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The Shifting Role of System Integrators

Automation vendors are building more strategic relationships with integrators in an effort to offer holistic—and proactive—services.

The Shifting Role of System Integrators
The Shifting Role of System Integrators

The energy level in Washington, D.C., rose last week as motivated members of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) attended the CSIA 2015 Executive Conference which took place in our nation’s capital.

CSIA has over 500 members and provides them with a community of best practices, certifications, and working groups. The conference serves as a way to network with peers, meet potential partners, and learn about industry trends. And the system integrators in attendance appreciate the collaborative spirit of the forum.

“It is a foundation for establishing processes and best practices, and as a systems integrator, I always get great ideas at these meetings,” says Janet Campoverde, operations manager at Enterprise Automation in Irvine, Calif.

One idea percolating throughout the partner exhibit was the changing role of the system integrator from a project-based partner to a strategic solutions provider who can help manufacturers with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), system performance improvement, and predictive maintenance.

“The role of the system integrator is important as they are the liaison between the customer and the vendor and they are trusted to deliver a best-in-class solution,” says Benson Hougland, vice president of Opto 22. “A good integrator will recognize trends and apply the right technology.”

According to a survey that ARC Advisory Group recently conducted, manufacturers look to a reliable, certified system integrator to help them move from being reactive to predictive. To that end, system integrators need to evolve to meet new data-driven demands, and that may mean adopting tools for themselves that will position them as a manufacturing partner.

GE Intelligent Platforms was at the CSIA 2015 conference to talk with integrators about its Equipment Insight software, a cloud-hosted application for industrial data collection, analysis, and management. While geared toward OEMs, GE is testing the concept that system integrators would want to use the software as part of their own equipment maintenance service. “A system integrator could act as an OEM of an overall system vs. servicing just a particular machine,” says Stephen Pavlosky, GE’s Equipment Insight leader. “It’s a proactive conversation with customers which is dramatically different than a reactive conversation.”

Similarly, Canary Labs, which has real-time data historian and trending analysis software, sees the role of the system integrator evolving to the point that they become more of a solution provider, which would require them to extract data from the plant in order to have more insight into what’s happening. Adopting a tool that would enable that deep level of visibility could change the way control system integrators work with customers. “It would be a big feather in their cap to be different,” says Don Mast, Canary Labs' information solutions consultant.

In addition, OEMs and automation suppliers recognize that system integrators are already working closely with end users and could be strategic partners as they leverage the Internet of Things and machine-to-machine (M2M) technology to build out new types of services.

“Integrators are important to us as they provide the first line of defense for technology support and are highly engaged with the end users,” says Tim Beckel, ABB’s regional channel manager for process automation control technologies.

Thomas Schaefer, Rockwell Automation’s global industry manager for water/wastewater echoed that thought, noting that the company is building out expertise and partnerships in a very focused manner. “Integrators are already strategic to our business. And now we are taking a more vertical approach to industries and integrators.”

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