Keywords: EPC, IC&E, Main Automation Contractor, MAC.
M+W Automation recently briefed ARC Advisory Group on its role in M+W Americas as well as its business expansion activities and services capabilities. Mr. Steve Ryan, President of M+W Automation, and Mr. Glenn Restivo, Director of Business Development, discussed the company's approach to meeting the automation needs of the North American manufacturing industries, particularly in pharmaceutical, food & beverage, and automotive industries.
M+W Americas is a business unit of the M+W Group, one of the world's leading engineering and procurement contractor (EPC) companies with annual revenues exceeding US $3 billion. In 2010, M+W Americas acquired Global Automation Partners, a leading provider of automation, manufacturing IT, and vertical integration solutions to FDA-regulated industries, specialty chemicals, and other process industries.
According to Rick Whitney, President of M+W Americas, pairing GAP's excellence in providing automation solutions with M+W's core competencies in facility design and construction will provide a single point of service for its clients. GAP, now M+W Automation, has been expanding its instrumentation, control, and engineering (IC&E) and manufacturing process industry domain expertise both organically and through acquisition. Recently, it acquired Spectrum Engineering Solutions, a full-service controls engineering, robot programming, and metrology (laser tracker) services provider to the automotive industry. Today, M+W Automation has over 300 US-based engineers and is continuing its expansion activities with a focus on strengthening its facilities management and chemical industry domain expertise and services capabilities.
Today's Manufacturers Must "Do More with Less"
Manufacturing enterprises face an increasingly competitive global environment and an increasingly limited pool of skilled workers. It has become challenging to protect margins and meet the continually changing customer demands and market conditions. Faced with dwindling human and capital resources, everyone is being asked to "do more with less." Long automation deployment time and traditional costs are no longer acceptable. Time-to-profitability in bringing a new or reengineered product into production at optimum production efficiency is vital to remain competitive. Process engineering knowledge is also being lost. As a result, manufacturers are becoming more dependent upon their OEMs, technology providers, and third-party EPC and IC&E firms to fill this gap. Increasingly, they have been using local engineering companies that can provide swift response and are familiar with their manufacturing operations. They are also trying to standardize their control and IT solutions and best practices across their global operations. This has an added benefit of reducing the cost and complexity of their automation infrastructure and simplifying their ability to support current and future automation.
Manufacturers are looking for new ways to reduce the time, cost, and risk in executing projects and assuring maximum and continued efficiency and effectiveness of manufacturing operations. This includes minimizing health, safety, and environmental risks.
EPCs, MACs, and SIs
Traditionally, the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies were delegated with the tasks of front end engineering and design (FEED), detailed engineering design, procurement of systems and final construction. An EPC company generally procured the process control solutions from automation vendors. However, main automation contractor (MAC) is a term that is becoming increasingly common in the procurement of automation systems to meet the increasing demand for services and solution-based offerings from the end user companies. As a MAC, the automation supplier assumes responsibility for coordinating the activities among the smaller suppliers, engineering contractors, and the end user company. This helps reduce costs and the number of change orders, providing a better-integrated solution and helping the end-user client obtain better control over the final solution.
Single Source EPCM-EPC-MAC Provides Added Value
When considering this approach, it's important to understand the differences between a MAC and a traditional systems integrator (SI). For one thing, unlike most MACs, most SIs have a local or regional footprint, rather than a global organization. Also, most SIs typically focus their expertise on a limited number of industries, applications, and automation suppliers; and these might not line up well with the end user organization's requirements.
While global automation suppliers serving as MACs typically offer broad application, technology, and domain expertise, plus in-depth knowledge of their own products; they may lack detailed knowledge of other automation suppliers' offerings.
A New Type of Service Provider
In recent years, many EPC firms have been cutting back or even eliminating their IC&E staffs, resulting in loss of their specialized instrumentation and control knowledge. In contrast, the combined M+W Group, M+W Group America, and the M+W Automation businesses have more than 7,500 employees in 31 countries, including over 800 IC&E consultants, engineers, and software specialists (with 300 located in North America alone). According to company executives, its breadth of automation and IT application knowledge, supplier technologies, and industry-specific application expertise further differentiates it from its competition.
M+W has certified and non-exclusive partnerships with most of the leading technology suppliers. Its industry-specific solutions range from digital blending, to weighing and dispensing, to robotic handling systems. The company stays abreast of current and evolving technologies through these partnerships, by working with research and academic, and by participating in various other groups involved in improving manufacturing operations.
Automation is a core competency of the M+W Group. Its M+W Automation business unit offers a combination of process knowledge, automation technology applications expertise, and experience integrating all layers of control and IT technology from the sensor, to control to production management, to business systems; plus full facilities design and management and post-project services. M+W is a new class of full-service providers that end user companies may want to consider to provide both EPC management and MAC-type automation management services for major grassroots or retrofit projects to help reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and speed time-to-value.
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