Do end users benefit from system integrator certification?

End users do perceive benefits when system integrators receive CSIA certification, according to research on end users and interviews by Control Engineering. See graphic.


End user demand grows for CSIA affiliation. See large version of this graph below. Source: Control EngineeringDo end users recognize the benefits of hiring a CSIA Certified Integrator? (Criteria for CSIA certification can help any automation and controls business.)  Bryan Downer, VP of sales at hygienic processing equipment manufacturer CSI, said he does: “Certification gives us a degree of assurance that the company really can do integration. A lot of people can build panels and write code, but they don’t understand how controls integrate with one another.”

Downer added, “Companies that have invested in their infrastructure to become certified fit a certain mold. They have capabilities that go beyond the root core, that add additional integration value.”

Dan Wesley, supervisor of the Electrical and Instrumentation Department at Professional Engineering Consultants Inc., agreed. His firm of consulting engineers once undertook a retrofit of a water treatment plant and hired a CSIA Certified Integrator to work on the instrumentation and controls.

“I’m glad we required a CSIA Certified Integrator for that project,” Wesley noted. “What we get sometimes is an electrical contractor that does their own instrumentation even though they don’t really know what they’re doing. When it doesn’t work, they don’t know what to do. Going up to the certification helped eliminate the problem of contractors being able to hook up equipment but not fully understanding instrumentation.”

However, Wesley recognized a downside to requiring a certified integrator because there are so few of them. “In a bid situation, it’s difficult to get qualified respondents. It limits the pool of available bidders too much, which is not good for competitive bidding. Contractors need to become more aware of certification.”

That sentiment was recently echoed in an online discussion among CSIA members. Few have seen a bid specification requiring an integrator to be certified, and most explain the significance of CSIA certification to their would-be clients themselves.

On the other hand, many clients learn to appreciate CSIA Certified Integrator proficiency once they learn the details of the CSIA certification audit. Tim Foster, former VP of engineering at Green Planet Farms, learned about CSIA certification from the CSIA Certified Integrator he’d hired for a soy protein isolate production project.

“I found out after we’d finished the selection process that both of my finalists were CSIA-certified,” Foster noted. “It seems that the same qualities that made them worthy of certification made them worthy of my short list. I just didn’t know it at the time.”

Now that he’s aware of the program, Foster said he’ll make CSIA certification a prerequisite for bidding on future projects.

“The certification process demonstrates that the integrator has a higher level of proficiency. They know how to do what you want them to do. CSIA Certified Integrators have a vision that goes beyond ‘can I make this machine do that?’ They have contacts and experience that broaden their ability to bring resources to bear from many different areas. If you don’t already have a preferred integrator, CSIA certification should be the minimum standard for choosing a new one,” Foster said.

- Vance VanDoren, PhD, PE, is Control Engineering consulting editor, at controleng(at)

End user demand grows for CSIA affiliation

End users can search the Automation Integrator Guide for system integrators affiliated with any of 127 professional organizations, including the four most popular shown here. Since 2008, CSIA has topped the list, accounting for as many as 18% of all searches when a professional affiliation was specified.

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