What if Selecting your Material Handling Integrator was like Electing your Next President

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With the upcoming presidential election, I’m sure many of you have been pulled into a political conversation in one way or another. It’s hard to ignore the fact that America has a very big decision to make this November. Like a presidential election, the decision for a company to select an automation partner is based on understanding what the candidate is trying to accomplish, their experience, and their trustworthiness.  It made me wonder: What if the process of selecting your material handling integrator was like electing your next president?

Material Handling Integrator Election

Information Overload

For starters, you would get a lot of information about possible integrators… I mean A LOT; their history and past accomplishments, but also some less than shining moments.  You would even know if their views on key issues regarding the role of automation have changed over the years.  Perhaps in the past, they felt that support after a system goes live is always handled on a time and material basis, and now, they see scenarios where it could be in the enumerated powers of their firm bid scope.  Or previously, they only provided proprietary (closed) controls and only recently their opinion has “evolved” to promote non-proprietary, open controls.  Being able to see these “flip-flops” may be useful information.

Two-Integrator System?

One of the biggest issues is the fact that there would be a two-integrator system.  Sure, each integrator will select from a group of four… or 17 members to propose different system designs during the primaries, but in the end, you are only deciding between two.  And those integrators have their product platform they will push, whether it fits your specific application or not.  I know, I know, there are 3rd party integrators.  You may be able to find one that designs automation systems exactly in line with your values.  But a vote for them is really just throwing your vote away.  Best case, it is just a statement that you are unhappy with either of the establishment integrators.

Using Your Vote

But at least I get a vote you may say, like everyone gets a vote in presidential elections.  Technically that’s true, every person from every department in the company would get a vote.  But let’s face it, if you don’t work in a swing-department like Accounting or Operations, your vote doesn’t matter.  I guess that isn’t too different from which departments chose integrators now.  The only reason an integrator would visit Marketing or HR would be for fundraising.

Fundraising

Oh yeah, fundraising.  Not only do you have to deal with material handling integrators proposing their solution for years before you can make a decision, but also, employees of your company have to pay for their marketing department’s costs. You have to pay or else the other integrator will out advertise the “your” integrator and gain votes from the low-information employees.

Debates

Low information?  Won’t there be debates to inform everybody.  Yeah, debates.  The problem is the debates wouldn’t review areas like the design of the system, description of operations, or project deliverables.  They would mostly focus on items like the time the other candidate missed a ship date in 1987, any inconsistencies in their ISO certification process, or when a member of the Communist Party bought some of their equipment to help convey propaganda.

The real debates will be happening between coworkers.  These are team members that get along on everything else the other 3 ½ years.  But for those few months leading up to the integrator selection, they think the other person is entirely misinformed, mean, or just plain stupid.  Your coworker that doesn’t know the first thing about where you should apply a variable frequency drive, all of a sudden is an expert on how to maximize throughput on a saw tooth merge feeding a shoe sorter.  Luckily there is the company’s social media page to help facilitate all these “discussions”.  If you can’t argue the benefits of a complex integrated conveyor system in 140 characters, you are out luck.  I would like to see the memes though.Integrator Meme

4- or 8-Year Contract?

You then have to vote on one specific day and cannot delay if you don’t have all the necessary information. Once the selection has been made, you are under contract for the next four years.  The cancellation of which is very difficult.  Impeachment of a material handling integrator has only been done twice before.  But on the flip side, if you really like your integrator and select him for the following four years, that’s it.  You cannot keep an integrator for a third term.  At that point you have to go out and select the next integrator from a group of candidates that have never been an integrator before.

Luckily, the selection of a system integrator does not have to be like a presidential election. You can take your time and choose from a wide range of possible candidates, spend the time to carefully review the design and deliverables, and only make a decision once you are comfortable.  You can select a partner that does have a firm product platform or is an independent integrator.  And best of all, once you have an integration partner you are happy with, it does not have to end in eight years.  Bastian Solutions has customers that we have been working with for decades.  Hopefully your next system project isn’t filled with as much politics as this election season.

#makeintegrationgreatagain

#imwithautomation

Reed is the Regional Manager for Bastian Solutions Michigan. He earned his degree in Mechanical Engineering from Notre Dame. Reed joined Bastian Solutions in January 2006 as a Field Application Engineer. This field role allowed him to work across industries; including manufacturing, food and beverage and distribution serving in roles such as business development, system design and project management.

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