System integration: What is the state of the industry?

Right now, the system integration business continues to grow in importance to manufacturers looking to upgrade their plant operation. Assess the state of the system integration industry as a whole.

By CFE Media December 24, 2016

Q: Right now, the system integration business continues to grow in importance to manufacturers looking to upgrade their plant operation. Assess the state of the system integration industry as a whole.

Bill Pollock

President and CEO

Optimation Technology Inc.

Rush, N.Y.

#28 on the 2016 System Integrator Giants List

Overall, the state of the systems integration industry remains strong. Manufacturers need to continue to upgrade and modernize their plants to stay competitive. Implementation of state of the art technology is important for future success.

Mark Hoffman


Automation & Control Concepts

St. Louis, Mo.

#44 on the 2016 System Integrator Giants List

We can confidently say that when properly performed, nearly all automation upgrades on systems over 8 years old can provide a one-year pay back; while just porting the programs in like kind to the next operating system or platform yields very little benefit. Specify, design in, and measure the ROI [return on investment] from the start of your project. The state of the system integration industry is mixed on this subject. Some get it and some just don’t. Spend a little more time and money and do the automation upgrade properly and you can fund all your upgrades with the ROI. Begin the automation upgrades on the bottleneck processes first to realize maximum ROI quickly. Measure the ROI and leverage this to show management you are self-funding the upgrades with real ROI.

Michael Kershaw


Crossmuller Technology Pty Ltd.

Sydney, Australia

#87 on the 2016 System Integrator Giants List

In our food and beverage MES [manufacturing execution systems] specialist capacity, we are finally seeing a good number of our global manufacturers heading down some type of global roll-out of MES-type function, mainly to address one of three things: 1. Compliance issues around track and trace from farm to shelf 2. Quality opportunities "at line" to reduce waste and increase DIFOT [delivered in full, on-time] 3. Efficiency issues via OEE [overall equipment effectiveness] analysis.

Mukund Muley

Managing Director

Cotmac Electronics Pvt Ltd

Pune, India

#12 on the 2016 System Integrators Giants List

The manufacturing industry is under tremendous pressure because of increased expectations from the customers. The plants not only have to produce the products efficiently and faster but also have to meet the expectations with a wide variety of products to be produced from the same set of manufacturing equipment/production lines. Thus the plants are required to be upgraded in order to meet the increasing demands. System integrators have the domain knowledge about the customer’s processes as well as the knowledge on technological advancements from the automation equipment suppliers. Thus system integrators are in more and more demand from the manufacturing segment. They are expected to deliver the right solution at minimal costs to make the plants more advanced, connected, flexible, and efficient too.

Michael Lindley

Vice President

Concept Systems Inc.

Albany, Ore.

#20 on the 2016 System Integrators Giants List

We have seen a significant change in the system integration industry over the last 12 to 18 months. Companies are much more collaborative than in the past and are truly looking to partner with an automation integrator to improve the efficiency of their operations, often viewing the integrator as an extension of their teams. Companies are faced with multiple manufacturing challenges: maintaining antiquated equipment, evaluating opportunities to incorporate robotics into production, and preparing for the Industrial Internet of Things [IIoT]. To address these concerns, among many others, companies are looking to systems integrators to help them create an automation roadmap or a plan that details at a macro level where they want to be in 3 to 5 years in terms of efficiency, throughput, risk management, maintenance, etc. This level of collaboration and inclusivity is creating great opportunities for companies and integrators to partner and implement some truly world-class solutions.

Zoran Šoškić

Engineering Manager


Beograd, Serbia

#43 on the 2016 System Integrator Giants List

System integration is a necessary component of any serious manufacturing improvement process. It decreases the costs production, while shortening the time to obtain the same output. This is why system integration is a necessity in an industrialized world, and as long as the rest of the industry is growing, there will be jobs for companies doing the system integration. Here in European continent, independent system integrators have [a] harder time due to the competition from the equipment manufacturers (e.g., Siemens, ABB) who often want to contract the automation projects as well, instead of just delivering equipment. Profit margins are not always high, but all things considered, system integration is a stable industry.

