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Factory Automation Systems

The principles of agile software development applied to factory systems project management.

The key to successful implementation of large factory systems is project management. PPSI has evolved a powerful approach that differentiates us from most systems integrators.

Most systems integrators plan a stage-gate style development process with stages similar to those shown below.

Factory Automation Waterfall

The waterfall style project management approach is to plan the project completely at its outset and discourage change thereafter.  At the start of the project a detailed plan is developed.  During project execution progress is measured against the plan.  More often than not the project is delivered behind schedule and the benefits do not completly meet business expectations, even if the original requirements are met.

The reason these project management approaches struggle to produce successful results is that they rely upon apriori knowledge of the future. It is very difficult to predict a complete, accurate, and useful set of requirements for a complex system at the beginning of the project.  Complex systems evolve based upon experience gained during development.

Change can be expected in what the customer wants and how the customer might use the system, in how competitors might respond, and in the new technologies being applied in the product or in its manufacturing process. The more innovative a new product is, the more likely it is that the development team will have to make changes during development.

One of our goals is to provide the ability to make changes in the system being developed relatively late in development, without being too disruptive.

PPSI uses several techniques to keep the cost of change low and to make decisions at the last responsible moment. These techniques include modular architectures to encapsulate change, experimentation and iteration to sample results and check them out with the customer frequently, set-based design to build and maintain options, and incorporating emergent processes that develop during a project in response to its needs.

PPSI does use a waterfall model(shown right)but this model may be iterated tens or even hundreds of times during the execution of a complex project.

All integrators are dealing with change and incomplete/incorrect requirements. Our experience has taught us to formally plan change and flexibility into our project methodology, giving us better control of the outcome.