In this issue of Design News, we welcome some new readers to our circulation list whoplay an increasingly vital role in the manufacturing world; engineering consultants and systems integrators.
Their role in industry is growing as a direct result of at least two phenomena: the increasing design complexity of many products in industries such as aerospace, automotive, medical, and automation; and the continual downsizing that has been going on throughout manufacturing.
It certainly seems ironic that as technologies get more complex, many companies have actually lost staff that can deal with the complexity, or have not been able to add the experienced and knowledgeable staff they need. Consultants and systems integrators can fill the holes.
In fact, because of the experience and knowledge they gain from each job they do for their varied customers, these professionals provide an extra dimension of technical depth that helps their clients more efficiently achieve their objectives.
Take machine builders, for example. Because of lack of staff, lack of time, or unique systems demands, they may decide it makes more sense to call in systems integrators to handle the motion control aspects of a new machine—the motors, the drives, the software, the PCs or PLCs—than to try to design those subsystems themselves. The systems integrators may well have more experience in motion control, be better informed on available technology, and be able to get the job done quicker.
"Systems integrators are in a position to make recommendations to their clients that can result in much better technology," says Gerd Hoppe, president of Beckhoff Automation. "They can propose new ways of thinking about solutions to problems."
Says Alan Stephan, president of engineering consulting firm Stratos Product Development: "We can look at a project globally, diagnosing needs, asking questions."
What these integrators and consultants need most themselves is a reliable and regular source of information on the latest technology that's available—how it works, how others are using it, and how they and their customers can benefit from it. That's what we at Design News intend to provide them and all our readers, through our regular coverage and through a column that debuts on the back page of this issue. We look forward to being of service.