Todd Williams

Vice President


Walled Lake, Mich.

#2 on the 2016 System Integrators Giants List

Systems integration is becoming critical to almost every project within the manufacturing world because most aspects of the manufacturing process have at least some technology associated with them. It is important that manufacturers are able to leverage existing systems by integrating new projects into them to increase functionality and reduce overall costs resulting in more work for system integrators. The system integration business is also becoming more complex, resulting in the need for higher skilled workers. The industry is not getting enough exposure at the university level to develop enough talent to fill the positions that will be required in the years to come. Successful system integrators will have to attract and retain the right talent or develop techniques and approaches that drastically reduce the human power required to get projects completed.

Rafael Pezzella

Sales Manager 

IASTECH Automação de Sistemas Ltda

Sao Paulo, Brazil

#65 on the 2016 System Integrator Giants List

The System Integration business will grow considering the new technologies and IIoT systems to be installed. Customers are looking for new technologies to find a way to improve their operations.

Matthew Burton, PE

Corporate Director of Automation Technology

Hargrove Controls + Automation

Mobile, Ala.

#46 on the 2016 Systems Integrator Giants List

The systems integration business is steady, but growth continues to be a challenge due to an overall weak manufacturing economy. Since the fall of oil prices, many projects have been postponed or delayed. Despite this, Hargrove Controls + Automation has grown over the last couple of years by gaining market share of system integration projects driven by maintenance, reliability, regulations, and company acquisitions and reduced support staff.

PC Romano


Avid Solutions

Winston-Salem, N.C.

#37 on the 2016 System Integrator Giants List

Many of the larger system integrators were founded in the ’80s and ’90s. They’ve progressed through multiple levels of maturity since that time, but today the largest challenge/opportunity is arguably strategic talent management. Most system integrators lack strong recruiting, selection, training, development, and leadership pipelines.

David Ziskind

Automation and System Integration

The Dennis Group LLC

Duluth, Ga.

#62 on the 2016 System Integrator Giants List

System integration is critical to any manufacturing process, and the field will continue to grow in importance as more new systems are developed and deployed. Ensuring interoperability and end-to-end performance between legacy systems and new devices will be an ongoing need as manufacturers upgrade and optimize their operations. One of the biggest challenges for the system integration industry will be finding and developing enough experienced and talented individuals to support this increasing demand.

Nigel James

Director of Business Development & Chief Strategic Officer

Burrow Global LLC

Houston, TX.

#14 on the 2016 System Integrator Giants List

We see a strong growth in automation projects and clients funding migration and greenfield installations. We have grown over 45% [in] the last three years and are still going strong.

Brent McPhail


Brave Control Solutions

Windsor, Ontario

#71 on the 2016 System Integrator Giants List

The system integration industry faces a lot of great opportunities in the near future. The average age of automation equipment is getting older and older, and this is presenting many opportunities to retrofit existing equipment with the latest controls technologies. In order for manufacturers to continue to stay competitive, the growth rate of technology today demands that plants continually upgrade their equipment, systems, and processes to improve reliability and performance across their operations.

Retrofits are a more cost-effective solution for manufacturers looking to upgrade equipment and take advantage of the latest that technology has to offer, but they carry with them increased risk of the unknown. Taking down a machine that is in production, retrofitting the controls, and bringing it back up as quickly as possible is considerably more risky than a brand new machine out of the box. Systems integrators willing to tackle the risks and obstacles posed by retrofits and that are able to overcome these challenges with their clients have an extremely bright future ahead of them.

Author Bio: Since its founding in 2010, CFE Media and Technology has provided engineers in manufacturing, commercial and industrial buildings, and manufacturing control systems with the knowledge they need to improve their operational efficiency. CFE delivers the right information at the right time around the world through a variety of platforms.