PostedMonday, February 17, 2020 at 4:41 PM
How to Select a System Integrator
To meet the challenges of an increasingly competitive marketplace, many manufacturers (end users) need to focus on their core competencies (i.e., their secret sauce) and outsource the rest to experts.
Since system integration is not a core competency for most end users, they are outsourcing it. In fact, the trend of outsourcing system integration has been going on for decades, and it is likely to continue. Meanwhile, end users are elevating their internal engineering departments to play a new key role, one as an orchestrator of a wide and complex ecosystem of suppliers to deliver on the projects needed to support their companies’ strategies.
This takes place at a time when technology has gained a much more prominent and visible role for the success of the overall manufacturer. While Industry 4.0/ IoT / IIoT / digital transformation goes beyond technology, technology remains a key foundational element and true enabler.
Most end users’ projects have seen their solution scope dramatically expanded, going beyond the integration of traditional systems and reaching into functions that may have been just too hard or expensive to integrate in the past. Many aspects of technology have become easier and more intuitive – in particular around the user experience. Overall, integration has become more difficult. In addition to an expanded solution scope, system integration faces the challenge associated with brownfield installations, frequently with a patchwork of legacy systems.
System Integration as a Core Competency
It’s no surprise that system integration is the core business of system integrators. Therefore, system integrators (SIs) often offer their clients (end users) a number of advantages. SIs provide
Digital Transformation’s Impact on SIs
The digital transformation will also transform the system integration business.
The Key Role of SIs
At a very high level, it is important to recognize the key role played by SIs in the success of end user projects and underlying initiatives.
At a high level, end users need to ask themselves:
Here are four practical steps for you to follow during the integrator selection process.
Where to Start Searching
System integration is not a very visible market, and very few SIs have company names that aren’t recognizable to those outside the industry. It is also a very diverse market that allows SI specialization along a broad scope of technologies, industries and geographies.
A good place to start is in the Industrial Automation Exchange, a community of SIs and suppliers hosted by the Control System Integrators Association. Filters allow end users to search suitable SIs based on their requirements: industry vertical served, application and/or product specialization, vendor specific technical platform and/or CSIA management certification. Most SIs have their own websites that the Exchange links to, allowing further exploration. Some SIs also participate in trade shows and attend industry events, mostly from the automation equipment vendors providing an opportunity to meet in person.
Outsourcing to SIs allows end users to focus on their strategic core (i.e., their “secret sauce”). For SIs, system integration is their core business, one in which they consistently invest. Digital transformation (IoT, IIoT, Industry 4.0, smart manufacturing) is a key initiative for end users; one that can further elevate the role of advice and support by SIs. Because of all of this, when it comes to selecting the right SI, time is worth investing. The nature of the relationship should be focus on mutual, long-term success, like any true partnership.
Jose Rivera has led a successful global career in the automation industry working in six countries, most often in a regional or global role. Since March 2015 he has been the CEO of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). In this position he has worked to advance the system integration industry by expanding the adoption of the CSIA Best Practices and by helping members recognize emerging trends and pursue associated business development opportunities. The CSIA Best Practices help independent system integrators build better companies. Mr. Rivera holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL and Lic (MS) and BS degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Costa Rica. He is fluent in Spanish, English, German, with a basic level of French.
Lisa Richter is industry director of the Control System Integrators Association, where she helps members grow their business, share industry expertise and advance the industry of control system integration. She is also host of the popular Talking Industrial Automation podcast. Prior to joining CSIA, Lisa was VP of marketing and communications for a commercial cleaning industry non-for-profit, as well as an award-winning consultant to the association industry.
This article was excerpted from a feature story that was originally published in Control Engineering.