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The Human Element of Automation

automation-hmiRecently, Tube and Pipe Journal published an article called “An Automation Project Is A People Project” which featured an interview of John Schott, President of EPIC Systems, Inc. The article and Mr. Schott emphasize that a project cannot be successful without the people involved. In fact, having the right people involved at the right stage of the project or system upgrade is critical to success. Mr. Schott points to three stages of any project that must include a large amount of human collaboration:

1. Solution Provider/Project Solution Selection

Usually, a new system or a system upgrade to an existing system is a project that needs to be managed by someone from the company looking to purchase the system. Once a solution provider and a solution has been selected, it is important the project manager be a leader and champion for the selected technology. This is critical to gaining overall acceptance and setting a clear direction of the team. If the project manager does not work with the solution provider as an equal, vested partner, it makes getting everyone else to buy into the solution at the end of project very difficult.  

2. Project Concept and Design Stage

This stage of a project must include input from design engineers, project managers AND operators and maintenance personnel. The people who ultimately be working with the system, or who have been already, must contribute to designing the new system. The people who work with the system everyday know the practicalities of the situation, and will feel more satisfied with the new solution if they are included in entire process, starting at the design stage.

3. System Upgrade Installation and Commissioning

Training of managers, operators and maintenance personnel during installation and commissioning is key to continued success. Even though EPIC and other similar companies provide on-going project support, it is much less frustrating if the system operators and on-site technicians can troubleshoot themselves.

Generally speaking, good communication across all levels of a company and/or a plant when a change is being implemented is key. For example, this article address the common fear that a robot or a high-speed machine will take away their jobs. “In nearly every instance, companies can redeploy both skilled and unskilled workers” said Eric Patty, President of Wauseon Machine and Manufacturing. Companies should communicate this to employees as changes are made, to keep unnecessary fears at bay and creating wider acceptance of new technologies.

EPIC Systems, Inc is an automation and line integration company located in St. Louis, MO. To learn more about the solutions provided by EPIC, contact an engineer today or visit our website.

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