Getting ready to have new equipment installed in your plant? Installing new equipment, whether in a brand-new production line or an existing line, can be challenging. To make the process as easy as possible and to save yourself time and money by decreasing the potential for downtime, ask the following questions before any new equipment installation.

1. First, be sure to talk to your supplier’s project manager before starting preparation for the installation. He may have information that will affect your preparation. He also will be your main contact for questions regarding delivery of the project, and will give you an idea of what you need to have on hand and what you need to accomplish before equipment is delivered. 

2. Ask your supplier about electrical requirements and other necessities that need to be on-site for proper installation. By asking this beforehand, you’ll know exactly what you need to accomplish before the new equipment arrives. Here are some of the items you need to ask about:

   a. Power (460V/3Ph/60hz, 120V, 24V or other)
   b. Pneumatic (compressed air); 90 psi, 60 SCFM …
   c. Dedusting (port diameter, multi points, pressure, flow rate …)
   d. Communication cables (Ethernet or other)

3. Where are drop sites for these items located? Knowing this can help you save time and will help the supplier position the new equipment. Ask the project manager for the final layout and add drop sites if needed.

4. Are there out-of-the-ordinary environmental conditions at the plant? Installation can be difficult for service technicians when they have to work in such settings.

5. If installation involves a high-pressure wash down with chemicals or other cleaners, make sure to share details with the supplier.

6. What is the floor thickness required for your new equipment? Make sure you ask your supplier for the exact weight of your new equipment, robots will transmit extra forces to the floor while moving. Robotic equipment, for example, typically requires a minimum of 8 inches of additional floor reinforcement.

7. Stability is another factor to keep in mind for equipment that includes a robot, so be sure to think about anchorages. Robots can move very fast and equipment that incorporates them needs to stay steady. Are anchors included with the new equipment? If not, do you have all the anchors required for the new equipment?

8. Do you need to relocate piping or other items? Installing new equipment may force you to relocate existing components depending on the size and layout of the new equipment. Make sure that all relocating is done before installation begins, to avoid installation delay and production downtime.

9. Is lighting adequate for the new equipment? Consider alternative ways to provide light to the installation technician so he can do his job properly. You’ll also need to think about the positioning of your current light fixtures. For example, if a new bagger is bigger or smaller than the existing one, the location of the light source that currently attaches to the bag magazine may not be optimally positioned once the new bagger is in place.

10. Do you have everything needed for equipment commissioning? Make a list of everything you need to do tests and to run your equipment. This may include empty bags, rolls of bag film, pallets, wrapping film, labels, labeller, printer and ink, glue, bagger, slip sheet, etc.

11. In case pre-installation preparation doesn’t go as planned and you’re not ready to install by the planned date, can equipment be stored for an extended period of time in a dry room without deteriorating? Find out if you have a dry place to store equipment, to prevent its deterioration.

12. Will you need an external contractor such as a millwright to perform mechanical installation? Ask your supplier if that service is included in your contract. If not, you’ll need to hire an external contractor who can accommodate the installation schedule.

13. Do you need an external contractor to wire the new equipment?

14. Are cables included with your new equipment? Again, ask your supplier. You may need to buy cables elsewhere and have them on-site in time for installation.

15. When are the supplier’s technicians available to supervise installation, commissioning and training? As soon as you know the delivery date, schedule these steps with the supplier’s service technicians and the appropriate staff at your plant.

16. What is the size of the door or other access through which the equipment will be delivered? Before delivery, ask your supplier for the size of the largest piece of equipment. That way, you’ll be able to identify the appropriate entrance for equipment delivery and prepare an alternative if the delivery areas you have are too small.

17. Do you have a forklift or equivalent tools to move the new equipment from the delivery truck to its destination inside the plant?

18. Other items and tools that might be needed for equipment handling or installation include ropes, crowbars, a welding machine, slings, etc. Ask your supplier what will be needed.

19. How much time is the production team giving you to remove existing equipment and install the new equipment? Do you have a “Plan B” in case installation or commissioning last longer than expected? Confirm the time needed with the project manager, and develop a backup plan.

20. Which spare parts need to be stocked? At a minimum, you will need a kit for commissioning.

21. Advise other teams at your plant that new equipment will be installed, and when. It is critically important to let your team know this because it may affect production for a few days. Alerting other team members also lets them know that they may be called upon to help you prepare.

22. Share your plant’s internal safety procedures, safety training needs and all other internal standards with your supplier. Suppliers serve many clients and deal with multiple safety standards, so make sure that your supplier is aware of your plant’s security rules so that they can follow them properly.

23. Do you need the supplier’s installation personnel to take drug tests, acquire proof of insurance or meet other requirements of your insurance carrier? Find out from your insurance carrier and be sure to notify the supplier of any steps its personnel must take before they can work on your property.

24. Take part in the supplier’s FAT (factory acceptance test) in your plant. This will enhance your understanding of the equipment and may raise questions you should ask. The goal is to avoid surprises at installation. Involve maintenance and production people if possible and keep production employees aware of and educated about the new equipment.

25. Schedule a post-installation follow-up visit with the supplier’s technician. This will shorten the learning curve for your employees, and is even more important when you switch from manual to robotic/automatic equipment. Get all the information you need from your supplier; it wants to serve as a source of information and to partner with you to help you reach your goals.

26. Ask your supplier about preventive maintenance (PM): What needs to be performed, and how often? Inform your plant’s Reliability Engineer that there is new equipment in need of PM. The supplier’s Client Services team can tell you about all the steps in its after-sales support process.

27. Schedule training of all operators and maintenance personnel. If training is needed for night-shift employees, advise the supplier so that this training can be scheduled as well.