There are multitudes of opportunities in material handling to design and implement innovative systems for customer applications. Manufacturers of equipment bring certain strengths to the table, and distributors add their unique talents to the equation to solidify the overall solution. With the complexity of today’s systems, the word distributor might not encompass all of what an integration partner can do for the customer. Integration partners that work with manufacturers to provide the overall solution are stronger than either entity alone.
Key Manufacturer Strengths
Manufacturers’ primary strengths are in their ability to consistently concept, design and produce quality equipment. Demonstrations of the equipment are great ways to showcase these strengths. When a customer’s product is added to a demo, instant credibility is gained by the manufacturer and integration partner. Customers can see their products successfully performing before ever making a buying decision, which provides a sense of assurance. Visits to the facility are good opportunities for integration partners and customers to see examples of manufacturing capabilities and metrics, ranging anywhere from design and production to delivery and service.
Training and education of integration partners can take several different avenues. Sales training is an offering where the manufacturer educates sales engineers on the features and benefits of their equipment, while highlighting the competitive advantages. Sales engineers are also given the opportunity to further their knowledge through application-specific training. Maintenance training is another type of education provided by the manufacturer. Whether it is preventative maintenance, troubleshooting or spare parts knowledge, integration partners gain a better understanding from these educational offerings.
Factory assistance is a term that covers many areas, such as system and design review, broad scope of market conditions and collaborative solutions. When an integration partner designs a system, he or she works diligently with the customer to understand and put forth the best possible solution. Manufacturers have a more global view of how their equipment can be applied than any single integration partner and will bring that experience into every project opportunity. Many times, a manufacturer can apply different types of equipment to make the solution more cost-effective for the customer. With ROI on the top of everyone’s list, some jobs require integration partners to look into alternative options that only the manufacturer can deliver.
Key Integrator Strengths
Integration partners are the eyes, ears and feet on the street that help customers begin the process of designing and implementing a material handling solution. Customers often bring the integration partner in prior to the design of the system to brainstorm the array of possible business solutions. It is during these opportunities that customers experience the advantages of working with an integration partner. The integration partner is able to include offerings within the solution that might be outside the scope of the manufacturer. This is critical for designing and implementing a system that addresses current business needs while planning for future growth.
Independent consultation services and engineering studies are ways that integration partners can help with conceptualizing projects and justification. Software is another piece of the equation where integration partners can add a great deal of value. By having access to many software solutions, the integration partner can tailor the software to the system and not be confined to fit the system to the software.
Knowing their system is being supported locally is a huge advantage customers have when they work with integration partners. Manufacturers might have more than one location, but when they work with integration partners, their ability to provide local support is greatly multiplied. A strong integration partner network can provide customers with great confidence in the quality and availability of local support.
Whether it is a smaller manufacturing type system or a large distribution center, integrating a material handling system involves expertise in a wide array of areas. Manufacturers can work with end-users but might not be able to bring the entire solution to the table. Integration partners, by nature, need manufacturers to be able to solidify their solution. When manufacturers and integration partners work together, the combination of talents create a winning formula for customers to achieve great success.
|Meet the Author
Chuck Waddle is vice president of business development at Hytrol Conveyor Company, located in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and on the Web at www.hytrol.com.