AutomationXchange is a smash hit!

CONTROL magazine's first annual exchange to bring end-users and vendors together to work on collaborative projects proved to be a big success for the automation community, prompting similar focused events to be scheduled next year.

By Walt Boyes, Editor in Chief

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CONTROL Web PollThe level of people that i talked to, I would not have talked to at a trade show,” said John Davidson, from Bristol-Myers Squibb. CONTROL magazine’s first annual AutomationXchange was held August 22–25 in Park City, Utah. End users from 20 companies met with representatives from 21 vendor companies in private meetings designed to create relationships of respect and trust, leading to collaboration on new projects. Engineering and management staff from Abbott Labs, Air Liquide, Alliant Tech Systems, AOC Bausch & Lomb, Boehringer, Ingelheim, Bristol Meyers Squibb, Eurand, Gerber Foods, Grain Processing, Koch, Kraft Foods, Ocean County Utilities, PPG, Praxair, Ruiz Foods, Sensient, Sun Chemical, Tessenderlo-Kerley, and Ultramar/Valero Energy were represented at the event.

“I don’t think I could have ever spent two days more productively, and certainly not at a trade show,” agreed David Stupar from Ocean County Utilities Authority. Craig Tompkins, of Sun Chemical, expressed similar sentiment. “Going to a trade show to see what’s out there doesn’t pay. Coming to AutomationXchange worked for us because we have some large projects [in progress] and we met with vendors ready to specifically address our needs.”

Some of the buyers expressed amazement at what they thought they knew about  attending suppliers they had relationships with and how wrong they were. “We have been using Wonderware for 15 years but never knew [befor this meeting that] they extended their offerings in the MES area,” said Chuck Sapienza of Abbott Laboratories.
What made the end user/vendor meetings work? “The vendors had executive management, technical, and regional representation.

This was a perfect mix and allowed them to thoroughly address my needs,” reported Brian Hendel of Bausch and Lomb/Novartis, who continued, “I was able to solicit competitive quotes for specific projects and compare vendors.”

READER'S COMMENTS



"Keeping sensors clean and stable in calibration in a sludge type environment is the tough part."

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"We use pressure type level transmitters. For some reason, the calibration drifts within a few days. We've tried different brands but they all drift just the same.
 

 
Vendors were also pleased with the results of the meetings. “I don’t want you to tell my competitors how good this was. I don’t want them to come to this event next year,” quipped Paul Galeski, CEO of Maverick, a Columbia, Ill., based system integrator. Galeski went on, “[AutomationXchange] is so much more cost effective than flying all over the country and trying to make these sales calls one after another, especially to get to the high-level individuals that we’re speaking to here.”

Phoenix Contact president, Jack Nehlig, agreed. “The end users were more comfortable. They weren’t as pressed for time as [they would be] when you meet them at their facility,” he said. “They came with a learning objective and wanted to meet you. So the environment in which you met allowed you to take the relationship to a deeper level. It opened doors for us to companies we just didn’t have relationships with,” concluded Nehlig.

Vernon Trevathan, P.E., PMP formerly with Monsanto, and now a consultant, delivered a presentation over breakfast on the second day of the three-day event. His theme was making process automation’s business case to management. He also spoke on the value of the Certified Automation Practitioner program, newly created by ISA.

Barry Figa, Director of Marketing for WIKA Instruments summed up his experience of the value of AutomationXchange. “Priceless!” he said. “We try so hard to get to decision-makers like this. Too often we end up meeting with people who don’t have the engineering background to fully appreciate the design of our products.”

Many of the vendor participants are already discussing attending the upcoming CONTROL DESIGN AutomationXchange May 1-4, ("Building Strategic Alliances for Machine Builders" at the Carefree Conference Resort in Carefreee, Ariz.), or the AutomationXchange being organized by Pharmaceutical Manufacturing ("Providing Innovative Insight into Process Automation Improvements," Aug. 21-25 at the Lodges at Deer Valley in Park City, Utah.).

The second annual CONTROL AutomationXchange will be held August 2005, again in Park City, Utah. For more information, contact Rick Forsgren at 952-224-7641 or rforsgren@automationxchange.com.
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