SDC’s Project Management Process

In an era defined by technological advancements, the automation of manufacturing processes stands as both a beacon of progress, and a growing necessity in our modern world. Because of this, it is invaluable to grasp the leadership required in automation development. In this comprehensive blog, we will journey through the stages of automating manufacturing at Steven Douglas Corp. (SDC) through a project management lens, from the initial considerations given by prospective clients to the seamless integration of cutting-edge technologies within manufacturing systems. Whether you’re a seasoned industry professional or an enthusiast eager to grasp the intricacies of modern manufacturing, our blog is your guide to navigating project management in the dynamic landscape of automating production.    

SDC’s Project Management Process

What is Project Management?

Project management is the art of juggling resources, communication, and logistics throughout an assignment or taskProject management takes many forms and styles which are often contested. However, one thing universally agreed upon is that top-notch project management is the unsung hero of any industry, especially the automation industry. It is time we sang the praises of SDC’s fast-growing Project Management department. 

Why We Value a Project Management Department at SDC 

SDC is at the forefront of automation, and a thought leader in the industry. What can we say? We’re good at what we do. After years of automating manufacturing processes, SDC found that a project manager is central to organization, facilitating communication, and satisfying customers. The project manager communicates extensively with customers, garnering a deep understanding of their company, their goals, and their automation needs. The project manager (PM) is also heavily involved in every department within SDC. This allows for the PM to facilitate communication between each department while maintaining a strong relationship and understanding with customers. 

How Did SDC Develop a Strong Project Management Department & Position? 

With over 25 years of experience, Steven Douglas Corp. has produced thousands of quality machines. This experience has produced incredibly valuable data regarding the phases of production at SDC. Examining that data and considering experiences, SDC was able to pinpoint where leadership was needed most. Maintaining communication between multiple complex departments and with a customer is no simple feat, but the importance of ongoing communication in automation cannot be overstated. This is why SDC has invested heavily in project management. We worked exhaustively with consultants to perfect our PM system and hired individuals experienced in project management to work in and help develop the department. Our dedication to powerful project management is to blame for our superb customer relationships and interactions. 

A major part of the creation of the project management department was the project management handbook. This handbook contains everything from information gathering guides to phase specification catalogues (checklists). The handbook is a result of years of experience automating manufacturing processes

The Project Manager In Action

SDC’s Project Management Process

Project Management Kick-Off

The applications engineer handles the conceptualizing and bidding with customers. Once the bid is won, it is the project manager’s time to shine. The process starts when the applications engineer hands off the project to the project manager. The applications engineer, project manager, and other team members all join forces in an internal kick-off meeting. Here the applications engineer relays all project information.

While meeting with the applications engineer, the PM develops an in-depth understanding of the incoming project. Then, the project manager works with SDC’s design and build team to generate questions to close the informational gap with the customer. Created with this purpose in mind, the project manager has a secret weapon for this process, the project management handbook. The handbook has helpful guides and pre-planned questions to assist the project manager in developing an understanding of each unique project. 

Once the project manager is fully submerged in the project, SDC hosts an external kick-off meeting with the customer. In this meeting, the PM will ask the customer any final questions, develop a scope for the project to maintain, ensure all specifications are accounted for, and develop a meeting schedule. By creating a meeting schedule, the project manager guarantees that the customer is always up to date and knows exactly what to expect moving forward. Meetings are typically scheduled weekly or biweekly, but the project manager is flexible to the customer’s communication needs. This sounds like a lot (because it is a lot), but the PM is experienced in leading these meetings and working with customer information. This kick-off process is one of the most essential in a project’s development.

With all information gathered and a meeting schedule in place, the project manager rounds up an expert project team. The project manager relies on Smartsheet, the capacity planning software, paired with the software add on resource manager which function is to track schedules. Using this software, the PM ensures all resources are delegated properly including the labor required for machine building. The team is assigned based on past project experience, personal skill set, and availability. This confirms the project will stay on track and on time in the hands of experienced professionals.

Project Management in the Design Phase

After the “dream team” is formed, the engineers, armed with caffeine and CAD, begin designing the project using the applications engineer’s machine concept. The project manager is monitoring their progress and meeting with the customer as scheduled to keep them in the loop. If anyone on the design team is unsure what the applications engineer intended in the concept, the project manager facilitates communication between the two departments while keeping the customer’s goals at the core of the project. By having the project manager take customer meetings, it allows our team to focus their time on creating the machines. It also makes it so that no information goes unnoticed. As the central point of contact for each department and for the customer, the project manager keeps information streamlined and communication constant.  

The design phase ends with a customer design approval meeting. The project manager meets with the customer and the group responsible for the design. The customer can then approve the design or request any adjustments they may see fit. If the goals of a customer shift, the PM is sure to aid the customer in shifting the scope of their ongoing project. Ultimately, the project manager is the team leader and acts in the best interest of both SDC and the customer to ensure each machine is everything a customer could want.

Receiving customer approval on the design means the team can begin gathering parts for the build. The project manager communicates with the design and build teams to come to the best decision on parts sourcing. Every project requires an abundance of components. SDC has a global supplier network for sourcing parts, machinery, and equipment to efficiently meet every customer’s needs. Some items can even be made or customized in-house. The PM balances cost, time of arrival, and customer preference when preparing to purchase parts. 

SDC’s Project Management Process

Project Management in the Build Phase

With the parts gathered, the building phase commences. The build team refers back to the approved design as they construct the project. This ensures specifications are met and the customer is aware of exactly what is being built. During this phase, the PM is continuing to meet with the customer and bridging communication between departments. The project manager helps to delegate resources and pushes the project forward through communication with managers and the team itself. Any confusion the build team may have about the design is easily cleared up with the project manager’s guidance.

While the build is underway, the customers are welcome to meet with the PM in person and see the machine come together. The project manager conducts regular meetings and lunches to build positive relationships with customers. As the machine is coming to fruition, it is common for customers to ask for adjustments outside of the original scope of the project. The project manager knows modifications are part of the process. With this request, a change order is placed, and the PM will lead engineers and machine builders to create options ranging in price for the customer to choose from. Following the completion of the build, with change orders wrapping up, and customers content, the project smoothly transitions to the test and debug phase.   

SDC’s Project Management Process

Project Management in the Testing Phase

The test and debug phase hands the project from the build team back to the engineers on the design team. The engineers scrutinize each aspect of the machine and test every issue to extinction. Meanwhile, the project manager watches over the engineers, verifies that their time is spent efficiently, and updates customers on the status of their project. As stated in the build phase, the customer is never a mere spectator but rather a welcomed VIP encouraged to visit the PM to see the progress of their machine. The project manager’s focus shifts in this phase from machine to clientele, allowing them to craft an experience that leaves customers more than satisfied. This means planning lunches, ensuring customers love how their machine is developing, and finding time for engineers to spotlight the developing abilities of each machine. Finally, when the engineers and PM are satisfied with the machine’s performance, they commence factory acceptance testing (FAT). The customer witnesses their machine in action and then moves forward with plans to take the project to their facilities. Each step in this process ensures that SDC is performing as efficiently as possible, and that the customer is getting exactly what they want. 


In the ever-evolving landscape of modern manufacturing, the automation process at Steven Douglas Corp. exemplifies a harmonious blend of technological innovation, meticulous standards and organization, and unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction. Our developed project management department makes a large contribution to this. From the initial spark of an idea to the seamless integration of cutting-edge technologies, each phase is a testament to SDC’s dedication to excellence. As technology continues to advance, SDC remains at the forefront, shaping the future of automated manufacturing with precision and expertise.

If your company would like to work alongside our expert project management team, click below to reach out.