For all of the Industrial Automation customers out there looking to bring in a Systems Integrator to assist with software development, implementation, debugging and support of a project you are looking to begin, selecting the appropriate company can be a daunting task. For that reason, I have decided to discuss what I consider to be the most important qualities that should be scrutinized before making your selection.
The First Three Qualities all Systems Integrators should have:
- Product & Application Knowledge: Every project should begin with an email or phone call followed by an onsite visit. During this time, it’s important to qualify all candidates based on their product and application acumen. When sitting down in an office to discuss your ideas or touring your facility to see what is already in place, a great candidate should be able to educate you on the current application options available. These will be based on your preliminary discussion, current onsite implementations, space confinement, facility communications, IT structure, project goals and system requirements. The ability to think outside of the box and keep the future in mind are also great attributes of a good systems integrator. They should see where you want to go, present any obstacles that might stand in your way and present the best solution-based platform with flexibility, quality, long life availability and support.
- Application Engineering & Development Experience: During the initial stages, you might only deal with the sales representative responsible for your territory or industry. It’s important to ask for another meeting where you can meet the entire team that would work on the development, implementation and support of your project. That usually will consist of an application engineer(s), software developer(s) and project manager(s). This meeting will enable you to gain a better understanding for how their organization works. It also allows you to discuss all project implementations they have completed, their experience in your particular field, what type of track record they have for delivering a finished product, your hardware/software preferences and their ideas on what it will take to deliver a quality solution.
- Product Offering: It’s important to do your research on the hardware and software manufacturers potential candidates align themselves with. Ask yourself; is the software the best fit for your back end, IT department and external I/O? In some cases, integrators create proprietary software to fit your needs, so that isn’t as important. Additionally, consider whether the proposed hardware will offer longevity, while working seamlessly with all integrated software, I/O and any external hardware utilized to access vital information. At the end of the day, it’s important to have a good understanding of what the proposed software and hardware can and can’t do.
Stay tuned for Part II of 6 Qualities to Consider when Selecting an Industrial Automation Systems Integrator, which will address three additional items including: Quality of Product & Relationship with Manufacturer, Ability to Deliver on Time, and Presenting Accurate Budgetary Numbers. If you have any questions on what you read, feel free to contact me!