When planning a new vision inspection project, there’s plenty to consider. What’s the best kit for the job? What’s the payback time? And how will the setup affect production? But top of the list should be choosing the right integrator.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ for factory automation, but there are some big questions that every good integrator should be able to answer, as Tom Flude from Engineers Insight explains:
Do they use universal (and easy-to-source) hardware?
Is their technology widely used and easy to source in a hurry? Exclusive products may sound impressive, but does that mean they’re the only ones who can get it, or maintain it?
The best vision integrators use products that integrate with existing systems and where replacement parts can be quickly found when problems crop up. Also, how ‘future ready’ are their solutions: can it be easily updated and upgraded when products change or lines get upgraded?
The biggest vision manufacturers like Cognex and Teledyne FLIR are known the world over, so you’ll always find good vision engineers who can maintain them.
What experience do they have? OK, prove it
Anyone can name-drop – but the best integrators can talk in detail about their previous work of a similar scale and scope to yours. They may even be able to introduce you to previous customers.
Do they have the technical knowledge to handle complex issues as they arise? Try asking them for examples of recent projects they’ve worked on, including technical issues that arose and what they did to resolve it. Ask them to explain how successful these projects were, in terms of throughout improvements and payback time.
Where are they based?
Even for global companies, having that local presence still matters. Where is this integrator based, and how will this affect the installation and ongoing technical support? It’s important that, wherever they work, they’re able to respond quickly when issues arise – either in person or with quick, reliable communication.
How quickly can they get to site?
When issues arise (and they will), can they get someone out on site quickly? This question can be the deciding factor if you’re choosing between integrators and is a good one to ask their other customers if you get the chance.
Whatever the cause of the problem, downtime costs money. So, how quickly will they be there when you need them?
Who will you be dealing with?
Consistency matters, but it’s often taken for granted until it’s not there. Ask them who your day-to-day contact(s) will be – and what experience they have. A skilled project manager who’s there for you 24/7 can make the difference between project success and failure.
The right vision integrator should be pleased to hear these questions, so keep them in mind for your next vision project.
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Tom Flude is founder of Engineer’s Insight; the central, agnostic platform for manufacturing, allowing engineers to source product content and find documentation in one place. Download it from the App Store or Google Play.