The Control System Integrator Quest

Where can the control engineer find a really good, competent Control System Integrator? That is a great question, and the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) believes it has an answer. Even though most control engineers know what control system integrators (CSI) do and that their participation in a project can add tangible value, clarification of a CSI's function might be approp...

12/15/2001


Where can the control engineer find a really good, competent Control System Integrator? That is a great question, and the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) believes it has an answer. Even though most control engineers know what control system integrators (CSI) do and that their participation in a project can add tangible value, clarification of a CSI's function might be appropriate.

Briefly, services that a CSI can provide should include:

  • Consultation during the vision, planning, and auditing portions of a project;

  • Preparation of functional requirement specifications;

  • Development and implementation of control solutions;

  • Project management;

  • Installation and start-up support; and

  • Training development and technical support.

A qualified CSI should be proficient in all six of these services and be able to demonstrate competency in them. The following guidelines are helpful in assessing their competency.

First, a qualified CSI should have a wealth of plant-floor control and information experience. This should include work in numerous applications covering a broad range of automation projects. Knowledge of hardware and software solutions should be current.

Second, a qualified CSI firm's personnel should have depth and synergy. A single expert in each discipline may be insufficient for some projects. Staffing levels should include ample backup for all technology specialists to handle multiple and parallel projects.

Third, a qualified CSI should demonstrate established project execution practices. Are cutting-edge solutions prototyped and risk items evaluated? Are factory acceptance tests what are expected? If this documentation appear to be missing, incomplete, or trivialized, it may be time to look elsewhere.

A job well done

Although these three characteristics may indicate a CSI's competency, can you really count on them to do a good job? CSIA believes a good system integrator must also be good businessperson. Basically, this is what CSIA is all about. CSIA's primary mission, in addition to promoting the professional image of the CSI, is to assist members in developing effective business skills and provide standards for sound business practices. Members join and participate in CSIA because they want to become better and more effective businesspeople. CSIA members rely on automation suppliers to keep them technically up-to-date, and look to CSIA for help to achieve successful market growth. All members receive CSIA's "Best Practices & Benchmarks," which outlines measurable criteria for self-evaluation of a company's performance in six important business categories. These include:

  • General Management Organizational Structure-facilities, strategic objections, and goals;

  • Human Resources and Professional Development-how to develop administration techniques for recruiting, developing, and retaining employees;

  • Project Management-guidelines for project planning, quality, methodologies, standards, documentation, testing, and implementation;

  • Quality Management—guidelines for development of leadership, teamwork, and effective communication skills;

  • Financial Management-how to develop financial measurements, including planning, billing, credit management, purchasing practices, controlling expenses, and preparing reports; and

  • Business Development-guidelines for organization development and practices, proposal development, and negotiating and contracting.

To further assist CSIA members in business development skills, the "Registered Member" program has been initiated. A panel of end-users and product manufacturers has selected criteria from the "Best Practices & Benchmarks" thought to be the most important in selecting a control system integrator. Regular CSI members who pass an external consulting audit on these items achieve "Registered Member" status. A complete member list is located on the CSIA website. Reviewing a new CSIA guidebook, "Selecting and Working with a CSI" can further augment the selection process.

For information on the CSIA, www.controlsys.org or visit www.controleng.com/freeinfo





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