You already know the importance of automation, which is why you work with a control system provider. But when is the last time you honestly evaluated whether your current provider is the best one for you and your facility? All automation providers are not created equal. If the experience you receive is directly related to the provider you choose to work with, how do you know when it’s time to switch?
I’ve spent more than two decades working in systems engineering, and in terms of providers, I’ve seen everything from the best of the best to the worst of the worst. But without a technically-trained eye, it can be difficult to tell the difference. Still, there are some signs to look out for.
If any of these five signs remind you of your current experience, you have an opportunity on your hands. That opportunity is to switch to a new provider who will ensure your facility has the technology and the support it needs to operate at peak efficiency.
This is number one for a reason. If your controls systems provider is allowing your facility’s technology to not work properly, it’s a huge red flag.
A control system provider should keep your facility’s controls in optimal working condition. I’ve seen first-hand industrial controls that have tape across switches, stickers noting what’s for what, and permanent markers used on screens to prevent someone from clicking on the wrong control.
Running on ineffective or outdated technology leaves facilities with inconsistent results and diminished quality. A provider who works with a facility should honestly care about its production and quality goals.
Similarly, if they’re not up-to-date on the newer control logic technology, like Programmable Logic Controllers, they might not be giving your facility the best industrial control for its process.
When a problem arises, how long does it take to get in touch with your automation and controls provider? Automation problems can put a halt to production and keep things stalled until they’re resolved. During that time, you have employees who don’t have what they need to do their work. If it takes hours, or even worse days, to get someone on the phone and someone deployed to your facility for repairs, that’s a hit to your bottom line.
Look for a provider who offers 24/7/365 automation service. After all, if you’re running a 24/7 facility, don’t you want a provider who can help you during any shift?
If your provider knows their stuff when it comes to automation technology and control systems, but they don’t know about your industry, you might have a problem on your hands. Working in each industry requires a certain level of know-how about the way things work.
The same knowledge and capabilities it takes to keep grain and flour milling facilities running their best aren’t going to translate into a milk processing plant. The material you run and the processes it moves through relative to your industry have a big impact on automation needs. Plus, providing services to certain industries, like food and beverage, require additional certifications. Choosing to work with a provider who has experience in your industry will help ensure that the small stuff doesn’t get missed.
At the end of the day, a supplier can only be as good as their commitment to your partnership. Missed deadlines are a clear indicator that your current service provider isn't taking your needs seriously or putting them at a high priority. If your current provider doesn’t meet project deadlines, that’s reason enough to seek out an alternative.
The final sign I’d like to talk about is how complete your service provider’s services are. Is industrial automation work the only type of service that they provide, or are they able to assist your facility in other ways too?
In today’s busy world, it can be a good idea to reduce the number of businesses you contract work from to simplify things on your end. Finding an industrial automation provider who can also support new automation projects from start to finish – including handling project management, panel building, and installation – can have a significant impact on your project timeline and your business as a whole.
Like I said, to the untrained eye, it’s not always obvious that your current control system provider isn’t the best for your facility, but these signs should help you figure it out. It’s always a good idea to have service providers who value your processes and work as hard as you do.
If any of these signs match up with your experiences, it might be the right time to make a switch.
At Knobelsdorff Enterprises, we have the experience and time to create sophisticated automation and control systems that work for your facility and to provide ongoing services to keep your facility functioning at peak efficiency.