Scott Kiser and Marc Vermette of Invensys

Invensys - A Platinum CSIA Sponsor

How can a System Integrator become substantially more valuable to large, global customers?  By successfully and seamlessly bringing multiple companies together to deliver a single solution to multiple plant sites on a global scale, that’s how.  And the Invensys Collaborative Services Delivery approach is designed to help accomplish that challenging goal.

Scott Kiser, Director and Marc Vermette, Program Manager of the Invensys Partner Ecosystems Group, give a preview of an exciting session scheduled for the annual CSIA Conference in Scottsdale, AZ April 25-28.

Global customers are demanding standardization as a means to improve business and get better results.  When they are planning a large, multi-plant, global rollout, they need consistent System Integration support – from all their SIs globally.  They need the right people with the right industry, process and product expertise; strong project and program management; customer intimacy; and trust.  Everybody – from all of the involved partners – needs to be “speaking the same language.”

That requires standard methodologies and best practices.  What better methodologies and best practices could be found than CSIA methodologies and best practices?  That’s why Invensys used them as the basis for its new offering.

That common, familiar theme provides context for integrating the plant floor with both MES and the business systems.  It gets all the companies involved working as one.  It positions the System Integrator as the key player in any ambitious roll-out.

Listen to this interview and then schedule yourself for the Invensys breakout session.  It’s on Friday, April 27, at 8:00 in Salt River 6/7/8.

Dave Morton of Automated Control & Technical Services

Dave Morton is Vice President of Operations for Automated Control & Technical Services in Bakersfield, CA, and he gets customer intimacy.  According to Dave, it’s a “big deal.”  “Engineering, System Integration, installation and 24X7 support along with keeping in touch on a regular basis are critical.”

He goes so far as to say that being there for customers when they need to bounce ideas off a knowledgeable person is simply part of job.  “Turnkey accountability” can’t happen any other way.  Since Automated Control & Technical Services does both the electrical work and the systems integration, avoiding finger-pointing is a must.

With that breadth of responsibility assumed on behalf of customers, how do they keep control of their organization?  The key is standards and procedures according to Morton.  “Otherwise one of the company leaders would need to be directly involved in every project at every level,” he says.  That situation would prevent good customer service.

And the foundation of those standards and procedures?  CSIA Certification.  It’s been the roadmap for not only defining, but also consistently following their processes; ensuring both quality and tight project management.  For Automated Control & Technical Services, it’s also an important, 3rd party validation benchmark that customers can use to judge them before signing a contract.

Great insights from an experienced executive.  Don’t miss this one!

Return Appearance – Brent Stromwall of Polytron

Sometimes a topic has such importance that a deep dive into some detail makes sense.  The 70%+ failure rate of major IT-related projects is one of those issues.

Polytron, out of Duluth, GA has broken at least part of the code with laser-beam focus on “People Readiness.”  Brent Stromwall, their Vice President of Business Development, believes that 3-5% of the total budget for major capital expenditure project should be allocated to the people issues.

He points out several things in this interview that need to be addressed.  For example, a subject matter expert might know all there is to know about technology X, but might not be a very good instructor.  He or she might know even less about instructional design or advanced teaching/learning technologies.

Teaching skills? Instructional design?  Not commonly addressed issues perhaps, but downright critical when it comes to getting folks ready to assume and sustain responsibility for a major new system.  And what about those who will assume that responsibility in the future?  Who will deliver that 2nd, 3rd, 4th generation training and how?

Heavy stuff!  Heavy stuff with a big time financial impact!

We also talked about change management, including how often it’s really a fundamental “cultural” challenge, the modern industrial sales rep as consultant and the real tangible value of certification by the Control System Integrators Association.

Listen up!  There’s a lot of valuable insight in this one.

Jim Williams of Loman Control Systems

Jim Williams is the Business Development Manager of Loman Control Systems.  As an engineer turned sales professional, Jim provides some interesting perspectives.  He also gets a lot of leverage from being able to “talk the talk” AND “walk the walk.”

Given his background, it’s not a big surprise that he’s focused on using technology to help sell.  He’s got some novel ideas, for example, about using social media and enhancing SEO.

Finally, Jim’s perspective about how to find and choose a system integrator left Bob & I thinking!

Loman Control Systems has been providing clients with automation solutions since 1991. Headquartered in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area, Loman offers a comprehensive suite of industrial automation services including specification, design, programming, assembly, installation and startup. Loman is a founding member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA), and had been active in the CSIA Best Practices committee for 9 years. Since the inception of the CSIA Certified member program, Loman has maintained Certified member status.


Tim DePalma of B&D Industrial

You’d expect a company celebrating its 65th anniversary to be a solid, dependable outfit, expert at keeping customers happy.  B&D Industrial, an independently owned provider of industrial products and services, certainly fits that description.  Who’d think though, that they would also be a prolific source of creativity and innovation?

This conversation with Tim DePalma, B&D’s Director of Technical Services and Corporate Development provides a glimpse into some of the truly advanced systems they’re designing and delivering.  He traces much of their success to the Norcross, GA based Technical Solutions Group.  Gathering all their technology gurus into one location enables extensive cross-pollination of concepts and ideas, resulting in an “innovation engine” to address customers issues and challenges.

