The definition of a material handling systems integrator would be a best described as a combination of both an allied products distributor and a consultant. Where a consultant takes a fee based approach for their intellectual property and then assists in vendor selection, and an allied products provider is selling his brand against the competition, a true systems integrator provides the sales and implementation of material handling products as well as the intellectual property to properly engineer the solution.
If a company has no in-house engineering the decision to use a systems integrator is fairly straight forward. You are hiring an industry expert to advise and solve warehousing and distribution issues. The decision becomes more difficult when the company has engineering resources. Material handling projects are often over simplified, devaluing the role an integrator plays.
Don’t underestimate the difficulty in implementing a truly integrated material handling system and diminish the value of an integrator.
A systems integrator:
· Performs data analysis and system design
· Validates the solution
· Aids in vendor justification and selection
· Procures the product at the best price
· Installs the system; many times in a working environment (your operation never stops)
· Commissions the system
Every day, an integrator is designing and implementing material handling projects. The real issue is not so much about a company’s capability to handle these projects as much as it is about the risk associated with them. Companies with engineering talent usually have an understanding of warehousing and distribution processes. But even to the savviest of customers, integrators can add value by bringing a wide variety of experience to projects and uses that experience to mitigate risk.
Risks are often underestimated and can vary greatly depending on the type of project. For instance, installing a system in a greenfield (new/empty warehouse) vs. an existing operation that needs to continue to operate during implementation are two dramatically different risk scenarios.
Why use an Integrator?
· Single point of responsibility
· Performs various consulting functions
· Is not a distributor. Provides an independent evaluation of the most appropriate solution to a customer’s issues
· Manages and coordinates multiple vendors and technologies for smooth installation
As projects become more complicated, the value of a systems integrator increases.
Don’t undervalue an integrators role. Overruns on budget or schedule translate into escalating costs, both on the project and lost opportunity.