Five Reasons for Hiring an Independent Control System Integrator
As an independent control system integrator, Matrix Technologies has the ability — and the duty — to keep current on the best-in-class solutions for our clients’ industrial automation needs. By partnering with our clients and as engineering consultants, we bring years of experience to use in reviewing overall strategic direction and goals, developing automation roadmaps, and implementing projects to achieve our clients’ vision.
Here are five reasons why independence matters when choosing a partner for your industrial automation engineering needs:
1. Knowledge of New Industrial Automation Solutions
At Matrix Technologies Inc., we know about new products in significant detail, as well as new opportunities and threats. One of our clients says “we want to stay on the trailing edge of the leading edge.” This perfectly captures the thought of needing to be able to offer new technology once it has been shown to be reliable and effective.
One of the key roles of a consulting engineer is to become aware, understand and test new hardware and software in system configurations prior to using it in an actual application. In today’s consumer technology sector, it’s perfectly acceptable (and even understood) that if your device stops working, “just reboot it.” In the industrial automation setting, we don’t often have this luxury. In fact, a software or hardware component that malfunctions even once a week can present serious safety, production and economic consequences that are unacceptable.
2. Ability to Bridge the Gap between Hardware and Software
The role of delivering robust and reliable technologies to our clients clearly falls on the shoulders of the system integrator. Certainly the client is involved to the extent that they are willing and capable, and the software and hardware vendors must support their own products. But at the end of the day, the system integrator is charged with filling any gaps between the two. It is rare that one vendor can provide all necessary components.
For example, we may need to configure a 3rd party PLC card to exchange data with an existing analyzer via serial communications. Or, to deliver a higher number of points for temperature signals, we could offer a ‘universal’ analog card in place of the standard offering by the PLC vendor.
3. Economic Justification for Control System Upgrades
Rarely does a client go to the cost and effort of installing new equipment because it is technically “edgy” or “cool.” No, it has to make business sense. Part of the integrator’s job is to help the client look for solid economic justification to support control system upgrades.
Often our clients choose technologies based on what is already installed in the plant or on corporate standards. However, there are many times that a client begins to look at new options, due to a number of factors:
- Existing equipment models and vendors become unavailable
- Purchasing pressures to lower overall system cost, including installed project cost and long-term cost of ownership
- Additional needs for information, regulatory compliance or connectivity
An independent system integrator can evaluate the existing equipment and recommend new solutions that make economic sense.
4. Outside Perspective and Objectivity
It’s very difficult for any vendor to objectively evaluate the features, benefits and costs of their equipment compared with a competing brand. Add to that the fact that most vendors, while quite knowledgeable about their products, usually do not do the project work to apply their products.
Taking the plant view, I would readily admit that the integrator does not gain the intimate knowledge of equipment that a plant person gains living with something day in and day out. However, that point is balanced with the experience of seeing how equipment performs across many plants, along with factors like early failures or firmware problems.
An integrator gains in-depth knowledge of the various products they support, because that is the only way they’ll be successful in applying them. The knowledge gained from these projects then becomes the basis for helping clients choose what might work well for their specific challenges.
5. Certification and training with top suppliers
Wait a minute! We claim independence and then list the vendors we partner with? Point taken, but there is a balance here. One must have sufficient knowledge to apply highly technical products. Otherwise it’s not a fair comparison. The best way to do that is to invest in a solution partnership with those vendors who are leaders in their field. In fact, having equipment provided by those who are not properly trained and supported is one of the red flags you should consider when comparing integrators. Even the best products have issues that require technical support to solve correctly and quickly. That level of technical support is given to the vendors’ solution partners.
Matrix Technologies aligns with the top few suppliers in each automation market segment. We invest heavily in these top suppliers through partnerships, training and equipment. In return, we gain insight into their strategic direction, technology, and become part of their team to deliver the best solutions to our clients.
Maintaining vendor independence allows Matrix Technologies to act as a trusted partner to our clients when they take a step back from day-to-day projects and need to look at the bigger picture and direction for their company. We become intimately familiar with the market leaders in the industrial automation field in order to serve you better. We hope that you’ll give us a try when you are considering new projects, automation strategy and current installation upgrades.
Matrix Technologies is one of the largest independent process design, industrial automation engineering, and manufacturing operations management companies in North America. To learn more about our manufacturing operations management capabilities and manufacturing process control solutions, contact Charles Sheets, PE Master Engineer (419) 897-7200 ext. 360.
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