Even though COVID-19 is over and many supply chains have recovered, scarcity and long lead times for many raw materials and microprocessors persist, forcing lead times to remain at many months if not years for engineered devices and other specialized components.
“Raw material and chip shortages seem to be having less of an impact on lead times. Changes in manufacturing locations have been the cause more recently and that’s being alleviated as new production facilities come up to full production,” says Don Glatt, utilities manager at Huffman Engineering Inc., a system integrator in Lincoln, Neb., and certified member of the Control System Integrators Association. “The Internet allows instantaneous view of availability, and special pricing agreements still provide a better value from traditional vendors than Internet-only distributors. Customers are more open to expanding their acceptable vendors based on availability. This has given some vendors the ability to get into markets otherwise closed to them.”
Educate to collaborate
Glatt adds that Huffman is seeing more collaboration between vendors and integrators, but it also needs them to explain the technical intricacies of solutions, just as much as subsequent customers need system integrators to explain to subsequent customers how to implement those solutions. For instance, system integrators and clients should learn online configuration tools to help build controls and instrumentation based on the operating requirements and desired customer specs.
“The increased utility and ease of use of hardware configuration tools has allowed system integrators to have a virtual vendor hardware subject matter expert at their fingertips,” explains Glatt. “Two examples are Rockwell Automation’s Integrated Architecture Builder and the Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Architecture Builder. While many tout the benefits of the systems to the sales and quoting process, there are equal, if not more benefits of an operational flavor in the areas of overall system design and optimum performance. Also, instrumentation vendors are providing startup training to system integrators to deal with limited technical expertise, which enables extended warranties.
“In addition, we recently saw some interesting use of QR codes for instrumentation. Scanning the code will get you information specific to that serialized instrument to include product operational data, individual calibration data, spare part ordering information and operating instructions.”