6 reasons why system integration is not a commodity

Integrator Update: Reduce risk and improve results by not treating automation and control system integration as a commodity; six reasons follow explaining why system integration shouldn’t be treated as a commodity.

03/20/2014


Robert Lowe is executive director of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA), a not-for-profit, global trade association that seeks to advance the industry of control system integration. Courtesy: CSIAReduce risk and improve results by not treating automation and control system integration as a commodity. Control system integrators use engineering, technical, and business skills to help manufacturers and others automate industrial equipment and systems; six reasons follow explaining why system integration shouldn't be treated as a commodity, according to the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA), a trade association which helps system integrators be more effective.

1. While commodities are shipped with little risk, that isn't so with high-tech solutions.

A rock is a rock. Oil is oil. A fuse is a fuse. An intelligent, high-tech automation solution is a risk. Will it solve your problem when installed and tested, or won't it? There is a lot of room for error and many risks must be managed.

2. System integration does not come out of a box.

Though not always apparent, a control or information system is mostly the result of brain power from the system integrator, not the hardware and software platform on which it runs. The hardware and software are the vehicles that carry the intellectual capabilities of the integrator.

3. Not all system integrators are created equal.

Being a successful system integration company requires more than being able to engineer, design, and program. A successful system integration company, one that delivers consistently good results to clients, must also have good business practices to complement the technical skills. Unfortunately, not all system integrators have good business practices. End-user clients should look for the CSIA Certification mark, which ensures good business practices are in place.

4. Specifying a commodity is easy.

Specifying a system integration solution is hard. Have you ever read or written a user requirements specification? That's what a system integrator needs to provide a solution. It must include scope of work, project overview, safety and environmental requirements, performance criteria, terms and conditions, and other details.

5. The dollar value of services rendered can vary greatly between system integrators.

For instance, two system integrators could both be paid $250,000 for the same project. One integrator might take one approach with its team and provide the client with, say, $500,000 in economic value, while the second integrator might take a different approach and provide $2 million in value. If system integration were a commodity, you would expect the same investment of $250,000 to yield the same economic benefit, but that is not the case in system integration.

6. No system integration company can do it all, or is suited for all.

System integration solutions to automation problems come in all sizes and shapes. A small system integration company may be the most effective solution to a $50,000 project but may not be able to manage a $1 million project. Likewise, a large integration company may over-engineer a small project.

- Robert Lowe is CSIA executive director. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering and Plant Engineering, mhoske(at)cfemedia.com.

ONLINE

Below is additional information beyond what appears in the April 2014 issue of Control Engineering.

www.controlsys.org 

CSIA offers system integrators training to articulate the value of system integration.

ONLINE extra

Note on engineering terminology differences: Engineering terms differ: Systems integration versus system integration. Some prefer systems integration (plural systems) with the idea that multiple systems are getting integrated. Control Engineering uses system integration (singular system) as a simpler and broader term, acknowledging that most systems have sub systems and are part of wider systems.

About CSIA: Founded in 1994, the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) is a not-for-profit, global trade association that seeks to advance the industry of control system integration. CSIA members provide a range of services in dozens of industries. Headquartered in Madison, Wis., CSIA is the "go-to" resource for control system integration providers. CSIA helps members improve their business skills, provides a forum to share industry expertise, and promotes the benefits of hiring a certified control system integrator. CSIA has more than 400 members in 27 countries.



No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Learn how to create value with re-use; gain productivity with lean automation and connectivity, and optimize panel design and construction.
Go deep: Automation tackles offshore oil challenges; Ethernet advice; Wireless robotics; Product exclusives; Digital edition exclusives
Lost in the gray scale? How to get effective HMIs; Best practices: Integrate old and new wireless systems; Smart software, networks; Service provider certifications
Fixing PID: Part 2: Tweaking controller strategy; Machine safety networks; Salary survey and career advice; Smart I/O architecture; Product exclusives
The Ask Control Engineering blog covers all aspects of automation, including motors, drives, sensors, motion control, machine control, and embedded systems.
Look at the basics of industrial wireless technologies, wireless concepts, wireless standards, and wireless best practices with Daniel E. Capano of Diversified Technical Services Inc.
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
This is a blog from the trenches – written by engineers who are implementing and upgrading control systems every day across every industry.
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.