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System integrators, manufacturers see partnership as key to success

Panelists at the 2016 Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) conference find value in collaboration between integrators and manufacturers.
By Bob Vavra May 6, 2016

Ruben Hernandez of Roche Operations Ltd. in Puerto Rico (left) discusses partnerships between manufacturers and system integrators as Mark LaRoche of Superior Controls listens at a panel discussion at the Control System Integrators Association conference in Puerto Rico. Image: Courtesy CFE Media.The solution Ruben Hernandez, site services manager at Roche Operations Ltd. in Puerto Rico, was looking for three years ago wasn’t called the Internet of Things, or IIoT. What he needed at Roche Operations Ltd. in Ponce, Puerto Rico, where the cost of energy is worth measuring, was a better way to optimize his chiller plant.

"I wanted to have a system that could tell me how far away we were from our original design. That’s hard to do without good system," Hernandez told about 500 attendees at the 2016 Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) Conference in Puerto Rico.

"In Puerto Rico, power is very expensive, so it’s important to have a good system. I wanted to have data in real time, to grab numbers instantaneously, to see how that system was acting in real time. The beauty of the system is that it gives you knowledge. Data is knowledge,"said Hernandez.

The trends in the system integration industry are similar to those faced by other facets of manufacturing. For the integrator community, the challenge is to act as the bridge between the suppliers who have the technology and the end users who need the technology but lack the in-house expertise to bring it to life in their plants.

For the project at Roche, Hernandez found an integrator who could deliver his vision. "It added a lot of value to my operation," Hernandez said. We were able to reduce energy costs by 18% and there was a $250,000 reduction in maintenance costs. It’s really in the hands of people like you (integrators) that have all knowledge to tell us in manufacturing how to do it."

That relationship between integrators and manufacturers was at the heart of the CSIA panel discussion moderated by Raj Batra, president of Siemens Digital Factory. "The whole system integration network is critically important to providing domain expertise," Batra said. "A system integrator can really accelerate success if the collaboration is done right."

Integrators and end users on the panel agreed that that collaboration needs to feel and work like a true partnership. "We work toward becoming partners with the integrators we work with," said Robert Maroney, vice president of site operations for Amgen Manufacturing Ltd., and chairman of the Pharmaceutical Industry Association of Puerto Rico. "We have to work essentially as one unit. We want to bring folks to site, work closely with them on site."

"We spend a lot of time with partners," added Mark LaRoche, system integrator of Superior Controls Inc. in Seabrook, New Hampshire. "We carry a lot of information from customer to customer."

For pharmaceutical companies, there is the additional, regulatory challenge that comes as part of their business, and it’s something that their system integration partners need to know about as well.

"In our packaging lines, we’re being asked to take what had been a highly manual process and react to signals on the line to make sure we can track and trace our products," said Justo Moreno, executive director of information systems for Amgen in Puerto Rico.

"We have to develop a new layer of system, connect seamlessly in away that serves the company. The ability of the system integrator to understand our business needs help us make that process successful." A key factor for a successful integration project is to take that general expertise about the product and process and craft a unique solution. "It’s not about offering a standard approach to manufacturing; it’s about giving the customer what he really needs," said Hernandez.

"You as integrators try to understand the business and understand their particular problems so can bring up solutions. It’s providing a service that fits purpose of the customer. It’s not a basic approach, but it’s something you can fine-tune in for the company."