System integration connects devices and systems, often with computers, software and networks, to optimize throughput or the process. System integrators for automation and controls design and integrate computerized control systems, sensors, actuators and connecting networks and software for industrial machines, manufacturers or facilities.
System Integration Articles
SIs to increase US manufacturing competitiveness
Manufacturing has changed due to recent global events with an emphasis on being smarter and leveraging all around us. System integrators (SIs) can help manufacturers with digital transformation, smart manufacturing efforts.
- CSIA and CESMII help system integrators with Smart Manufacturing.
- Integrating automation and control devices and systems improves Smart Manufacturing and can improve connections with higher-level systems helping supply chain integration.
- The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) offers programs for system integrators in the fields of robotics, machine vision and motion control.
System integration, smart manufacturing competitive insights
- System integrators, with help from CSIA and CESMII, are integrating control systems and other automation to improve Smart Manufacturing efforts.
- System integration helps Smart Manufacturing make better use of automation and controls to improve quality, flexibility, make better use of scarce labor resources, and improve throughput while connecting to higher-level systems to improve supply chain challenges.
As the U.S. rebuilds its manufacturing sector post-pandemic, it creates bona fide business opportunities for the automation industry, including system integrators (SIs). Deployment, in particular mass adoption, is tied to its own set of challenges. SIs can play a key role. I am reminded of the reconstruction of the Japanese industry post-World War II. Japan proved to be very receptive to the quality-related teachings of W. Edwards Deming, an American engineer and others. Many view this openness to manufacturing quality as having significantly contributed to Japan’s reputation for innovative, high-quality products, and for its economic power in the years to come. While this competitive advantage may have faded by now as others adopted similar quality approaches, it provided the Japanese economy with decades of benefit.
Smart Manufacturing has the potential to transform the entire manufacturing sector and address new challenges, such as resiliency considering supply chain disruptions and labor shortages; sustainability; “local” production and extreme customization (batch size of one) to name a few.
The role of Smart Manufacturing, automation
While there has been cConsiderable debate surrounds the terminology and differences among Smart Manufacturing, digital transformation, Industry 4.0, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), but in this case, I will consider the terms to be synonyms. I am guided by the following definition coined by the ARC Advisory Group:
“Digital transformation is the transformation of industrial products, operations, value chains, and aftermarket services that are enabled through the augmentation of people and knowledge, through the expanded use of sensors, data and analytics.”
Automation and system integrators can help integrate related automation and systems for manufacturers.
Manufacturing needs competitiveness, automation
For manufacturing to succeed, it needs to be competitive. Competitiveness revolves around various elements, such as, cost position, differentiated and relevant offerings (customizable), access and speed to market, flexibility (with ability to adapt to changing conditions) and, ultimately, resiliency. It is not limited to individual companies. Successful companies rely on a broad ecosystem of suppliers (including automation and controls) that also need to be competitive and willing to work collaboratively with customers and suppliers.
Events like the COVID-19 pandemic and Russian-Ukrainian war exemplify dramatic changes over short periods of time and the need for rapid responses to new situations. This is easier said than done. Supply chains, including those for automation and controls, are built over time and often involve long lead times and expand over wide geographies.
On the other hand, customer demand is subject to sudden change. Smart Manufacturing uses automation to help extend the perimeter beyond the factory floor to include supply chains and aftermarket services. In fact, I would posit this holistic approach positions manufacturers for increased competitiveness. [subhead]Smart manufacturing improves manufacturing, lowers costs
CESMII is the Smart Manufacturing Institute, a US government funded, non-profit organization to drive Smart Manufacturing. It provides education and workforce development, industry networking, funded research, and a Smart Manufacturing innovation platform to enable digital transformation for manufacturing companies.
In the May “2022 Smart Manufacturing Market Survey,” by CESMII/Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), the majority of respondents (77%) recognized the potential of Smart Manufacturing and linked it to the following goals:
Better manufacturing capacity utilization (65%)
Lower production cost (63%)
Improve on-time delivery (62%)
Operational excellence (61%)
Improve quality/reduce quality risks (60%).
It is surprising only half of the respondents indicate their company is willing to invest the financial resources in Smart Manufacturing initiatives.
The study also identified three obstacles to deploying Smart Manufacturing, where automation and system integration can help:
Need for skilled talent.
Cost and complexity to implement and integrate.
Lack of connection between technology and business strategy.
The U.S. manufacturing base is very diverse. There are big differences between larger, multinational companies and the smaller, single-site manufacturers. The first group is more likely to have the dedicated resources, specialization, and financial means to get Smart Manufacturing deployed. The smaller players need more support. CESMII and others have been working on this.
In the May “2022 Smart Manufacturing Market Survey,” by CESMII/Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), the majority of respondents (77%) recognized the potential of Smart Manufacturing. Courtesy: CESMII, Society of Manufacturing Engineers
The SI’s role in democratizing Smart Manufacturing
Smart Manufacturing was, admittedly, overhyped, creating unrealistic expectations that translated for some into concluding “this is not for us.” Fundamental to smart manufacturing is access to data. For manufacturing, this means connectivity to the production assets and visualization of instructions and information to the operators.
Establishing the foundation for Smart Manufacturing is challenging and unglamourous. Most manufacturing sites include equipment from many generations. Much of the older equipment lacks data collection capabilities; and other devices and systems require additional efforts to extract and share. For many, this part doesn’t fit into their mental image for Smart Manufacturing.
