Finding system integrators for machinery, system projects

When mapping out a new machinery or system project it is critical that the correct decisions are made before beginning design. The choices of products, vendors and service providers can make or break a project before it even gets off the ground.
By Frank Lamb, Automation Primer March 27, 2015

When a larger service provider or machine builder is deciding how to approach a proposed solution to a manufacturing problem, they rely on their experience with certain products and vendors and other similar projects they have done in the past. Major brand vendors and distributors often call on these companies to show them the latest and greatest innovations in their industry, whether it be controls, mechanical components or techniques. “Lunch and Learns” are often held to introduce innovations to Applications, Project and Design Engineers.

Smaller machine builders and integrators often don’t get quite as much attention from vendors and may have to seek out information themselves. Trade shows and regional seminars can often provide an opportunity for people in the industrial arena to see products first hand.

There is a lot of information on the web also, but it can be difficult to wade through the millions of sites for the information that is needed. Everybody claims to be the best at what they do and have the highest quality, lowest cost, coolest features or whatever. The sites that rank the highest are also not always the best either, many larger companies have deep enough pockets to pay for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) which can artificially inflate the number of people that visit a site.

When mapping out a new machinery or system project it is critical that the correct decisions are made before beginning design. The choices of products, vendors and service providers can make or break a project before it even gets off the ground.But how do you find the vendors in the first place? Smaller service providers often don’t show up on web searches, sometimes because they don’t have a website beyond a basic presence and sometimes because they just get lost in the weeds. Some of the best engineers and contractors are so busy already that they don’t need to advertise. Small machine builders are also often booked up for months or years ahead of time, especially if they are good at what they do, so they don’t feel the need to advertise much. While the hardware and software vendors are easy to find, the machine builders and integrators are less so.

Here in my home state of Tennessee I know a lot of the smaller machine builders and integrators. I have worked with them or for them and can vouch for their strengths and weaknesses. I started a small group called TAII, or the Tennessee Association of Independent Integrators, in order to give some of these smaller contractors (primarily in controls) a way to network with each other and also a way to refer companies to people I know something about. I would really like to find a way to include smaller companies and independent integrators from other areas. For example, I have been looking for people to help on a project in South Florida but I can’t seem to find anyone from down there. Amazingly, when I looked on the Automation.com website for integrators I was able to find almost 40 companies listed for Tennessee but only two in Florida. I am sure there are more, but it has been difficult to find controls guys local to Miami.

If you have first-hand knowledge of the way a machine builder or system integrator manages their projects I would like to hear from you. Also if you know of good local resources (controls or mechanical contractors or small systems houses, panel shops or other industrial service providers) please let me know. It could be of great value to companies looking for solutions.Bottom of Form