Where next for Systems Integrators?

by Chris Dormer, Key Account Manager at Capula

 

For industrial businesses, the digital revolution is driving far-reaching organisational change. As the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), advanced analytics and artificial intelligence technologies spread out across companies, traditional boundaries are shifting, blurring or even disappearing altogether.

Once isolated, shop floor automation systems are increasingly linked with enterprise IT infrastructure. Advanced planning and forecasting approaches require seamless collaboration between operations and commercial functions. Smart, software-driven products and services continue to evolve throughout their lifecycle, changing the relationship between Engineering, Production and end-user.

This fourth industrial revolution is altering long-established supplier relationships too. That’s especially true in the case of one relationship that Capula understands very well: the role of the industrial systems integrator (SI). Historically, systems integrators have helped their clients achieve clearly-defined objectives: the client understood what they needed from their facilities and automation systems. The SI’s job was to identify the hardware and software elements that could best deliver that functionality, and then to bring those elements together into a reliable, cost-effective solution. In fact, in many cases the client may well have spent time and effort in also specifying the specific technology to be used, thus turning the SI’s job into very much a transactional project delivery one.

As companies make the transition to Industry 4.0, however, that job is changing. Industrial companies may not have identified the full potential for digital technologies to add value to their operations, or they may not know how their digitisation goals can be achieved. The integration of new projects or new capabilities is becoming increasingly complex, too, with the need to link with enterprise IT infrastructure on one side and legacy systems on the other. Moreover, that rising complexity is forcing companies to think hard about which activities and technologies they want in-house, and which are a better outsourced to specialist providers. An additional vital aspect of this new integrated environment is the need to ensure cyber security is built in and appropriate methods and tools are used to ensure the operation as a whole is safe and secure.

Smart SIs can offer significant additional value in this changing environment, and much of that value lies beyond the boundaries of the traditional integration project. At the front end, we can help to identify opportunities as well as solutions, using our broad experience and market knowledge to spot places where new technologies and approaches could address unmet client needs. Then, once a project has been implemented, we can play an ongoing role that goes far beyond conventional service and support. Advanced condition monitoring capabilities, for example, won’t just help clients avoid unplanned downtime, they can also reveal new ways to optimise asset performance and productivity.

In the Industry 4.0 world, the relationship between industrial companies and their systems integrators will be less about specific projects and more about long term value add partnerships. Have you found the right partner to help you achieve your digital ambitions?