Transitioning from manual or semi-automated production technology to full automation is always a big step for a company. There are many different factors to consider, not the least of which is the cost, the implications for employees and the ROI the company can expect after the automation process is complete.
It will also be critical to select the right automation integrators to oversee the process. Too often companies don’t take the time to compare different control integrators only to find they are working with a company that really is trying to learn on the job.
Reviewing Websites and Getting Referrals
The first step for any manager should be to research the companies that are available. A good place to start is referrals from other managers or companies that have recently gone through the automation process.
Business or industry associations may be a good place to start, particularly if you have a large, active membership. This allows you to get not only a name but also have a reference from someone you know.
Websites can also be a good source of information to understand the scope of work different automation integrators offer. Some companies are narrower in the services they provide while others can handle any or all aspects of the project to suit your needs.
Ask for Proposals
Once you are able to define what you need and your goals are for automating the system, contact the top handful of candidates you have selected for possible automation integrators.
Ask for detailed itemized proposals with a final price at the bottom. This will help you to make sure the comparisons are apples to apples and that the companies you are considering are all providing the same scope of work.
From this review, interview the top two or three. This will give you a chance to meet the people you will be working with and to assess your comfort level, their understanding of your project and the level of professionalism and expertise within the company.