Control System Integrator
About Revere Control Systems
We are a privately held, industrial automation and control systems integrator, providing turn-key engineer-procure-construct services for automation systems in the municipal clean water, utility power, metals, mining, oil & gas, forest products, and manufacturing industries. Founded in 1980, the firm now has approximately 205 employees, with remote offices in Chattanooga, TN, Charlotte, NC, Lakeland, FL, Jacksonville, FL, and Texarkana, TX.
10 Benefits of Using a Control System Integrator
You need all your plant’s systems to work synchronously. When systems aren’t integrated, increases in costs and resource consumption are the result. This is where control system integrators come in.
Automation and control system integrators typically are independent entities that use technical and project management activities to integrate commercially available hardware and software from multiple suppliers into a solution for an end-user. System integrators’ technical expertise commonly includes electrical design, engineering, programming, testing, commissioning and ongoing support. Some integrators focus narrowly on industries, applications, or brands, while others maintain a much broader focus. What they have in common is that they provide control, automation, and information solutions for manufacturing, industrial, and clean water processes.
Here are benefits derived from using a control system integrator.
- Saving personnel costs: Control systems technology is very broad in nature and constantly advancing. Having sufficient expertise on staff, and keeping those staff members educated on new technologies and equipment is an expensive process. By using an independent system integrator, you save the cost of hiring, educating, and evaluating your staff. Additionally, there are many industry standards, such as ISA99 on cyber security, ISA100 on wireless communications, that apply to automation and information systems that an end-user client may find challenging to stay abreast of with their own staff. A system integrator makes the educational investment.
- Improving the quality and reliability of the integration project: No one person or company knows everything. The system integrator often brings to the table an understanding of mechanical, process, and business intelligence issues and knows how to integrate those disciplines into a working system. A common mistake in manufacturing and process industries is that managers wait until later in the project development to contract a system integrator, thinking they have little to offer upfront, yet that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s best when system integrators are involved in the earliest planning stages so they can contribute their knowledge and expertise and save costs and improve outcomes (see discussion on FEED+ study).
- Accountability for time and resources: System integrators must remain on budget to maintain a sustainable business. Whether contracts are fixed or variable, costs, labor and materials must be managed based on the upfront plan and contract. In short, system integrators are accountable for time and resources. When a project is implemented by internal project staff, that accountability is often minimized. An attitude of ‘it’ll take as long as it takes’ can exist, so budgets and schedules sometimes suffer.
- Applying current industry standards in safety, environmental, and modern technology: Examples of these standards are networks, cyber security and interoperability of equipment. End-users can rely on system integrators to get updates on topics such as machine safety, process safety, international programming standards, networks for intelligent instrumentation, network standards to prevent cyber-attacks, and so on.
- Bringing innovation and experience from working across industries: Most system integrators work in multiple vertical industries. An integrator may gain experience in an application such as batch processing, material handling, or pumping in one industry. Then have a project in a different industry where that experience can be applied. Their inherent exposure to different industries results in a breadth of knowledge that can’t be learned through training or from a magazine. It comes from doing projects. System integrators learn to recognize when the experience gained in one application and industry can be applied in another. Your project benefits from this breadth of experience.
- Having the right skill set for project management and execution: Project management and project execution are very different skill sets. A good system integrator has both. An indication of the importance of these skills to the success of a project is that three of the nine sections of the CSIA Business Best Practices and Benchmarks Manual focus on project management and execution. Those skills are included in a good system integration company’s best practices and make the difference in a project being delivered on time and on budget. PMI certification for the integrator’s project managers is a plus.
- Knowing how to manage project risks: Risk is the most significant enemy of both the system integrator and the project owner, so it is taken seriously. Recognizing project risks comes with experience and is a natural process for integrators. Risk mitigation begins at the planning phase of a project and emphasizes once again what was mentioned in #2 above, namely the importance of a system integrator being involved in the early stages of a project. Risk mitigation benefits everyone involved in your project.
- Providing proper documentation for future reference: It’s common for internal staff to move onto the next project and not properly provide drawings, software code, and operations manuals. The staff often has good intentions of doing the documentation, but it just gets pushed to the background with hopes of doing it later. But later never comes. Since final documentation is typically included in the contracted scope of supply for the system integrator, the integrator is held accountable for providing it, and the end-user client can be assured of getting it. Proper documentation is important for maintenance, support, and scalability. And because documentation sometimes gets lost or damaged, access to replacement documentation over the life of the system is also beneficial.
- Choosing the best hardware and software for an application: Knowing what products are available for an automation solution is important. And knowing which ones are the best solutions is equally important. Independent system integrators are not tethered to any one automation supplier, so they act in your best interest when making selections. And as system integrators, they know how to integrate – how to make best-in-class products from multiple suppliers work in tandem. It’s difficult for in-house staff to have such broad product/component knowledge in order to get the most cost-effective solution selection.
- Providing expert technical staff on demand: End-users sometimes have a temporary need for additional staff to assist internal staff when there are too many concurrent projects. Most system integrators can provide engineers, designers, programmers, and so forth during those busy periods. Coming from a system integration company, the personnel are effective immediately after safety orientation. When the project load diminishes, they simply return to the integrator. You benefit from having the expertise without incurring the overhead costs.
In summary, control system integrators can provide numerous benefits compared to using in-house staff. Select an integrator qualified for your particular project. Involve them early in the project. And hold them accountable for meeting the scope of work and other commitments for deliverables. (Note: Above discussion derived from blog post by former CSIA Executive Director Bob Lowe)