Wednesday, January 10, 2024

How do you know if you're using the right automation partner?

Choosing the Right Automation Partner

A very candid look at knowing what's behind the promises you hear. 

By Sandia Harrison, Director of Marketing, FPE Automation

Distributors, resellers, independent product representatives, solution providers, integrators, oh my. If you're a part of the plant engineering or maintenance ecosystem in any way, if your job role even loosely resembles process controls, your inbox, voice mailbox and phone are probably full of messages. 

People want to work with you. 

Let's start with the obvious. 

If you are approached by someone who is unprofessional, unethical, can't or won't keep their promises, or outright lies to you, don't walk. Run. 

I would like to make one thing very clear. We are not talking about that group. You know better than to work with a partner like that. 

So, who is left? The simple answer? A very long list of professional, personable, knowledgeable folks -  all of whom would like some of your precious bandwidth. We're talking about those persistent souls who probably have left you a message in the 30 seconds or so since you began reading this! People certainly do want to work with you. 

Things look very different through your lens. I'm guessing you don't have a ton of time. When you agree to meet with prospective automation partners, it seems like they all say the same thing anyway. How do you get past the sales pitch? How do you determine who will serve you the best, hopefully on a long-term basis? 

To say that "there is a lot at stake" is an understatement. The right partner can help you to manufacture smarter. They can help you make better decisions that greatly impact your facility. Maybe even your job. 

Any journey begins with a first step. When selecting an automation partner, that first step is often the most important one. Here's an honest exploration of a proven process you can use to ensure success. 

Let's dive in.  

Your path towards successful collaboration.

Here are some questions you can ask to find out if an automation partner is a good fit. 

1. What are your/your company's accolades? 

This single question will save you a lot of time. Has the company been featured in any success stories or case studies? Have they won any awards? Received any recognition? 

If the answer is "no", beware. If a partner is truly creating value in manufacturing plants like yours, it won't be long before the compliments start coming in. 

2. How long has the company you work for been in business? And how long have you been there? 

Don't get me wrong, truly talented industry champions do change jobs. There is nothing wrong with accepting a better offer. Still, you're looking for numbers that will make you feel comfortable in this area. 

3. Who is on your support team? 

This is a heavy-hitter question. Why? Many, if not most, partners rely solely on their suppliers for application assistance. That can be a big mistake. 

There are many reasons why that is true:

  • You're the middleman: There is not enough transparency, and you may not be involved enough in the process, particularly when there is an issue. 
  • Not seeing the big picture: While the supplier's employees are undoubtedly the best source for information about the product they manufacture, they often lack knowledge about the market as a whole.

While the supplier's employees are undoubtedly experts when it comes to their product, they often lack knowledge about the market as a whole. They will most likely promote their own brand instead of recommending what is best for your application. Plus, they won't have as much in-depth knowledge about how to incorporate various components into your application. FPE Automation has an award-winning, in-house, team of engineers to assist you. When we make recommendations, you can be confident that have your best interest in mind. Your success is our success.

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