Automation Buyers: Don't Ignore Service Level Response

Service level response, often referred to as SLR, is critical to overall payback when calculating return on investment for an automation purchase.

Stephen Blank, CEO, Loman Control Systems Inc.
Stephen Blank, CEO, Loman Control Systems Inc.

CEOs, CIOs and other C-level executives all routinely calculate ROI—return on investment. They also look at such things as TCO—total cost of ownership, payback, etc. Obviously, these measurements are important, especially when calculating the merits of a proposed automation project. But one abbreviation routinely gets ignored: SLR. What is SLR and why is it critical to the overall success of the project, the company’s bottom line and ROI?

SLR is the abbreviation for service level response. Service level response can best be defined as how fast an automation company can provide emergency service or how fast a process problem can be remedied by a supplier.

Companies requesting automation systems should specify in the proposal documents an acceptable SLR from their automation and equipment suppliers. This metric is as critical as others such as expertise in required areas, personnel, delivery time, cost, etc. The payback or ROI of a project will slip dramatically if equipment stops working or breaks and the company must wait days or weeks for someone from the supplier to arrive on site.  How much downtime can you afford while waiting for someone to show up? If you can measure this (and you should), then make this the limit of your vendor’s SLR.

If your company does not have this level of expertise in-house, you need to have this expertise close at hand. Most of the time, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that built the equipment is not nearby. Who is? Consultants and control system integrators are usually close by and have the expertise that you need. If you are considering using a vendor that does not have a local support presence, require that they partner with someone locally that can support their system.

Some questions to consider:

  • How long can we wait for support when the equipment or process is down before the downtime costs impact our ROI – or worse—our bottom line?
  • How can we ensure that our vendor can provide us with the service that we need after they have left?
  • Do we have the in-house talent to service this equipment within a reasonable amount of time?
  • Is there someone locally that can partner with the OEM to ensure a quicker SLR?

Stephen Blank is chief executive officer of Loman Control Systems Inc., a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association based in Lititz, Pa.

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