Retrofit Realities: 15 Tips for a Seamless Transition, Part II

Retrofit Realities: 15 Tips for a Seamless Transition, Part II

By Dean Starovasnik

Last week in Part I, we outlined the first 5 tips to ensure a seamless transition during a facility retrofit. They were…

1)    Early and extensive planning at a corporate, facility and functional area level will help to avoid many pitfalls. 

2)    Murphy’s Law states “anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. Conducting contingency planning is “Murphy repellant.” 

3)    Decide what “seamless” means to both your organization and its customers. 

4)    Developing a detailed, functional area level plan (receiving, shipping order fulfillment, etc.) is only the starting point. 

5)    Finding and efficiently utilizing “empty space” is essential to working through a retrofit. 

So, here’s the last 5 tips to complete the list of things to do to ensure a seamless facility upgrade/retrofit.

1)    The above empty space must be sufficient for staging the new equipment as well as the installation of that equipment. 

If a new pick module is to be added, the laydown space for the rack material may be considerable.  Unless your budget allows for demurrage charges, thereby allowing you to hold the material in your yard, getting the material into the facility will be necessary.  Furthermore, material in trailers is not particularly accessible even if it was shipped as a “buildable” mix, which will impact both installation time and labor cost significantly.

2)    When mezzanine construction or facility expansion is required to start the retrofit, ensure the schedule accommodates local code enforcement’s requirements regarding permits, licenses and inspections. 

While sometimes troublesome, these routine requirements can significantly impact the schedule or make such a tremendous impact on design that the business case supporting the retrofit may be affected.

3)    Ensuring implementation can occur outside of operational hours is extremely helpful in preventing conflict along the lines of space availability, safety, noise concerns.

Just as a toehold is needed in terms of space, there will need to be a time toehold, perhaps in the form of expanded implementation hours, when installation can be conducted without interrupting the operation. 

Perhaps a weekend, night shift option or long holiday period can provide this starting opportunity.  These may be insufficient for the entire installation, however, they can provide the needed opportunity to install a mezzanine over an operational area, for example.   So, identify these opportunities early to ensure equipment lead times and crew availability can be synchronized to these periods.

4)    Estimate (and get approved!) the budget associated with temporary shifts, increased levels of manual labor and even additional security for off-shift work hours. 

During the retrofit, the building will have more people than usual, and they will be there across longer hours than normal.  This increased traffic will slow productivity, requiring more work hours to keep pace with normal operations. Support systems that normally enhance labor efficiency may be offline as well, either temporarily or permanently during implementation, requiring even more work hours.  Since implementation work hours will likely differ from normal operating hours, increased head count for a limited period of time will likely be necessary.

5)    In addition to temporary increases in labor, temporary access to additional utilities and other infrastructure may be necessary. 

This may solely be for installation as the crews will likely need power and compressed air in locations not normally served by such.  Or it may be that the expansion space into which the equipment must go is not yet supported by power, light or other utilities.  Temporary weather barriers may also be necessary until the expansion space is fully enclosed.  Otherwise, the interior operational areas may face exterior weather conditions.


Although planning and preparation is essential, none of it matters without well-coordinated execution.  Next week I complete this 3-part series, with 5 Implementation Tips for a Seamless Transition.