Today's business environment is more challenging than ever. To remain competitive, original equipment manufacturers must constantly reduce costs and enhance equipment performance with new features and functions.

On the surface, cost reductions have been achieved by utilizing standard "off-the-shelf" controls such as operator interfaces, industrial controllers and I/O. However, these products never seem to quite satisfy all of the equipment or application requirements. There are either more functions offered than necessary or not enough functions available, which ultimately forces a compromised solution.

Custom controls are best suited to satisfy cost reduction objectives while providing enhanced features and functions that match exactly to the OEMs equipment and application requirements – without compromise. The following considerations will assist the evaluation process when deciding between custom and "off-the-shelf" controls.

Custom Controls "Off the Shelf" Controls
Standard Features, Functions and Performance
Exact requirements for equipment and applications are precisely met. Unique features, functions, diagnostics and performance are embedded in the control, often times through software for little or no added cost. Designed with standard features, functions and performance to satisfy a broad range of applications and industries. Built-in operability and flexibility is limited to only what is useful for the most common applications.
Product Interoperability
Device functions and performance, developed concurrently, are integrated and embedded in the custom control. This eliminates any interface problems caused by using separate components and necessary support from multiple vendors. Substantial design effort and testing is required to insure reliable interoperability between separate components. Product support and troubleshooting is more difficult, especially when products from multiple vendors are utilized.
Product Life Cycle
A custom control is your product – you determine its product life cycle and obsolescence. In addition, you can ensure compatibility and full functionality with past and future equipment requirements. Product life cycle may be short and is dictated by the control supplier. Product/control migration is often difficult when a selected device becomes obsolete – forward and backward compatibility may not be possible.
Control Architecture and Panel Wiring Complexity
A single custom control can replace many individual, separately installed components. Inter-wiring can be eliminated making installation fast and easy. Control architecture is simplified since all protocol and messaging is integrated in the control. Multiple control panel components, often with different construction and design platforms make panel wiring more complex. This can increase the possibility of assembly and installation errors. Gateways may be required to bridge different communication protocols.
Proprietary Programming Code
Your intellectual property is protected because customers don’t need access to the programming code – all of the equipment functions are pre-defined in the controller. To achieve desired performance and integration with other components, users often require and demand access to the equipment supplier’s application program.
Anti-Tamper Proof Design
Equipment operation and proper performance are protected, ensuring unauthorized personnel from making changes causing an unsafe condition. Access to the application program and the use of standard configuration software enables users to incorrectly change equipment performance or function – possibly creating an unsafe condition or damaging the equipment.
Future Sales
A custom control is your product, with your brand name and part number. Repair and replacement devices are ordered from you – not from a third party. Future orders ensure an ongoing relationship and dialog with customers. "Off-the-shelf" component suppliers may receive repair and replacement part sales. The equipment manufacturer can loose valuable customer feedback on device performance or problems possibly putting their product at risk and affecting future orders.
Reliability
The custom controller is application specific, thus simplifying overall panel and equipment design while increasing reliability. Built-in diagnostics will lower costly maintenance and repair time. The more components in a panel, the lower the reliability of the equipment – there is more chance for incorrect wiring, improper installation or defective parts that fail prematurely. Finding defective components can be more difficult because there are more failure possibilities.
Programming Languages
Different programming languages are available in custom controllers. Typical languages include: ladder diagram, function block diagram, sequential function chart, structured text, instruction list, C+, and BASIC. Most standard controllers are limited to ladder diagram programming only.
Service and Support
BTR Controls is your strategic partner and prides itself in providing unmatched service. We will immerse ourselves in your business to understand your exact requirements. We supplement your industry and application specific experience with our years of control expertise. We are your single source and contact throughout the entire life of the custom control from design specification to obsolescence and the introduction of the next generation product. Service and support personnel from "off-the-shelf" product suppliers typically have very little knowledge about your specific equipment and requirements. This makes configuration, commissioning and troubleshooting extremely time consuming and frustrating.
Cost
Custom controls provide the lowest total installed cost giving you a competitive advantage. Installed cost savings are realized from:
  • Reduced material costs.
  • Reduced installation costs.
  • Reduced maintenance costs.
  • Reduced engineering costs.
  • Future expandability.
  • Lower inventory.
  • Simplified supplier relationships.
Direct material costs may be lower, but total installed costs are almost always higher after accounting for engineering, installation, customer support, maintenance, upgrades, inventory and managing the supply chain.
Brand Identity
A custom control carries your brand name and company image – it can have a common look and feel to the associated equipment in which it is installed. There may be no brand identity other than the brand of the “off-the-shelf” device supplier. The overall equipment brand is often overlooked.