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  • Roy Strauss

Supply Chain Profitability –Project Implementation

What Is Project Implementation

Project implementation is the process by which new operational changes, including those involving equipment, software, etc., facility designs, or process improvements are accomplished. The primary activities that need to be managed are the overall project control, the bidding process, equipment and process installation, transition planning, and setting up reporting systems.

Why Is It Needed

Management of a proposed project’s implementation is a vital step in the ultimate success of the project. Without a proper implementation plan, it becomes increasingly unlikely that the proposed changes in an operation will meet the results that were projected. Allocating responsibility for the implementation to multiple personnel with competing resources does not typically lead to positive results. A project management team with an experienced leader must be assigned and given the appropriate time and resources, which can often be considerable, to lead the project to a successful conclusion.

Project Management

The first step in a project implementation is to assign a project manager (PM). If an internal resource is to be used primarily for the project management, his or her regular duties must be sufficiently covered by others in order for he/she to dedicate proper time to manage the implementation process. More complex implementations require more time. Unfortunately, the most appropriate PM is usually the staff member who can least be spared from day-to-day operations. Their knowledge of the project and process is most crucial in the implementation so a support team must be dedicated solely to the project.

The project manager will organize regularly scheduled meetings among all members of the project team, both internal and external, where a detailed schedule (Critical Path Chart) is created and used to monitor and manage the progress of each step in the implementation. Individuals and/or teams are assigned responsibilities for future steps that will need to be performed as well. Notes taken at these meetings will be distributed to all team members, including those who may not have been present, and steps on the critical path will be highlighted for immediate attention of those responsible as the project progresses. This creates accountability and ownership of the project implementation among all the team members, whether they are vendors, employees, or consultants. The PM will spend the majority of his or her time resolving scheduling issues, revising the sequencing of activities, and communicating with everyone involved. Upper management must receive continuous project updates as well.

Project Implementation

The project manager (or designated team member reporting to the PM) is typically charged with overseeing the bidding process for any new equipment required in the implementation. This process includes preparation of bid specifications.

> Specifications for the required equipment or services must be developed in a form that allows the vendors to respond with their best solution and price. Bid specifications should be performance-based, rather than product-based, which opens the process to multiple vendors whose solutions can meet the required functionality. This increases competition for the bid and ensures that the best solution will be available, rather than a specification that ties the solution to a specific vendor or product.

> The PM (or designated team member reporting to the PM) will develop a vendor list to ensure the company gets the best solution from a qualified vendor and submit the specifications to those vendors.

> Despite every effort to provide well-defined specifications, there are often questions asked by vendors about the processes to be implemented or equipment to be provided. The project manager or designee is tasked with answering these questions satisfactorily and coordinating with other bidding vendors to make sure they all have the same information as the bidding process continues, (we must be able to compare “apples to apples”).

> The PM is responsible for vendor response evaluation and selection. Responses should be tabulated and evaluated both quantitatively and qualitatively and include difficulty, cost, and time of implementation.

> The initial list should be narrowed to two or three bidders for site visits, interviews, and presentations prior to the final selection decision.

> All key stakeholders including users (not just management) should be involved in the final vendor selection.

> Project management implementation also typically includes transition planning to appropriately prepare for the transition from current processes to a future status, particularly if the change involves retrofitting or re-using existing equipment. This is usually reflected in the project management schedule and will frequently involve many departments in the company including the DC and/or MC, IT, customer service and upper management.

> The bid specifications/responses must consider the transition plan in order to obtain viable responses and minimize the possibility of interruptions and/or change orders during implementation. As the project proceeds, it is important to review and update the transition plan as more details become known and as conditions change. The project manager has the ultimate responsibility to see that this happens.

> Once the project installation begins, the PM is responsible for verifying installation against specifications and overseeing the successful installation of the various processes with respect to the schedule. In addition, the PM will be coordinating the testing protocols developed with the vendors and users. There will be pre-startup unit testing and total system start up testing before final implementation. The project manager will stay involved managing the critical path chart until all company staff are trained to use the new system and implementation is complete.

> The company must be able to conduct business as usual or have minimal down time during the transition process, which should be a factor in vendor selection.


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