After assembling a Project Team, and compiling the Equipment List and Annotated Floor Plans, the next key step in implementing a Continuous Monitoring (CM) system is to evaluate candidate vendors and select the one that will best meet your needs. Not all vendors are alike, and each has their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Value propositions also differ from vendor to vendor. Here are some key factors and criteria to use during the evaluation process:
- Product Offering – One of the most important criteria is verifying that the vendor’s product offering meets the entire set of requirements. If the vendor’s product offering is limited, or needed products are in the development phase, then this vendor may not be the best fit. Newly introduced products may potentially have “bugs” and product issues, so selecting a vendor with a comprehensive, stable, proven product offering is a good decision to make.
- Direct Experience – The amount of direct experience the vendor has is critical. It could mean the difference between a smoothly implemented system versus facing a seemingly endless stream of issues. Check references, and ensure that the vendors under consideration have a proven and established track record (and are not new entrants with limited real-world “know-how”). Experienced and knowledgeable vendors will have already solved your problems and have templates and procedures in place for optimal solutions. If you hear “let’s give this a try,” this could be a yellow flag. The preferred answer is: “we have a proven solution for this application, and here’s how it works and what you can expect.”
- Services – If the size and complexity of your project is such that a significant amount of implementation services are needed, make sure that your vendor offers these. The value proposition of some vendors is to focus on low-cost product sales only, and services like assisting with Standard Operating Procedure development, Transition Period Support (from legacy system to a new system Go-Live), and on-going Managed Services may not be available, or what you require.
- Local Technical Support – If your organization does not have the staffing levels to manage and maintain the CM system, and local technician services are required to address open issues, perform regular alarm checks, and to complete preventive maintenance and annual calibration protocols, then selecting a vendor with a local presence may be important. Some vendors only offer on-site services by sending service technicians from remote locations, which can become costly in the long run.
- Partner Relationship – Installing and maintaining a CM system is a significant undertaking and it requires a significant investment in resources. It’s important to realize that your vendor needs to be more than a just vendor and be more like a “partner” in providing the solution. A key question to ask is: How would I best characterize the experience with the candidate vendor up to this point? Would they just be a parts/product supplier, or would they truly be invested in and provide us a valuable service and long-term solution?
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