What does it take to make an automated building operate? Think about the mechanics: the key-card system, elevators, thermostats, and lights, plus all the wiring linked together unseen.
If you’re aware of your building systems, it’s likely because something is going wrong. The thermostat isn’t working or your key-card won’t scan. Those are all symptoms of larger problems with the building’s operations.
The Expertise of a Master Systems Integrator
A Master Systems Integrator (MSI) is the individual or organization that enables all those technical systems to work cohesively and seamlessly.
- Sometimes maintain
They ensure all systems communicate properly, collaborate with building owners so that systems information is accessible and usable, and develop software layers responsible for integration, aggregation, and communication of the building systems.
A Complicated History
Over the last two decades, most BMS software manufacturers were advertising the convergence of building services over a centralized network. The goal was to unify and simplify all systems in one network. However, there were issues.
- Scope, velocity, and impact of cloud-based services
- IoT ready devices
All of these issues disrupted their strategy, creating a new paradigm. The integration of building services has not been simplified but has become ever more complex.
Clients have also become more educated and are demanding partners that have the skills required to satisfy their needs.
This challenge has turned into a big opportunity for a new role in the industry: the Master Systems Integrator.
The MSI’s principal goal is to ensure that the client’s voice is heard. They ensure that technologies are:
- Technically compliant
- Meet IT security requirements
Design Consultants vs. Systems Integrators
At their core, there are similarities between the MSI and design consultants. Both help make your operation efficient and productive by leveraging their knowledge and experience gained from years of working with many different storage mediums, process flows, and technologies.
Even though their methods for achieving results are different, systems integrators and warehouse design consultants both perform many of the same tasks, including:
- Analysis of your existing systems
- Review of critical data (planning horizon, expected business growth, item master and order history, information about your SKUs)
- Recommendations for the design and layout of your facility, to streamline processes and the flow of materials
- Recommendations for different technologies that can make your facility more efficient and productive, which may include sortation systems, packaging, and shipping technologies, conveyance
- Implementation of your design, systems, and technologies
- Training your personnel on the best practices in regards to operating any new systems and technology
- Lifecycle support after your system has been fully integrated and pushed live
Notable Differences Between Design Consultants & MSIs
Despite the large overlap in terms of experience and tasks performed, there are some key differences between a warehouse design consultant and a systems integrator that you should keep in mind.
1. The focus of their work – A systems integrator is primarily focused on implementing systems and technologies that will allow you to be as efficient and productive as possible.
A design consultant takes a broader view of your business as a whole. In addition to your warehouse, they might also focus on other larger corporate strategies to better understand how they can help you meet your business goals.
2. Existing contacts – Systems integrators often have relationships with vendors of various technologies, while design consultants typically do not. This can be beneficial because a quality systems integrator may be able to leverage their relationships with vendors to provide additional cost savings on technology and equipment.
3. Cost – MSI and consultants often charge differently for their services. Working with a consultant is typically a paid engagement right from the beginning of your relationship, most of the time a systems integrator will provide at least some level of analysis upfront without any compensation.
- Consultants do not have the practical experience nor are they software developers.
- BMS system integrators typically struggle to build capacity or are unable to raise capital to either invest in developing software or acquire the necessary skills.
- Service providers solely focus on delivering and executing projects.
Scope of the MSI
- Begins work in the pre-construction phase and provides design consultancy
- Moves to the construction phase, writing the specification that meets the client’s goals and are tasked to develop the software to meet the client’s goals
- Ensures the project has achieved its goals and the client is satisfied with the results
- Provides training to end-users
Most importantly, they carry on adding value to the client long after the project is completed in the form of analytical services and many other “Software as as Service” tools (SaaS) that reduce costs and increase user experience.
Your relationship with an MSI is not a one-time transaction. They’re invested in seeing your building succeed, and they’ll help you plan for the future with a building that’s designed to adopt new technology and build a realistic, forward-thinking roadmap.