Companies that employ robotic automation are most likely to survive the pandemic and remain competitive for the long term. It’s imperative to engage a robotic system integrator as soon as possible to get that system up and running; but with travel restrictions and contagion concerns, traditional in-person meetings are not likely. Here are 5 steps on how to choose a robotic integration partner through virtual means.
Step 1. Start with a certified integrator list
Begin at the Robotic Industries Association (RIA) website, robotics.org, which includes a list of certified integrators. RIA is a non-profit organization that has already done the vetting for you by ensuring integrators complete a rigorous certification process, so you can be sure you’re looking at candidates with a high level of proficiency, deep knowledge, demonstrated accountability, and safety compliance expertise.
Step 2. Check out integrators online
From the list of certified integrators, choose five or six and check their websites for information. Do they have experience in your application or industry? Do they show examples of successful installations? Do they have a long, established record of service? Do they communicate their capabilities clearly?
Use search engines to check for any major red flags on these companies, such as lawsuits or bad employee reviews. Avoid companies that have problems satisfying their customers and workers.
Step 3. Schedule interviews via webchat
From those integrators that look most promising, schedule interviews via a webchat app to get more details face-to-face. Verify their experience with applications similar to yours. Ask to see videos and get real customer references. Review important company information such as years in operation, number of robots installed, annual sales, facilities, and services. Find out the typical turnaround time for technical support. Ask them about their process for the design and installation of a robotic cell, and find out if they have dedicated project management staff to help throughout the entire process. Get a feel for whether an integrator wants to build a relationship with you for the long haul, or if they just want to do a one-off project.
From here, narrow your search to the top three candidates.
Step 4. Start an RFP
Issue a simple RFP to your top three integrators. From here, watch not only what response they provide but how they provide it. Good communication and fast turnaround are signs that an integrator is ready and willing to work closely with you. A good integrator should ask a few questions before providing a quote. Any integrator that offers an off-the-shelf solution without digging deeper into your needs is probably not the best option.
Step 5. Provide a lot of information
To provide the most accurate recommendation and quote possible, a good integrator will ask a lot of questions and dig deep into the process before making any recommendations. Be prepared to share a lot of information such as drawings, operation data (cycle times, TAKT times, steps of the process, incoming material and how it gets there, outgoing material and how it leaves), specifications, photos, access to interview line operators, and a video tour of your plant.
One of the most important pieces of information you can provide at this stage is your budget. Don’t hold back on this information, because it can really impact the kind of recommendation you receive. A good integrator wants to recommend the best option possible to meet your budget and your ROI expectations, not drain your budget with unnecessary add-ons.
These five steps will get you to enough information to choose the robotic integrator that best meets your needs without ever meeting in person. By doing this, you’ve kept your team safe from unnecessary contact while securing a robotics partner that will keep your company running for years to come.
About Acieta: A leader in the robotics business for over 37 years, Acieta provides a wide range of robotically automated solutions and services for the manufacturing industry. With locations in Waukesha, Wis., and Council Bluffs, Iowa, Acieta has integrated more than 5,000 automation systems for customers across the United States, Mexico and Canada. As part of its mission to be a true partner to its customer base, Acieta is committed to solving challenges facing all manufacturers, such as lowering costs, increasing productivity and addressing labor shortfalls. Learn more at www.acieta.com.
Acieta is a leading FANUC Authorized System Integrator and member of the RIA Certified Integrator group.