System Integrators and Partnerships in Building the Digital Enterprise

Wednesday, January 4, 2017 10:30 am EST

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Kevin Lewis, Vice President, Siemens Digital Factory, Factory Automation and Jose M. Rivera, CEO, Control System Integrators Association (CSIA)

We are in a moment when exponential technology gains have the U.S. industrial base at a tipping point.

Maybe a few years ago some manufacturers were skeptical of the value of advanced manufacturing and Industrial Internet of Things. But now these firms are watching as the early adopters cut costs and time to market, and increase flexibility and innovation at the same time. Instead of asking why they should embrace digitalization, many manufacturers are now asking how.

This goes beyond committing capital towards shop floor improvements such as an automation tool. Company leaders really have to think much more about how everything is connected. American manufacturers will need to transition to digital enterprises in which machines, controls and components are all connected and communicating with each other through cloud-based IT platforms.

In a lot of cases we’re looking at a significant overhaul of the shop floor. We understand if this sounds like a daunting task.

But this transformation does not have to happen overnight – it can be done in stages. And there is no reason any manufacturer should try to figure out how to build a digital enterprise by themselves – especially since very few companies can.

Now more than ever manufacturers are turning to System Integration Providers that specialize in the effective application of new technology and software in factory settings.

Siemens often joins forces with System Integrators to create added value for customers. The company is a leader in both industrial software and industrial automation. But it’s about more than providing the best products. Customers are looking for solutions – and partnerships with System Integrators help provide them.

At the same time, as industry moves towards the digital enterprise, the scope of the work has expanded. It has become impossible for a single System Integrator to deliver all that is required.

This means that System Integrators have to provide more than technical expertise and help implementing projects. They also have to be good managers capable of working within or guiding a network of solutions providers.

The Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) created the “Guide for a Successful Partner’s System Integrator Program” to help lead providers – we call them vendors in this case – to think through the process. The best vendors, CSIA found, ensure its integrators are keeping pace with technology, maintain open communication, and meet the highest standards for business management.

Moving to the digital enterprise will be an evolution – not a revolution. But progress is being made, and the companies that begin the process are on the way towards important gains in functionality that will help them increase speed, flexibility, and efficiency.

It all starts with a willingness to make strategic investments in the future of the company, and forging strategic partnerships could be what really builds momentum and speeds up the pace of innovation.

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