System integration survey results show increase in spending for next year
The system integration business is looking up, according to a new Control Engineering original research study, with most survey respondents (87%) likely to be involved in system integration projects in the coming year, and spending on system integration projects was expected to increase next year. Three main groups of Control Engineering subscribers are system integrators (SIs), end users, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Even those who don’t consider themselves system integrators or system integration firms often do system integration and/or hire system integrators to design, assemble, simulate or test, start up, optimize, maintain, and retire their increasingly interconnected control systems.
Respondents valued half of all system integration projects this year at more than $50,000; 27% were more than $250,000; and 16% were over $750,000. And almost all agreed that the work system integrators do is effective. See advice from respondents below.
Advice from survey respondents: Communicate more clearly
Based on your experience, the survey asked, what could system integrators do to work better with clients? Analysis of 76 write-in responses shows that communications and technology related areas are the most in need of improvement. Categorized groupings and percentages follow, along with a sampling of advice in each area.
28% of comments had to do with communication, documentation, relationship, and courtesy:
- Always need better and more complete communication. All past problems encountered could have been prevented with better and more frequent communication.
- Those doing system integration need better scoping definitions, better and timely communication, avoidance of the "last second" stress, candid but factual “change order” and “scope creep” conversations, to avoid creating proprietary programming, always annotate PLC code, avoid the "nickel, dime, arm, then leg" approach when inevitable delays come in time and material (T&M) projects.
- Develop a relationship to understand how that plant works.
- Stay in contact so that design input opportunities can be discussed in the early stage.
24% Experience and technology details:
- Design systems with maintaining them in mind instead of using the latest gadget to meet the spec.
- Become immersed in the customer’s day-day life, understand the existing process, and find ineffective systems before designing new ones.
- Have successful experience portfolio to show.
- Keep up to date on the latest advances in technology.
19% Lifecycle, project management, flexibility, and standards:
- Do a follow-up on what was installed after it has been in use for a time. Look at the problems that developed.
- Ensure strong skills in project management, accurate tracking (cost and schedule), expertise and effectiveness with startup procedures.
- Work hand-in-hand with clients and be flexible to understand their requirements.
13% Schedule and scope:
- Be flexible with project scope and demands. Not every project is a repeat of a previous project.
- Meet project schedule.
- Do their own scheduling and project milestones.
- More time up front defining scope, cost, schedule.
- Spend time to understand the customer concerns and future plans.
- Finish the work before running out of contract money.
- Charge less.
- Ongoing support after installation is difficult to quote but is required.
- Simple design is best. Train the client in operations and maintenance.
- Customer training/awareness.
- Do more marketing.
The 2013 Control Engineering System Integration report provides analysis and data points on who does system integration, projects for next year, integrated devices, skills needed for system integration, when system integrators join projects, effectiveness, project costs, change in spending, integrator selection, and preferred sources for system integration services, among other topics.
– Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, firstname.lastname@example.org.
System Integrator Giants – The 100 firms on the System Integrator Giants list represent the largest system integrators, from among the companies listed in the Control Engineering Automation Integrator Guide. In the survey, system integrator revenue is defined as automation integration services minus the cost of all off-the-shelf products: hardware, software, and equipment. The System Integrators who responded to this survey provided information about engineering specialties, industries served, products integrated, associations/affiliations, and challenges from their industry.
Control Engineering Automation Integrator Guide