Selecting the right partner for machine automation can be tricky. Here, Mark Turner, Applications Manager at Lenze, outlines key questions to ask when selecting an automation technology partner to better ensure best results.
- Can you support me through the full project lifecycle?
Does your chosen provider have the capabilities and willingness to work alongside you through the complete project? Much of the ultimate performance – and cost – of a machine is determined at the concept stage. The best providers bring ideas and suggestions to every aspect of an automation project, from the small details that make a decisive difference to operating performance and efficiency, to the development of new machine designs.
As the project moves into detailed design and manufacture, your provider should offer solutions that are both comprehensive and tailored to suit the requirements of your application. After installation, they should offer responsive and cost-effective assistance with commissioning, troubleshooting and on-going technical support.
- Can you offer the right technology for my application?
Is the technology on offer a good fit for your application? System providers may want you to use technologies that earn them more, but sometimes the simplest appropriate solution is the best.
- Can you provide a robust, easy-to-use development environment?
Does your chosen provider leave you to navigate software development unaided, or can it provide application-focussed tools and templates to save you from reinventing the wheel? Machine designers can create motion software themselves, but that is time consuming, costly and can lead to future problems. A better way is to utilise fully developed software tools from the technology partner that saves time.
The Lenze FAST application software toolbox, for example, typically eliminates around 80% of the work required to develop control applications from scratch. This leaves machine builders with more time to focus on their expertise that makes a real difference for the machine.
- Are you ready for industry 4.0?
The Internet of Things is already reshaping manufacturing. Advanced communication and analytical technologies create opportunities for end users and machine builders. But for maximum effectiveness, those technologies need to be built into machines, not bolted on. Can your chosen provider help you master the new challenges of connected machines, like gathering and analysing data to monitor performance and predict failures, or securely communicating with external systems via the cloud?
- Is the supply chain in place?
When lead times are short, component availability is critical. Your provider has to have the manufacturing and distribution capabilities to meet your timescales. And because manufacturing is an increasingly global business, your provider must offer the required level of service and support wherever and whenever you need it.