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Integrators Part I: Reduce your risk, be on time and budget

Integrators working with manufacturers face the same recurring challenge – developing and delivering a system that meets spec, on time and on budget. But nine times of 10, when they put equipment on the customer’s floor, they’re already behind schedule, over budget, or both.

It doesn’t matter if they procure the bits and pieces for a project from third party suppliers or adapt their own bespoke solution—every job comes with its own unique set of challenges. Reducing risk is the primary concern. The more customization and scratch-built work a project demands, the greater the risk.

For any turnkey integrator, it’s easy to lose track of how many hours are lost to debugging or customizing a solution. Nickels and dimes add up, but often get lost in the black hole of “SG&A” (selling, general and administrative expenses).

What integrators need is data, to shorten how much time it takes to debug the build.
The more data is collected during the build process, to measure and track how well all the bits and pieces are coming together, the easier it is to de-risk the project.

But what kind of data?

The best option is to do what manufacturers focused on achieving Industry 4.0 benchmarks for quality are already doing – adapting technology that allows them to capture and analyze the entire waveform, or digital process signature, of each process on their lines.

By equipping the build with sensors such as load cells, temperature, position and pressure sensors, or displacement gauges, integrators can track the consistency and quality of each station and process. Every time an operation is test run, the full process signature is captured. This gives immediate insight to spot anomalies that point to issues with calibration, alignment, pressure, angle and whatever other parameter is relevant.

The more data is collected, the clearer the picture becomes. More data and more insight adds value at every stage of the build.

Take this example. An automotive electronics manufacturer in the U.S. Midwest ran into a problem with the sealant dispense operations on its new production line for engine fuel control modules.

Using signature analysis, the engineers determined that a problem with the system dispensing too slowly was the fault of a programmable logic controller that communicates over an Ethernet protocol. It took just 30 minutes to trouble-shoot the problem, versus several weeks. 

For integrators large and small, capturing and analyzing process signatures is a powerful tool to meet spec faster and deliver on time and on budget.

Click here to read Part 2 where we’ll talk about how integrators can nimbly respond to the growing demands of their customers.