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Trends in System Integration

Four system integration experts offer their insights on manufacturing and what lies ahead for the industry. System integrators are vital to sustaining growth in manufacturing.

Ed Diehl, executive director, Concept Systems Inc, Albany, Oregon. (ranked #22 in the 2014 SI Giants):

“There’s been a big surge in robotics-based technology, robotic work cells. We’re finding that the price point for robots has come down and because skilled resources aren’t available, companies who were not doing it before are now looking to automate.

“Intelligent robots using 3-D scanning are a little more adaptable. That’s becoming a bigger part of what we do. We’re also seeing some middle-market companies, companies that haven’t automated in the past, looking at robotics.

“Our big push is to position ourselves to lead what we’re calling this next era of automation. For us, that’s providing more than just controls. Customers we’re talking to don’t have deep engineering resources. They don’t have guys who can run the projects. They need us more than ever. They need that help, and they need it holistically, and we need to be able to offer that. It’s becoming a much bigger part of our business.

“We’re not doing a lot of pick and place, but an example would be if there were product randomly stacked or presented to robot and robot has to figure how to pick it up. If there’s no pattern, the robot has to look at it and learn and go get it. Intelligence, that’s where value-added is—when it comes to robots that can adapt to their environment.

“Retrofit is absolutely another big part of business. We’re doing what we call a surgical retrofit. We just finished a food and beverage legacy DCS system and they know they have to replace it. For us it’s a risk management situation. We need to manage the customer’s risk so the system is only down in a scheduled period. You’ve got to know the technology, have to have an answer, and that’s a big deal for these customers.

“They’re going with platforms that are more open, and that brings up another piece: Big Data. That one’s interesting; they know they need it, but they don’t really know what questions to ask. Concept Systems set up another company focused on manufacturing intelligence, focused around solutions around manufacturing. We’re developing solutions and products. We’ve found customers that say, ‘I know I have to do this, but how do I do it?” That’s why NulytIQ was started.”

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