How to handle increasing competition for System Integrators

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Rise of the panel builder

I am privileged to have the opportunity to talk with many of our system integrators that are part of our SI Alliance Partner Program, and I so often hear the same concern across the different industries and regions that our partners serve – market competition is fiercely increasing. This leads me to ask what’s changing in the automation system integration business and where is the impact coming from?

The majority of our SI Alliance partners are small to medium businesses, and so they acutely feel the impact of increased competition. And while any market always has new entrants, in the system integration market we are seeing the rise of a non-traditional competitor – the panel builder.

System integrators tend to subcontract to panel builders for a part of their automation integration project to complete the panel design and installation. What we’re seeing now is panel building companies starting to push into the system integrator space as they diversify their business to include system integration. Larger panel building companies already have an established business with their own sales force and see stretching a little into system configuration or engineering as a low risk growth opportunity with good potential.

Play your niche to succeed

With this increased competition, what can you do as a system integrator to solidify your position in the market, stand out and be noticed? A strong approach is to focus on your business strengths, what really differentiates your business and focus there. As a system integrator don’t be everything to everyone, find your niche, your strengths and create your business development, your marketing and your brand around these.

According to the Control Engineering System Integration study in September 2013, 91% of End User respondents indicated that an engineering specialty is an important factor that they look for when selecting a system integrator. Take note of this and make sure that it is a priority you put this at the fore.

Your differentiator could be an application, a particular part of the market or segment, or even a dedicated geography. Your value-add could be around process knowledge, time to market, the fact that you are based locally to your customers, or other unique specializations that are harder to replicate and which your competitors don’t offer. If you have strong knowledge of control system design and installation and good knowledge of that process then you can translate that process knowledge elsewhere (different geography) for business growth.

This is the challenge. I think. Finding your niche and unique expertise and then developing your business development plan around it.

What’s your niche and how are you playing it?



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  • Peter Gran

    10 years ago


    Do you mean EMS companies, who produce the PCBs or cabinet designers/assemblers, when you refer to panel makers?

    Peter Gran

    • Andrew Brown

      10 years ago

      Hi Peter. Thanks for your comment. In this case I am referring to cabinet designers and assemblers rather than those companies that produce PCBs. They are extending their competence into these areas that were traditionally the domain of the system integrator. Andrew

  • I believe that Accreditation and Certification, not only of your engineers, but of your company can help differentiate one SI from another. This is a seal of approval empirically stating that you are a quality installer. End users have now realised the incredible costs of re-work, not only to productivity, but also to reputationally. Going with an SI with accreditation and certification asssists in managing on-time and on-quality delivery of projects.

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