Selecting A Systems Integrator: Concept (Part 2 of 4)
This article is part 2 of a 4 part series. In part 1, we outlined “3 Things to Look for When Selecting a Systems Integrator“. Stay tuned for Part 3.
When it comes to a proper systems integration, it’s all about the concept. There are a million ways to solve the same challenge, so you need to make sure that you are getting the solution that fits your specific needs and business objectives.
Some systems integrators will approach the challenges of every client with the proverbial “Shermann Tank to squash a watermelon” approach. And while this might work—a tank will certainly squash a watermelon—does it really put your resources to their best use? Does it truly fulfill your objectives? My guess is that you never wanted to simply “squash” the watermelon—you wanted to get inside of it and enjoy its flavor, which is much easier when the watermelon is cut into neat little slices instead of blasted to bits all over the factory floor.
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This is where the concept of a “RightFit solution” shines through. This kind of solution solves the challenge at hand with just the right amount of warehouse automation, and not one bit more. It allows you to reach your goals and put your resources to their best use. A precision knife set is more effective at cutting open a watermelon than a tank will be any day of the week—and much cheaper.
RightFit solutions aim to find a balance between expenses and outcomes. The goal is to provide the proper amount of ongoing operational support without eating too much into your upfront capital investment. This is often easier said than done.
Avoiding the Flavor of the Day
Over the course of the last 2 to 3 years, users of warehouse automation have been inundated by vendors of all types positioning certain automation technology that is the “flavor du jour.” This lack of objectivity undoubtedly had a negative impact on the market, ensuring that customers weren’t getting the best solution for their operation.
For example, when AS/RS shuttles arrived on the scene it seemed they were all any vendor wanted to talk about. Of 4 out of 5 projects being evaluated, at any point you could guarantee that at least 2 of the 3 vendors on each of them were positioning higher level technologies even though they were not the RightFit.
“Tried and True” Doesn’t Always Work
The other challenge that often impacts creativity, and ultimately concept, is an over-reliance on applying the same “tried and true” industry solutions to project after project. By applying this one-size-fits-all approach instead of creating nuanced solutions, there is no doubt that capital, floorspace, and efficiency were sacrificed.
For example, for years we saw large conveyor manufacturers apply extraneous amounts of conveyor to a project just to ensure that there was ample “buffer” between processes. But today, software that is tied closely to the warehouse execution and machine control layers can take control of the order release process and more intelligently throttle the release of orders within the operation in such a way as to prevent congestion in downstream areas. This has allowed system engineers to drastically reduce excess capital equipment where it was not adding value to the operation and redirect it to other areas where it can be of more use.
Big Picture, in Practice
Integrators are empowered to apply the widest creativity and a vast toolset to utilize the best technologies available to them. Ultimately, because they are not beholden to only utilize the solutions that they themselves produce, this approach can result in the highest level of certainty when it comes to successful outcomes.
But putting the concept into practice takes more than creativity. It also takes craftsmanship — a pride in the final outcome.