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Robotic system integration

How to Choose and Work with a Robotics Integrator

Matt Kohler | 07 July 2016

Choosing the proper integrator to partner with to accomplish an organization’s strategic goals for robotic automation is not a trivial task. Companies have several avenues that they explore when it comes to gathering information, soliciting bids, evaluating, and selecting an integration partner. In this article, I try to make sense out of each of these processes, common pitfalls, and advice to help make the tough decision that will pave the way to a project’s success.

Establish Goals and Expectations

The process of selecting a robotics integrator always begins with the need for improving some existing process at an organization’s production or distribution facility. This goal may be to increase production capacity, improve ergonomic conditions, reduce labor cost, or a multitude of other reasons to improve its bottom line. The organization’s project manager may already have ideas of how they can accomplish these goals or he/she may be in need of some guidance.

Whatever the case may be, it is likely an integrator is needed to help focus some of the efforts and provide insight into the investment required to achieve these goals. The company might already have experience with a particular integrator which they have consistently turned to for this initial evaluation.

If a company has not gone through the process of selecting an integrator in the past (or maybe they have without much success), they will need to tap into the network of integration partners to select the proper one. Resources such as industry trade shows, websites, and professional associations will allow the Project Manager to narrow down some potential integrators who might be a good fit for the application.

Learn from Previous Projects

A company’s previous endeavors with a particular integrator tend to be pivotal in the process of selecting a partner for the upcoming application. Lessons learned from previous projects can be very helpful in improving the experience of future projects. Conversely, particularly bad experiences with a given integrator will motivate companies to look elsewhere on their next project.

It is important for a project manager to look into previous experiences and decide how those projects will pave the way to success on the next one. Companies like Bastian Robotics pride themselves on their ability to earn the trust and maintain relationships with their clients due to both executional success and after-implementation support.

Research and Short-List Potential Partners

While it may seem prudent to solicit as many separate proposals as possible on a given project, some project managers just don’t have the time or motivation to then weed through and evaluate each quote that comes through the door. Many times, this scenario results in a selection on the mere basis of price, and not the proper comparison of all the offerings (which may not be quoted on an apples-to-apples basis). A properly defined Request for Proposal (RFP) can help remedy this situation to make sure all parties are quoting on a level playing field. Read more on the importance of RFPs.

Work with Robotics Integrators During the Proposal Development Phase

As proposals begin to trickle in, it is always advantageous to carve out time to discuss the proposed system’s functionality, equipment specifications, options, and price with the integrator. Bastian Robotics applications engineers will typically visit the customer site or set up an online conference call to assist clients in the review of the provided proposal.

Make the Selection & Execute

Once all the evaluations have been complete, it’s time to select an integration partner. Typically, as timelines are so often tight and accelerated, the initial steps of confirming equipment specifications, layouts, and schedules will follow soon after the selection. Project managers will need to state their expectations for the development of the project and integrators will delineate their plans for routine status meetings, milestones, and overall project logistics.

During this stage, Bastian involves dedicated project managers who are in charge of keeping the customer up to date on the progress of a project each week and making sure engineering and manufacturing stay on schedule. Choosing suppliers for equipment and integration services is an important task that involves focused attention from the initial stages all the way through system turn-over. Bastian Robotics would be happy to begin the journey with you and help turn your goals into reality.

Author: Matt Kohler

Matt Kohler, Bastian Solutions Director of Applications has been with Bastian Solutions since 2005, after receiving his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Missouri - Columbia. The applications team at Bastian Solutions prides themselves on thoroughly understanding their customer’s unique needs and then tailors a solution that gives those customers a competitive edge in their business.  


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