Long before I started Concept Systems with my partners, I worked for an OEM. OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer, and although it has many meanings, in this context I mean a designer and builder of automation, manufacturing and process equipment for the factory floor. While my current business, control systems integration, is related, the two are distinctly different – and often complementary.
OEMs are typically focused on a particular industry and on particular products and technologies. When they do branch out it is with the intention of introducing a new product, something that can then be included as one of their standard offerings. But even when this happens, they rarely stray far from those industries and technologies they’re familiar with.
An automation and control systems integrator is a different animal. We see ourselves as technology experts and risk managers. We provide control, information and automation solutions to customers across many industries and in many applications.
It is our business to understand a wide range of technologies. We stay abreast of the latest and greatest, so we can design custom work cells to solve unique automation challenges. We are used to doing new and different things, and we have tried-and-true processes to engage the customer throughout the design and development to ensure success. And yet our customers also come to us to service both old and new equipment, so we maintain the capability to support legacy platforms. In many ways, we simply fill in the manufacturing floor gaps that the OEMs don’t cover.
Take a sawmill, for example. A new sawmill going in today will typically be a combination of new and used equipment. The new machine centers will come from OEMs, typically straight out of their product catalog with minor modifications. For other machine centers, the sawmill may choose to purchase refurbished steel, and work with a control system integrator to provide a new control system for the machine. If there is a process that is unique to the mill, or the mill wants to take an innovative approach to an old problem, they will work with an automation and controls house to develop an intelligent work cell. Finally, the sawmill may use an automation and control system integrator to interconnect the entire mill, gather and analyze production data, and generate actionable information for managers.
In this way, Concept Systems and OEMs provide complementary services for our mutual customers.
Automation and control system integrators can also support OEMs directly, and I’ve got a lot of experience to prove it. Concept Systems provides a multitude of services to OEMs:
• Control staff augmentation: We work side by side with OEM control engineers to support them when they are overbooked.
• Non-standard controls integration: An OEM standardized on Rockwell can come to Concept Systems to implement a Siemens, Mitsubishi or other control platform on their standard piece of equipment.
• Control system retrofits: We work with OEMs to deliver control system retrofit packages for their customers, so their controls team can focus on delivering new equipment.
• Customized equipment: Even an OEM does a one-off machine now and again. We can implement the control systems on those one-of-a-kind machines.
• Consultation: Sometimes, OEMs face daunting customer control specifications that are outside their technical expertise. Sometimes they have unique safety requirements. Other times there are specific control architecture expectations. We can help these OEMs work through these issues and design a system their team can support.
• Panel build: Concept Systems will build the control panels to industry standards, either following the OEMs design (build-to-print) or designing our own.
• Control system integration outsourcing: In some cases, it may be cost effective for an OEM to completely outsource all of their control system integration needs to us. We handle it all, from design, development, panel assembly, acceptance testing, commissioning, startup and support. We are the OEM’s integration arm.
If you are an OEM please check us out. We understand your business, and we can help you deliver.