Challenges related to providing connectivity to brown-field and legacy equipment plant assets have been part of the SI’s deliverables for many years. Because of this, some SIs claim to have been enabling Smart Manufacturing way before the term was coined. What is different now is we are connecting entire enterprises and supply chains. The broad manufacturing base of the U.S. is gaining awareness of the need to embark on the journey toward Smart Manufacturing, but they lack concrete roadmaps to get there. While gaining connectivity and providing data visualization remain key, many manufacturers need help crafting a broader plan that links business and technology strategy to get funding and broad support.
Most SIs are currently enjoying a boom period of integrating automation and controls to manufacturing devices and systems. Immediate challenges relate to hiring the talent needed to deliver on all SI opportunities, along with addressing supply chain issues. The opportunity to bring smaller players to their Smart Manufacturing journey and, thus, achieve mass adoption is exciting. It will only happen through a broader support network.
SIs have developed and perfected their market approach over the years. With this approach, they can deliver to exiting opportunities, i.e., clearly specified automation, controls, and system integration projects for Smart Manufacturing. Assisting clients through paid consulting engagements around Smart Manufacturing is not very common. It could develop into a new business opportunity.
CSIA has been collaborating with CESMII and will continue to strengthen this relationship. Expanding adoption of Smart Manufacturing, particularly for the smaller producers, will require a comprehensive support network (such as methodology, consultants and implementers like SIs). CESMII has been working on this and views SIs to be an integral part of the solution.
Manufacturing needs automation, controls, system integration to stay strong
The US manufacturing sector needs to remain vital. The pandemic has taught the nation its importance and strategic nature. US manufacturing will only be viable if it remains globally competitive. Smart Manufacturing provides a path the same way an innovative approach to Lean and quality provided a path for the Japanese manufacturing sector post WWII.
The US now has a unique opportunity to rebuild its manufacturing sector with automation, controls, system integration. Let’s make Smart Manufacturing happen!
Jose M. Rivera is CEO of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). CSIA is a CFE Media and Technology content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, CFE Media and Technology, firstname.lastname@example.org.
KEYWORDS: Smart Manufacturing, system integration, CSIA
CSIA and CESMII help system integrators with Smart Manufacturing.
Integrating automation and control devices and systems improves Smart Manufacturing and can improve connections with higher-level systems helping supply chain integration.
Are automation and controls helping to integrate your devices and systems for Smart Manufacturing?
System Integration FAQ
What is system integration in manufacturing?
System integration in manufacturing refers to the process of combining various subsystems or components of a manufacturing system into a cohesive and functional whole. This often involves integrating different types of technologies, such as mechanical, electrical and software systems, to create a seamless workflow and optimize production efficiency. Goals of system integration can include improving communications, data and product flow among systems, and ultimately, to increase productivity and reduce costs.
What are some examples of system integration?
There are many examples of system integration in manufacturing, some of which include:
- Connecting a computer numerical control (CNC) machine to a manufacturing execution system (MES) to track production data in real-time and optimize production scheduling.
- Integrating a robotic arm with a machine vision system to automate inspection and sorting processes.
- Combining a 3D printer with a material handling system to automate the production of complex parts.
- Merging a warehouse management system with a transportation management system to optimize inventory and logistics.
- Connecting manufacturing equipment with internet of things (IoT) sensors to monitor performance, predict maintenance needs and optimize energy usage.
- Integrating a simulation software with CAD to optimize design and reduce development time.
How do you explain system integration?
System integration is the process of connecting different subsystems or components of a larger system to create a cohesive and functional whole. This process often involves the integration of different types of technology, such as mechanical, electrical and software systems, to achieve specific goals. The goal of system integration is to improve communication and data flow among different systems, and ultimately, to increase productivity and reduce costs.
For example, in manufacturing, system integration can involve connecting a computer numerical control (CNC) machine to a manufacturing execution system (MES) to track production data in real-time and optimize production scheduling. This allows for the seamless flow of information between the two systems and allows for more efficient use of resources.
What is the biggest challenge in system integration?
There are several challenges that organizations can face when integrating systems; some of the biggest include:
- Complexity: Integrating multiple systems can be complex and time-consuming, especially when the systems have different hardware, software and communication protocols.
- Data compatibility: Ensuring that data can be seamlessly exchanged among or between different systems can be challenging, and often requires data mapping and transformation.
- Security: Ensuring the security and integrity of data as it moves between systems is crucial to the success of system integration. Organizations must take steps to protect against data breaches and unauthorized access.
- Scalability: As organizations grow and their needs change, the integrated systems must adapt and scale to meet new demands.
- Cost: Integrating systems can be expensive, as organizations may need to invest in new hardware, software and staff training.
- Maintenance and support: Integrated systems require ongoing maintenance and support to ensure they continue to function correctly and fix any issues that may arise.
- Change management: Integrating systems often requires changes in business processes, which can be disruptive to the organization and require significant change management.
- Compliance with safety and other codes and standards: Depending on jurisdiction and use of systems being integrated, a wide variety of codes, standards and best practices can apply.
To overcome these challenges, organizations often rely on the expertise of system integration professionals, who can help plan, design and implement integrated systems that are tailored to the organization's specific needs.
Some FAQ content was compiled with the assistance of ChatGPT. Due to the limitations of AI tools, all content was edited and reviewed by our content team.