Whether you’re a small business looking to expand production or a large factory trying to reduce labor costs, automation has clear benefits. What may not be as straightforward is how to begin the process of integrating automated technology into your business.
Like many endeavors, the secret to success is finding the right partner. In this case, identifying an automation partner, or as the industry refers to them robotics integrator, can be a crucial step. Before you bite off more than you can chew with a serious financial commitment that might eat into your capital, let’s discuss how to find the right robotics integrator for your needs.
Understand What You Want to Get Out of Automated Technology
Before approaching a potential partner, it helps to clearly articulate your needs. You’ll want a handle on what you’re trying to resolve with automation and what the challenges are within your business and the industry. Identifying goals enables you to do a more thoughtful review of proposals with an eye towards your best interests. Whether the main objective is speed or control and security, you want a partner that understands those priorities. Defining these concerns will help you develop a comprehensive request for proposal (RFP).
It’s also essential to have a clear idea of your budget, so you’re not committing in conversations beyond your financial limitations. Before you approach a robotics integrator, carefully consider if you have the budget to bankroll your long-term goals rather than throwing money at a short-term solution. It may pay off to wait and save or find additional funding to invest in the right solution for your business.
As you start soliciting proposals, have some idea of what timeframe you need for a return on investment (ROI). You can discuss with potential robotics integrators during the proposal process if your expectations are unrealistic and tweak accordingly.
Things to Consider Before Choosing a Robotics Integrator
In the same way that automation solutions are often customized to meet your specific business needs, robotics integrators are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. The essential components of finding a partner, not just a contractor, are going to be a blend of both best practices and a team that’s well-positioned to tackle the challenges of your business and industry.
Here are a few of the things that should be on your list when vetting a prospective automation partner.
When considering an investment of any sort, whether it’s who to choose for Chinese take-out or where to buy a car, we typically want to read recommendations and reviews from previous customers. While robotics process automation is a little more complicated, finding an automation partner has some of the same simple steps. Do your research and dig into the company website for testimonials and awards. Read Google and Yelp reviews as well as checking social media profiles to see if the company you’re considering partnering with has a solid standing in the community. Look for a track record of successful projects and an industry reputation for innovation.
Capabilities & Quality
It’s crucial that the robotics integrator you choose speaks your language. This means they should be proficient both in the terminology of your specific industry and able to articulate the challenges of the marketplace. Ask for a portfolio of projects that speak to their experience within the industry and demonstrate the application of automation you’re considering.
This seems like an elusive standard but look for a company culture that values communication. You’ll note evidence of this in the way commitments and follow-up are handled. Team members supervising the project, managing phase transitions, and monitoring budget should all be identified upfront and easy to contact.
Just keep in mind that communication is a two-way street, and you’ll want to hold yourself to the same standard. Be transparent about your expectations for budget and timeframe to avoid any unforeseen bumps in the road.
In addition to finding someone who speaks your industry language, you’ll want to find a robotics integrator that has the technical expertise to handle what you want automated. Your automation partner should be able to clearly describe how the robotics system they’ll design will address your challenges, whether it be a simple process automation solution or a more complex factory automation system.
Training & Support
A dazzling piece of automated technology whose customization uniquely suits your needs is just the beginning. A critical component of the success of integrated process automation is whether your staff understands how to use and maintain the robotics system. An automation partner should have a plan to train your employees and provide ongoing support. Ideally, support goes beyond parts and breakdowns and extends to service for resolving issues that require collaboration.
Transparency & Safety
Transparency is how trust is built, so look for a robotics integrator that is committed to meeting industry and your company’s safety standards. They should be transparent about their safety data and willing to share it with you. Look for automation partners that meet the criteria of the American National Standard for Industrial Robots (ANSI/RIA R15.06-2012) and ask clarifying questions throughout the contract process.
One of the reasons integrating automation into your business is often framed as a partnership with a robotics integrator is this has the potential to be a long-term, collaborative relationship. You’ll want to make sure the company is stable and thriving, so check for signs of viability. Tour the facility and review publicly available financial information to ensure the organization is on solid footing. Look for a history of bankruptcy, any liens, and research the principals of the company. You want a company that seems well-positioned to take on the task with plenty of staffing and flexibility to meet your timeline.
Why SPI Automation Is More Than A Robotics Integrator
Robotics integration is about more than designing a customized solution for your business. At SPI Automation, we understand it’s about finding a partner you feel confident doing business with.
“Partnership is a key selling point for SPI. We emphasize this repeatedly during the sales cycle. Our customers understand their process, we understand automation, and together we can design successful systems. This happens when the customer sits at the same table and participates during the design cycle. We encourage a collaborative approach because we understand when a customer isn’t active, it proves to be a less successful project. Our most important customer is our repeat customer, and this comes through a commitment to partnership.”— Ryan Park VP Sales and Marketing, SPI Automation
With over 25 years of experience in the automation industry, SPI Automation is focused on becoming not just your robotics integrator but your automation partner. Contact us and see how we can help work together to bring the benefits of robotics process automation to your business.