Listen to some of advanced applications of remote, real-time monitoring.  B&D has been able to dramatically reduce costs and boost production up-time and production throughput for their customers by identify problems BEFORE they occur.

And you simply cannot miss the “Pecan Worm Story.”  Picture a two-foot wide conveyor belt-full of freshly picked pecans whizzing along at high speed.  Some of the nuts have tiny worms on them – NOT something that can go into the package.  A B&D designed vision system spots the little rascals and ensures a thorough “wash and rinse” cycle.

Very cool stuff!

Brad Walker, President of ASECO Integrated Systems

Brad Walker, President of ASECO Integrated Systems shares some enlightening perspectives…

On Re-Use…  It’s one of those chicken or egg scenarios, but regardless, large companies are aggressively re-using designs, code, intellectual property, etc. across multiple sites.  Is it possible to reduce total costs by as much as 2/3 using the approach?  How vital is acumen regarding “re-use” for manufacturers and system integrators?

And speaking of Intellectual Property…  Discussions about who owns what are becoming more common and more important; and wow, they are challenging.  Brad talks about how looking at systems component by component makes it easier to appropriately divvy up the IP for the benefit of all.  Dealing with the “purchasing guys and lawyers” is becoming more and more significant.

On RFP vs. Partnering…  No doubt, partnering is a more successful strategy, but how do you get from here to there?  How can manufacturers and system integrators develop trust quickly?

On Differentiation…  It’s training.  It’s IP.  It’s vision.  It’s all about integrating skill sets above and beyond the traditional disciplines.

On Standards…  Of course ISO standards are invaluable.  Walker’s take on the equivalence of ISO standards and CSIA Certification is instructive.  Clever engineers are not enough!  Process and systems need to support those clever engineers to make technology really hum and generate value.

Putting real meaning behind the word “Partner”

It’s been quite a while since I’ve heard such a great story about genuine partnering!  In this interview, Steve Townsend, Senior Controls Engineer for Imerys and Chuck Wambeke, President of Industrial Automation Consulting both out of Three Forks, Montana talk about two decades of producing mutual value.

What’s the basis for this sustained success story?  Standardization.  Documented standards for automation, naming and even beyond that, to blocking and tackling like wiring at the electrical, PLC and HMI levels, is the underlying theme.  Steve emphasizes how even though individual employees may come and go, the standards remain.  They’re an anchor that continuously minimizes both excess work and change orders.  Better yet, Chuck and Steve have aggressively leveraged the power of these standards across all their locations.

Chuck shared a bit of historical perceptive as well.  IAC started thinking in terms of best practices and standards even before the CSIA (Control System Integrators Association) was established.  They continue this focus and for the third time, are ready to get re-certified.  What’s particularly striking is Steve’s (i.e., the customer’s) perspective on the value of CSIA Certification.  He attributes much of Imerys’ stellar safety record to the CSIA-based safety standards ICA helped them implement.  Think of a talc mine in Montana, and then think about no lost time accidents in 6 years.  As I said in the interview, “Wow!”

Listen to the whole discussion to bone up on how “partnering” is done.

Brent Stromwall of Polytron talks about Intelligence and Continuity

Brent Stromwall, Vice President of Business Development for Polytron discusses Manufacturing Intelligence Solutions and Continuity of Performance. 

He explained how important it is for plant manager to understand the business beyond what can be learned from MES.  Personnel up and down the hierarchy – from the C-Level to plant managers to operators on the floor – need information; about downtime, OEE, quality, safety, maintenance, operations and myriad of other things.

Everyone recognizes the need for data driven decisions, but not everyone knows how to get information without spending a bundle.  Brent explains how to make that happen with Manufacturing Intelligence Solutions

Brent also provided some fascinating perspective about Continuity of Performance.  The notion of a customer achieving excellence after Polytron finishes a project and leaves is quite unique.  “Communication with and education of all stakeholders is just as important as a great technical solution,” says Stromwall.  “It takes more effort, but pays off for both us and our customers in the long run.”

Great stuff!  Don’t miss this interview – lots to learn from it!

Sam Hoff talks about selling with social media

Sam Hoff, President of Patti Engineering, talks about selling with social media.  He framed the issue and the compelling need for a strong strategy and presence succinctly with three statements:

  1. “In this business, you live by your references and your reputation.”
  2. “If you’re not on their mind, they’re not going to pick up the phone and call you.”
  3. “The have qualified you before they ever call you.”

Sam also shared a boat-load of tips about effectively using your web Site, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogs, e-newsletters and Customer forums.

Paul Wilson and Ken McLaughlin – Creating Business Value

Paul Wilson, Vice President, Business Development & Marketing and Ken McLaughlin, Director of Automation Systems with JMP Engineering talk about creating business value.  For these two it all starts with recognizing that every customer – and every individual within that customer – is different and has a different spin on exactly what “value” is.

They explain a three step life-cycle for partnering with customers to optimize their value-creating process:

  • Plan – Paul aims for investing 50% of JMP’s time understanding what customers want to accomplish and why.  (Think about the magnitude of that time investment…)
  • Choose – That is, decide which of the many combinations and permutations of components and vendors make for the best overall solution.  (Very interesting perspective here on the difference between recommendations – the JMP way – and quotes – the more typical approach.)
  • Manage – Including change management during implementation as well as ongoing support and service

Listen closely for a whole series of insightful nuggets!