4 Things to Consider when Selecting an Automation Integrator
Manufacturing automation implementation is a complex and extended project. It requires coordination and focused management. There is a difference between the installation of automation components and the set-up of an automation system. Any major manufacturer can walk an internal resource through component installation. But improper system programming will sink an automation project. For this reason, 90% of companies choose to use an automation systems integrator.
A quick internet search can provide a long list of automation integrators in your area. How do you make sure you choose the most qualified integrator team for your specific project?
Here are some things that you should consider when evaluating integration teams:
1. Do they take the time to listen and understand your automation expectations?
Industrial automation integrators may specialize in an industry. Or, they may support many automation systems used in many different industries. Understanding your company's industry can give an integrator a competitive advantage. But if that is not possible, make sure that you are speaking with each of the short list integrators face to face. Are they willing to listen to your system performance expectations? Your budget requirements? Your company specific needs? Do they want involvement in the planning process early? Are they listening to your expectations and requirements?
2. Are they willing to train and empower your company’s employees?
Your automated process will need repair and maintenance long after the integrator “service and support” agreement expires. An ideal integrator candidate will perform maintenance training throughout the project. An integrator provides value through training, making the complex simple, and creating documentation. An integrator that writes a proprietary control package and forces you to depend upon them for long term costly support should not be selected. Any integrator who pushes a proprietary platform is not the right team for you.
3. Are they clear in defining responsibilities for project success?
Does the integration team define your responsibilities? Are the responsibilities of the application engineering team clear? Does the integrator accept responsibility for providing guidance for successful project completion? Do not underestimate the importance of communication. A step to integrator qualification is understanding the integrator’s communication methods. Also, you should understand their process for applying your scope of work.
4. Can they provide you with case studies of previous projects and best practices?
Make sure that you ask for recommendations from previous clients. Schedule a time to talk with the references provided. Ask them what it was like to work with the integrator candidate. Follow up to see if the integrator holds certifications. This can distinguish them from the other candidates. Search for an integrator that goes the extra mile for clients by using known best practices. You and your company deserve a partner interested in your success.
Hiring a qualified integrator is an important part of your automation project implementation. Don’t take shortcuts during the qualification. Finding someone you can trust is key. Confidence comes from knowing that the integrator holds certifications. Trust comes from the integrator's high standards for team performance. Certainty comes when integrator provides the appropriate guidance for your automation needs.