Three musts in selecting an integrator
By Bryan Singer
The term “integrator” can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. they are cheaper. Never
It can be a team from a vendor sent to deliver a solution, a large- or make this decision with-
small-scale ofﬁcial integration business, or an independent consul- out an honest assessment
tant. But one thing is for sure; manufacturers must base their selec- of their technical capabili-
tion criteria on their needs. Here is a list of three musts to consider ties to ensure support they
when selecting an integrator for your next project: provide will get the plant up and running quickly again.
technical expertise: Is this the integrator’s ﬁrst shot on this Bottom line, selecting an integrator must take into consid-
system? Be wary of software and hardware developers mas- eration your tolerance for downtime, costs controls, need for
querading as integrators; product specialists should develop support, and the complexity of your solution. Evaluate these
product and support deployment, and experienced integrators against the list of potential integrators. There are cases for and
should know the plant environment and challenges of deploy- against each type of integrator for a given situation. Know the
ing a system; they are very different disciplines. Developers of- requirements of the situation ﬁrst.
ten are used to reloading, deleting, reconﬁguring, and starting/ I had ﬁrsthand experience with this as a vendor where we had
stopping their solutions whenever they want during develop- local integrators who were much cheaper than our resources, but
ment. This same approach works great in development, but can less qualiﬁed. These resulted in extended startups, lots of miscon-
be disastrous during deployment. ﬁgurations and errors, and overrun costs in the long run. There
Qualiﬁcations: Are the personnel highly trained and expe- were also situations where the integrators were actually far better
rienced, or are they junior technicians? Depending on system than our resources for a given product or system, or we only had
complexity and cost controls, either may be a good choice, but product specialists to assist in deployment, and the local integrators
with the lower priced options. were more experienced and capable at deploying these systems.
Support: If it is a vendor integrator or large integration ﬁrm,
do they have local ofﬁces? How quickly can they respond to a ABOUT THE AUTHOR
site issue? If they are local integrators, do they have the techni- Bryan Singer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is principal consultant at
cal expertise to solve difﬁcult problems? Some manufacturers Kenexis Consulting Corporation in Pelham, Ala. He is co-chair
make cost decisions to use local help or small ﬁrms because of ISA99.
change-management. Learning things Say employ X trains employ Y how to do diation, and negotiation skills, as well as
like how this solution will impact the that job. Two or three people did the orig- policies and procedures that help people
people who have to use it. What kind of inal training; X is just teaching Y what he know what they should or should not say
training will they need? Or will they have thinks is right. But Y is doing something and do in the face of an angry customer.
the time and capacity now to learn it? Or wro