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Orchestrating with expertise

19 June 2023

George Thompson, chairman of the British Automation and Robotics Association (BARA) looks at the importance of the system intergator

I WAS having a discussion recently about what I thought the most important part of an automated solution was. My reply could have been the robot, which I consider to be the beating heart of the automated solution – or perhaps the controls architecture, which I would describe as the system’s brain and central nervous system. If we add in vision, then the system can see... the list goes on and on. For me, the most important part would be the System Integrator and the core knowledge they have about a particular process or application should never be underestimated or assumed.

Think of it as the posts I’m sure we’ve all seen on Social Media platforms where a mechanic or appliance repair technician gives a bill for what appears to be a simple repair. When questioned about the end price and the customer requesting an itemised invoice it would read something like – turning the bolt: £10 – knowing which bolt to turn and by how much: £110...  The experience of the technician is what you are paying for and the same should be expected for the Integrators.

Conductor is key

I often describe system integrators as being like the conductors of a world-class orchestra. Even if you have the best musicians and the best instruments, the conductor is the key to it all. Just as the conductor understands how to get all the different component parts of the orchestra to work together and to squeeze the very best out of each part to create beautiful music, so does the system integrator. They understand how each component works and how to incorporate each part together to create a highly efficient Automation Solution for our customers.

It also must be said that there can be vast differences between Integrators, and I would encourage anyone to go through the due diligence to ensure you make an informed decision. There are a lot of really good and highly skilled integrators, and some that may not be as skilled in a particular application. Ask loads of questions and speak with a couple of Integrators to compare the solutions that are offered by the Integrators. Compare them both individually as well as against each other.  

The most important question for you is – could you work with them? Most Integrators will involve you in their design concepts to ensure that they are answering your needs. Regardless of what may be indicated, there are few true ‘copy/paste’ solutions – in most installations, there will be slight differences in the positioning of conveyors, access doors, robot mounting positions or any number of ‘small’ changes that can have a bigger impact than you may think.

There are numerous drivers for automating a process and most can be measured in pounds and pence, but not all of them. There are also some that are softer, such as waste reduction, manual handling reduction, or removing operatives from unpleasant or possibly dangerous environments. Whatever your reasons, chances are that some of our members either have a ready-developed solution or the knowledge on how to create a solution to fit your individual requirements and that solves your pain points.

If you would like to start your automation journey, but don’t know where to start – I would highly recommend visiting the BARA website below where we have outlined several topics under the Expert Advice section to give some initial information. Whilst you are there, why not register for our next Roundtable discussion? You could also watch some of our previous Roundtables again as there is likely to be just the information you have been searching for contained within the discussions.