Users embrace automation services

A new survey by Larry O'Brien, process automation research director at ARC Advisory Group, shows "a clear shift away from purchasing automation services from large engineering and construction firms toward purchasing services from suppliers or independent third-party system integrators. This is consistent with ARC’s observation that more of the large EPC firms are downsizing their automation departments and leaving more of the responsibility of the automation phase of large projects to subcontractors such as suppliers and smaller SIs.”

At the same time, O'Brien reports, "Users are increasingly looking to suppliers to provide them with a central point of responsibility for the execution of automation projects, and suppliers must be prepared to meet this demand. More suppliers are therefore taking on the responsibilities of main automation contractor (MAC), main automation vendor (MAV), and main instrument vendor (MIV). These roles can mean different things to different suppliers, but they all connote increased responsibility for the management of automation projects for users, who either did it for themselves or outsourced the task to systems integrators or engineering firms."

Also of note in the report, O'Brien claims his respondents are "placing less emphasis on lowest bid price for services and more emphasis on preexisting relationships and expertise of the supplier or service provider." (See Figure 1 below.)

FIGURE 1: ROI AND PERFORMANCE RULE
ROI and Performance Rule
Automation services selection criteria are focused heavily on return on investment and increased plant performance.

"We asked respondents to rate the likelihood of future outsourcing of service functions to automation suppliers that were previously performed inhouse," says O'Brien. "Key categories that respondents said they would increasingly outsource to suppliers include training, installation, system configuration, system and device maintenance, and engineering and design. Other areas include remote system monitoring, mechanical and electrical condition monitoring, and spare parts and replacement. Areas where end users are likely to outsource at the same level they do today include commissioning and checkout, loop tuning, and operational services. Areas for likely future outsourcing include performance management and mechanical and electrical condition monitoring. There were very few categories where user respondents said they would not outsource more or the same."

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