3 Questions to Help You Determine if You Need a Systems Integrator

AA030503-cropped“Don’t fix what isn’t broken,” is a common mantra among plant managers. As a result, many of our integration projects include updating PLC’s and their associated modules when they become obsolete. Recently, a facility hired us for a PLC system upgrade for a process system that had to be completed in one month. Their internal personnel did well at handling minor PLC program changes but not a full PLC conversion. This project also included converting 200+ drawings into AutoCAD and much more. Before they engaged us, they had to ask themselves a few questions.

1.) How quickly do we need it done?

Most facilities do not have the internal resources to handle a major upgrade or to develop a new line. The resources necessary for those tasks include the right mix of manpower and expertise.

Their plant engineering manager couldn’t dedicate someone to work on the project full-time due to daily operations support. They also lacked the in-house expertise to do the entire upgrade and integration. Without the internal manpower and expertise, they had to look elsewhere, so they asked their PLC manufacturer who they would recommend for a project that had to meet a strict one month deadline and maintain their quality standards.

2.) What resources will we need?

With a basic knowledge of what is needed to conduct the project, the plant management looks for the appropriate resources to complete the project within the desired timeframe. These resources may be full turnkey services, programming, emulation, equipment selection, validation and start-up through to training maintenance and operators on new equipment and operation changes as a result of the project.

On the web, it is hard to tell who is qualified and who will be the right fit for a project. Some people might land on a website and ask for a proposal, but most of the time, integrators are referred by the component manufacturer or by other plant managers. By going through business channels, you can find out if an integrator has the right mix of employees and experience to handle the project scope.

3.) Who is going to be the lowest risk?

Going with the lowest cost vendor seems like common sense, but many plant managers confuse lowest cost with being the lowest risk. The value a systems integrator provides is a combination of their price, experience, expertise and resources. The lowest bid might come from a vendor who lacks the full combination of qualities that contributes to a successful project. A plant manager’s goal in finding the right integrator is to learn as much as possible about the integrator’s depth of experience and then weigh all of its risk to their project.

To minimize your risks in selecting an integrator, here are 3 factors that you should consider