When industrial automation upgrade projects are first launched, the stress of deadlines, cost control, technical glitches, and miscommunication all challenge the equipment vendors, systems integrators, and end users involved. However, such distractions can be minimized when all parties collaborate and concentrate on what they do best.
Although most industrial automation project stakeholders agree that collaboration is useful, or even critical, to project success, executing true collaboration is often more difficult to put into practice. We at PCI, an industrial automation systems integrator and Schneider Electric Alliance Partner, have learned over the last 15 years that collaboration takes hard work, but that the rewards for end users, equipment vendors, and systems integrators, are both plentiful and permanent.
Industrial automation collaboration cornerstones
The experience we have gained over hundreds of industrial automation systems integration project engagements has made it clear to us that three specific approaches ̶ all of which relate to trust ̶ are critical for establishing an effective level of collaboration.
Issuing honest and fair up-front assessments
To avoid inflating initial costs to reduce the risk of low profitability over the duration of the project, we found a more effective approach. We provide an accurate estimate by completing a more detailed and thorough initial assessment. This establishes a higher level of trust at the very beginning and the end user is not subjected to a series of surprise expenses when it becomes too late to turn to another vendor. We communicate early about the “deliverables triangle.” The three corners of the triangle represent cost, time, and quality. Any change to one of the three corners, directly affects the other two. By understanding early on how such a triangle will impact the overall project, customers are in a much better position to weigh the tradeoffs. In addition, the implications of changes in scope are directly communicated and clearly understood by all parties involved.
Demonstrating a willingness to reach beyond traditional comfort zones
Some systems integration projects can be challenging and may include aspects that have not been previously encountered. It is natural for most humans to resist change of any kind and technology projects are no exception. Our position it to act as an extension of the customer’s own technical team regardless of how their requirements evolve. If they tell us they do not have drafting, programming, or electrical skills, we help them to fill that void. If they want to automate a new part of their facility, but they have no in-house knowledge, documentation, or source code in that area because the equipment is old, we volunteer to address that challenge, even though we may not be immediately familiar with the specifics of that particular equipment. In this way, we provide the client with a needed service and the challenge presents us with an opportunity to develop supplemental skills in new areas of the production plant.
Choosing the right solution partners
As a systems integrator, our extended team consists of subcontractors such as electricians, OEMs, and mechanical systems experts. We collaborate with technology providers like Schneider Electric so that the solutions we introduce to our clients meet their business needs. In addition, Schneider Electric provides Alliance Partner technical training (choose from 1,400+ courses) and access to the Alliance Partner portal, which helps us to stay current on the latest operation-critical technologies. Although the Schneider Electric portfolio of solutions is both advanced and expansive, in the end, what is important is that we know how to deploy these solutions for maximum customer benefit. No one systems integrator knows everything about each technology. We need a team to back us up. The Schneider Electric team of experts, whether they are research and development engineers or product managers, are integral in helping us to provide the PLCs, MES, SCADA, and power and automation tool configurations that address our clients’ needs.
For more information about industrial automation solutions
To learn more about how the combination of collaboration and industrial automation solutions can enable modernization and enhance manufacturing efficiency and output, visit the PCI Industrial Automation web site and the Schneider Electric EcoStruxure™ web site.
Congratulations to PCI Industrial Automation for their outstanding performance as a member of the Schneider Electric Alliance Partner Program.