Selecting a World-Class Vision Systems Integrator
August 31, 2010
Each year the acceptance of machine vision grows and more manufacturers are looking for machine vision-based solutions to their manufacturing problems. As more potential customers are available, more machine vision systems integrators are becoming available to attempt to satisfy the demand.
The challenge for prospective customers is finding a machine vision systems integrator that can help them integrate machine vision into their manufacturing process. Get a better perspective on what machine vision customers should be looking for when attempting to find a world-class machine vision integrator.
BasicsMachine vision systems integrators specialize in the application engineering, installation and service of machine vision technologies. Typically machine visions systems integrators buy technologies from machine vision equipment suppliers and then resell the equipment to the end customer as part of an installed system.
Often, a machine vision systems integrator is comprised of a group of people that are expert in a single machine vision supplier’s platform. In many cases, the machine vision systems integrator is exclusive to the vision component supplier and will only use the supplier’s products to solve vision problems. These integrators are usually very good with certain applications and certain technologies.
Here are a few tips that can help a potential customer do a better job selecting a machine vision integrator:
A world-class vision systems integrator should be able to work back from the potential customer’s problem without being bound by a single machine vision supplier’s technology. For example, a machine vision systems integrator may need to use laser triangulation sensors on one application and a color line scan camera on the next application.
If the integrator is exclusive to one vision technology supplier, the integrator may be more apt to engineer the proposed solution to fit the available technology from their exclusive or preferred machine vision source. In this case, the end customer may not be getting the best technology to solve the application. Exclusivity or even strong preference often can limit the tools an integrator can use to apply to the problem.
A company that has a working machine vision system should be happy to share success stories, and an unhappy customer will probably be willing to share information about the failure. Talk to customers that not only have systems being considered, but also applications that differ from the one at hand to make sure the integrator can handle a wide variety of applications.
There really is no substitute for doing the legwork required in this step. After all, picking a company to become a partner in improving manufacturing processes should be worth the due diligence.
However, one should be paying for more than competence, and should expect expertise. A world-class machine vision system integrator should have the in-house capability to program robots, debug communications and write PLC logic for vision applications. This in-house capability will make the installation much more efficient and will save many headaches and cost overruns on the overall project.
For example, if physical tooling is required to fixture a part, the integrator with laser tracker capability could provide tooling certification prior to the installation of the machine vision equipment. Having a variety of third-party audit tools on hand is particularly helpful when trying to debug problems quickly in the field.
The best way to determine the capability and willingness of an integrator to provide service is to talk to its existing customers. World-class machine vision systems integrators are service companies at heart as they typically do not manufacture their own products. Being a service company means that the integrator looks at service as its lifeblood and its reason for existing, not as a necessary evil.
When the proper machine vision technology is integrated and supported correctly, machine vision can be a phenomenal tool for a customer that is looking to create more efficient and cost-effective processes.
The key to a successful machine vision project is selecting a world-class integrator to install the system. Integrators that work back from the customer’s problem and exhibit the skills and attitudes described here will be a much stronger resource to a customer that is looking to increase their manufacturing efficiency through machine vision. Q