It’s a new day for industrial companies as smart manufacturing technologies bring new levels of profitability and flexibility, driven by advances in connectivity, cloud computing, big data analytics, mobility, and other solutions. While most experts and end users agree that smart manufacturing holds promise on the surface, many are still looking for evidence and examples of how digital technology can measurably improve their business models. They want solutions that safely improve their operational profitability. This is where system integrators (SIs) come in.
SIs are uniquely positioned to offer end users the latest and best solutions on the market. Their wealth of experience and constant upskilling on the newest technologies and offers make them the natural go-to companies for manufacturers who want to understand where and how they can benefit from all these advances.
However, while industrial companies typically have specific business objectives in mind when they engage an SI, these objectives are seldom articulated clearly, making the bottom line impact often a leap of faith. By demonstrating smart manufacturing approaches, though, SIs can now show precisely how new solutions directly impact the bottom line and help manufacturers achieve their business goals—especially those related to safety, profitability, security, reliability, and productivity.
SIs can work closely with customers to identify their particular measures of success, and to control and manage the achievement of business metrics in real time.
Adding value at every level
As more and more devices become smarter and more connected via the Internet of Things (IoT), plant operators have access to a far richer supply of data than ever before. This presents some new challenges, namely how to make sense out of all this new information and know what to do with it to improve business operations. There are two levels of opportunity here where SIs can help improve both asset and overall business performance.
At the lower level, decisions must be made within set time frames of the processes being controlled. For example, trying to control the flow in a pipe that is only measured once a month. Integrators won’t be able to control the entire process because variables such as temperature and pressure are changing in real time. Since the business value must be aligned with real-time control, SIs can work with customers to apply closed-loop control principles – using smart manufacturing technology – to empower their workforce to make real-time decisions on complex business variables, including those that have been historically transactional, to measurably improve performance and, ultimately, the profitability of their operations.
Not every aspect of business value is subject to real-time automation, though, and the second level where SIs can leverage their expertise is by collaborating with customers to review their business operations in each domain. SIs can work with customers to review, analyze, and assess the value of the technologies they already have in place and their impact on each value domain.
To integrate effective asset control and management, SIs and their customers should view the plant in terms of asset hierarchies, from the bottom up, to determine each asset’s potential impact on performance and profitability.
Integrating the bottom line
Switching from technology integration to value integration is not a simple task. It represents a significant shift in practice and culture, both for SIs and their customers. Today’s digital manufacturing environment presents new opportunities for data collection from smart monitoring and control devices that collect, archive, and analyze critical data. To assist in the process, SIs can embed algorithms into machine controls to draw on real-time production data stored in plant historians and databases. Software tools with integrated dashboards , for example, can translate data for analysis and report on the performance of individual assets and asset sets to provide a view into the health and profitability of systems that impact entire manufacturing processes.
Thanks to these enhanced technology resources provided by the SIs, companies can migrate away from the traditional control hierarchy that has historically dominated industrial control to actual plant asset topology and an asset-centric architecture that controls everything, including safety, profitability, security, reliability, and productivity.
In demonstrating the value proposition of this unified strategy, SIs can help industrial customers apply enhanced layers of control to achieve the measurable operational improvements they seek throughout their enterprise.
The cream of the SI crop
Schneider Electric recognizes the unique value that system integrators can offer companies across the industrial spectrum, and cultivates their collaboration and expertise, including the current push toward digital transformation, through our Alliance partner program, its dedicated events, and training. Each year, we also acknowledge the most outstanding contributions by our Alliance partners and honor them with the Global Excellence Awards. These SIs have demonstrated the exemplary innovations, achievements, and service that have enabled industrial and infrastructure customers to achieve their technical and business ambitions. Find out more about this year’s event and award-winning SIs.