Getting one’s priorities in order is a big subject. It’s the big subject that we try to wrestle through in the political arena. What will we choose, as a nation, to spend money on? What do we, as individuals, choose to spend money on? Judging from the consumer electronics show, we still like our electronic toys. As a nation, however, we need to do a better job of getting good information into people’s hands so as individuals engaged in political process, we can make better decisions about our country’s future.
In managing technical projects, there are similar issues. In technology projects, there is stuff we like to do, and there is stuff we need to do. And sometimes, the what gets done and in what order really impacts the results.
One aspect of project management that is often not considered is defining what is important. And especially what the order of importance is. Because there are always competing attributes in any automation project, and cost tradeoffs that need to be considered. So a really valuable exercise at the beginning of the project would be to make a list of the project priorities and put the list in order of importance, so you and your team know what the important issues are.
The typical project priorities involve; speed as throughput in parts per minute or hour, amortized cost which is the cost of the machine per part produced, and part precision or accuracy which can sometimes be measured as scrap rate
These are the most common issues in manufacturing. There are certainly many unique constraints on project performance that can be identified in specific situations, but these are the most general and the ones with direct cost impact both in the development of the machinery project or process and in actual production practice.
The problem is that while the project is being developed, decisions will have to be made on the fly. With a formal statement of what the project priorities are, it becomes easier to determine where money needs to be spent and how it relates to the final performance. It also becomes easier to avoid pitfalls where spending money produces no benefits in terms of the project priorities.
Meeting part per hour production rates may be well within the project forecast, but achieving quality goals and reducing scrap rates may have some cost tags that will need to be considered. How much will it cost to reach the next improvement in production throughput? How will it impact the amortized cost per production unit? Will a new, expensive solution to part accuracy pay off in reduced scrap rates?
All of these questions get a little easier to deal with by knowing your priorities.