset, securing the lifetime of their MHS.

Identifying opportunities

On site, the execution of an LCP translates to an RMR (revisions, modifications and retrofits). For instances in which a component has reached the end of its technical lifetime, we would suggest a ‘revision’. By exchanging the relevant parts, a system can be taken back to its original state. Retrofits cover any upgrade to equipment, hardware and software to create a maintainable state, including end-of-supply components.

An LCP is not a static overview, however. As many businesses have discovered, they must make significant changes to keep up with consumer demand. Given the growth of online sales (swelled further by COVID-19 in 2020) , modifications can help in responding to market developments, as well as meeting new regulations and compliancy lists.

A platform for preparation

During the lifetime of an LCP, we provide on-site inspections to validate the condition of an MHS. Using insights from data analysis and tools, our process engineers can determine an appropriate action plan to further improve system performance and reliability.

In doing so, we can spot opportunities to extend the lifetime of a system and create an updated LCP. Annual check-ups also show companies where CAPEX investments need to be made, which is an incredible advantage for them. Knowing what’s on the horizon, we can plan our RMR activities around a live system, mitigating technical risk.

At Vanderlande, we don’t only deliver a one-time system, but remain committed throughout its life cycle. Regardless of fluctuating market dynamics, our approach is always the same, and our LCPs are designed to offer true peace of mind. Ultimately, it comes down to predictability, certainty and informed action. That’s how you prepare for an uncertain future.

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