Choosing an Automation Integrator: Factors that Matter

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Automation integrators go by many names as system, process, or even robot integrators – but automation integrators act as your organization’s partner when it comes to all things automation. Partnership with an integrator means that approaching new technologies to better leverage existing tools and solving unique and complex problems can all be made easier and more efficient.

Skillful automation integrators work tirelessly to apply cutting-edge thinking and technologies. It’s crucial to seek out an integrator with a steadfast commitment to develop and build the best automation system possible for your operational needs and your budget. An experienced provider is aware that some applications don’t require top notch components while others can’t function appropriately without them. You’ll also want an integrator who offers support for their systems with long-term repair services and is skilled in inter-device communications.

“Even though manufacturing is one of the most highly automated industries globally, there is still significant automation potential within the four walls of manufacturing sites, as well as in related functional areas such as supply chain and procurement” .

In fact, their research found that, 64 % of working hours spent on manufacturing-related activities are automable globally.”

For manufacturers, continuously advanced technology can save time and cost, boost up production and quality, and even put forward new opportunities for workers. But most SMEs need help from an integrator to make this happen. Finding the right one for your circumstance is quite complex. More than just a supplier of fancy equipment, an integrator should be a partner who is deeply know your goals and has the expertise to help you succeed.

How to look for in a Right Automation Integrator

It’s important to find a well-rounded system integrator. Using a versatile provider will ensure that they will be prepared for any challenges faced by your unique operation. When sourcing a system integrator, look at the following areas.

Examine Their Work

It’s important to look at not only how many years of experience a company has, but also the types of projects they do. If they have a specialty which matches your goals, they probably have the expertise you need. Though they excel in a single type or aspect of automation (e.g. vision applications) that you don’t require, they may not have broad enough knowledge for your specific situation.

Knowing which brand, platform and vendor that the integrator uses for programming is also helpful. For instance, if you are familiar with certain equipment, you might like to know if the integrator has worked with it before. Note also if they are “vendor agnostic” and purchase from a variety of sources or a single vendor exclusively.

Another factor is that potential integrators should be willing to provide references. Try to find out how the automation system is working and if the project stayed on schedule and on budget as well as their experience working with the integrator’s team. Was communication clear and timely? Did both parties establish rapport and have a good working relationship? Were they upfront about any setbacks or if things didn’t go as planned? Was there a backup plan? Concern about ongoing support is also important. Most of end users are always call ing on their integrator for troubleshooting, adjustments and other assistance, but it will be a bad sign of a routine occurrence.

Assess Their Approach to Automation and Business

In addition to experience and expertise, conducts of business is essential. Do they take time to fully understand the unique aspects of each project or do they take more of a one-size-fits-all approach? Is there a tendency to try something new or unproven just because it’s new? Do they value creativity and enjoy the challenge of problem solving?

You might not be familiar with all of the automation options that exist, so it’s critical to find an integrator that is. Are they up to date on the latest advances and technologies? Are they willing to try something new or do they seem set on certain ways of doing things? At last, a qualified integrator who’s up on advancements in technology may help you look farther into the future to show how automation can help you grow your business over an extended period of time.

Do they have an oversimplified idea of your process? Are there attempts to throw in extras that seem out of their usual scope of work? Does the price or timeline seem too good to be true? Does the integrator acknowledge the risks inherent in any automation project? It’s better to find out the limitations of a supplier rather than the project is half finished and faltering.

Finally, a business perspective is supposed to be considered. Things to consider include the number of employees, turnover rates, financial stability and even how frequently they subcontract specialized work. Furthermore, do their company values align with yours in terms of automation, roles and responsibilities, and communication styles?

An Affinity for Computer Software, Hardware, and Networking

The ideal system integrator gets up closely with the finer details of the existing software, hardware, and networking functions. Experience in other technical disciplines may be helpful, as well. A versatile set of skills and background demonstrate that integrators have built the critical skills for successful system integration. Problem-solving and the capability to understand complex, volatile situations are essential in any system integration project.

Proof of Analytical and Hands-On Problem-Solving Capabilities

Working as a system integrator is a hands-on job. In fact, an integrator have the skills and knowledge necessary to tackle a wide variety of difficult interoperability issues. Many businesses that move towards automation into trouble with application components that are developed by different teams, times, even providers. A experienced integrator will be prepared for software and hardware conflicts resulting from these issues.

Your system integrator understand how to analyze application and network logs. They should learn about various means of communication methodologies that could be employed to encourage systems to communicate—a handful of these include LON, BACnet, Modbus, and Legacy. Fluency in numerous disciplines should also be a requirement. Look for somebody with a deep understanding of the following:

  • Control systems
  • Electrical systems
  • Mechanical systems
  • Software applications and data management
  • Network, application security and visualization

Let’s consider whether they can apply their knowledge and prior experience to come up with solutions, probing their ability to conceptualize unique solutions for your specific application.

Look for opportunities to test an integrator’s skill when it comes to design and engineering. The ideal automation integrator should be able to generate designs for the purposes of communicating concept and function to the customer and for accuracy in manufacturing and assembly. They should also be able to clearly display solid implementation and integration skills and utilize the latest capabilities.

Assess Their Understanding of Best Practices in a Broad Range of Industries

Automation integrators should offer organizations a honed potentials and experiences with a broad range of applications ranging from food and beverage to automotive and even more. An expert integration team has the capability to create the necessary software and hardware for any automation project. This includes the ability to design and manufacture customized systems for processes such as:

  • Adhesive application
  • Cutting
  • Laser solutions
  • Material removal
  • Metrology
  • Non-destruction inspection
  • Welding

Check Their Fit as a Long-Term Partner

Good working relationships require clear communication. Since no two manufacturing automation projects are exactly alike, you must explain your processes and plans in great detail, and they should be listening closely. Do they ask clarifying questions? Are they willing to discuss options with you? Will they respond to your inquiries quickly enough to keep the project moving? A good integrator won’t dismiss or ignore customers’ questions, and admits when they do not have an immediate answer but are willing to figure it out.

Do find out if the integrator has clear expectations about the roles and responsibilities for all parties involved, including any subcontractors. Let’s look for signs that the integrator is organized and manages workflow effectively.

Especially if you are new to automation, look for a supplier that provides ongoing support. This includes testing and refining the system, training and troubleshooting. Do they seem invested in your long-term success? Integrators can prep companies on the small details that get the most out of a system. For example, integrators may suggest tooling or consumables that further improve output, or they might customize training to match employees’ needs.

Hundreds of your automation project’s success depends on the integrator you choose. Let’s spend time on conducting thorough research on each integrator you’re considering includes reviewing their experience, talking to past customers, observing systems they’ve installed, and paying attention to their communication and business style. It’s well worth the effort in the end.

Should you inquire to speed on automation programming project, feel free to contact us.

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