Can and should vendors fill the engineering gap?

Suffering a technical brain drain? Here are five specific ways customers can get effective help from vendors and distributors.

02/20/2014


Beckhoff Automation has numerous product specialists to assist with the selection and use of their products from motor sizing to proper controller selection. Seal Tech, one such customer, offers an integrated scale that helps the machine operator ensure tThere are many reasons why end users and equipment builders require the help of outside engineering services. One is a long-term engineering shortage. I know this firsthand when filling open technical positions in my own engineering group. Of course, finding well-qualified candidates for any field of work can be a challenge, but engineering job vacancies require particularly intense recruitment efforts.

Another reason why outside engineering services are needed is often due to inconsistent work flow.

Staffing decisions are often made to cover an “average” level of work, and contracting when needed helps maintain a core group of talent and reduces the need to let people go when workflow levels dip. The rise of contracting firms has also made this process easier.

Finally, because technology continues to change rapidly, it can be difficult to stay up to date and knowledgeable on technology changes and trends. By using the expertise of outside resources that specialize in particular technologies, a firm can feel reassured it’s staying well-informed of technological advances.

Specialists, programming

Beckhoff’s North American System Engineering Group offers engineering and programming services, including customer assistance with system design, programming for PLC, motion control and HMI, electrical installation, and troubleshooting. Beckhoff customersHere are five ways vendors can provide to customers.

1. Vendors have always offered engineering services to support their product lines and can serve an important role in providing relief in this area. Vendors often have numerous product specialists to assist with the selection and use of products, such as motor sizing and proper controller selection.

2. Many automation vendors also offer engineering and programming services beyond sales support.

3. Customer assistance with system design, programming for PLC, motion control and HMI, electrical installation, troubleshooting, and other services may be offered.

4. Customers can use vendors for assistance during periods of peak workloads as well as for expertise in certain industries or vertical markets.

Planning documents

5. Seek help by making a plan: Users of outside engineering services must know when to ask for help and work closely with the vendor to identify all relevant needs so a plan can be drawn up to solve them.

A. To start, select a vendor based on technical expertise and experience in the field. A good relationship with a vendor is essential, but don’t let the convenience of a long-term relationship automatically make your decision.

B. Next, check to make sure the service provider is capable of providing the specific services you are seeking. 

C. Also, when the customer fully defines the scope of work, the vendor understands a clear set of deliverables for which it is responsible. Sometimes it isn’t even clear to the user what the engineering work will actually involve, so take time to think it through and write it down in a planning document.

D. Last, manage the service provider by tracking its progress to ensure accountability. 

Vendors can and do play an important role in helping users of industrial equipment solve tough engineering challenges. Especially when the end user or machine builder has a specific, fixed timetable project that goes above and beyond “business as usual,” this can be a cost-effective alternative to hiring extra staff.

- Gary Kirckof is system engineering group manager, Beckhoff Automation. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

ONLINE

www.beckhoffautomation.com

Automation and control vendors also may have relationships with system integrators and can facilitate hand-off of a project that requires extra help or expertise. www.controleng.com/integrators

Key concepts

  • Long-term shortages of engineering skills have customers looking to automation vendors for help.
  • Engineering services, programming, and system design are ways vendors can help.
  • Make a plan when seeking services from controls vendors. 

Consider this

Should you be getting more than just products from your automation and controls suppliers?



Engineers' Choice Awards
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers.
System Integrator Giants
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
How to Maximize Factory Automation Efficiency with Low Cost Machine Vision
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Wireless Reliability in Harsh Environments
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
Human Factors and the Impact on Plant Safety
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
August 2018
Augmented reality and virtual reality education, autotuning PID control, cybersecurity advice, educating engineers
July 2018
Ladder logic best practices and object-oriented programming, safety instrumented systems, enclosure design issues and challenges, process control advice
June 2018
Discrete and process sensor fundamentals, autotuning controls, system integrator roundtable
Edge Computing
This article collection contains several articles on how today's technologies heap benefits onto an edge-computing architecture such as faster computing, better networking, more memory, smarter analytics, cloud-based intelligence, and lower costs.
Data Center Design
Data centers, data closets, edge and cloud computing, co-location facilities, and similar topics are among the fastest-changing in the industry.
PLCs
Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) represent the logic (decision) part of the control loop of sense, decide, and actuate. Featured articles in this digital report compare PLCs and programmable automation controllers (PACs), industrial PCs, and robotic controllers.
SIDB

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

August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, progressive cavity pumps
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
John O. Ayuk, PE, CFSE, PMP, CAP
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
Doug Baker
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Engineers' Choice Awards
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers.
System Integrator Giants
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
How to Maximize Factory Automation Efficiency with Low Cost Machine Vision
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Wireless Reliability in Harsh Environments
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
Human Factors and the Impact on Plant Safety
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
August 2018
Augmented reality and virtual reality education, autotuning PID control, cybersecurity advice, educating engineers
July 2018
Ladder logic best practices and object-oriented programming, safety instrumented systems, enclosure design issues and challenges, process control advice
June 2018
Discrete and process sensor fundamentals, autotuning controls, system integrator roundtable
Edge Computing
This article collection contains several articles on how today's technologies heap benefits onto an edge-computing architecture such as faster computing, better networking, more memory, smarter analytics, cloud-based intelligence, and lower costs.
Data Center Design
Data centers, data closets, edge and cloud computing, co-location facilities, and similar topics are among the fastest-changing in the industry.
PLCs
Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) represent the logic (decision) part of the control loop of sense, decide, and actuate. Featured articles in this digital report compare PLCs and programmable automation controllers (PACs), industrial PCs, and robotic controllers.
SIDB

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

August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, progressive cavity pumps
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
John O. Ayuk, PE, CFSE, PMP, CAP
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
Doug Baker
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Engineers' Choice Awards
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers.
System Integrator Giants
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
How to Maximize Factory Automation Efficiency with Low Cost Machine Vision
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Wireless Reliability in Harsh Environments
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
Human Factors and the Impact on Plant Safety
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
August 2018
Augmented reality and virtual reality education, autotuning PID control, cybersecurity advice, educating engineers
July 2018
Ladder logic best practices and object-oriented programming, safety instrumented systems, enclosure design issues and challenges, process control advice
June 2018
Discrete and process sensor fundamentals, autotuning controls, system integrator roundtable
Edge Computing
This article collection contains several articles on how today's technologies heap benefits onto an edge-computing architecture such as faster computing, better networking, more memory, smarter analytics, cloud-based intelligence, and lower costs.
Data Center Design
Data centers, data closets, edge and cloud computing, co-location facilities, and similar topics are among the fastest-changing in the industry.
PLCs
Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) represent the logic (decision) part of the control loop of sense, decide, and actuate. Featured articles in this digital report compare PLCs and programmable automation controllers (PACs), industrial PCs, and robotic controllers.
SIDB

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

August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, progressive cavity pumps
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
John O. Ayuk, PE, CFSE, PMP, CAP
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
Doug Baker
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me