By Walt Boyes, Editor in Chief
, and Jim Montague, Executive Editor
THE BEST gift is something you didnít know you needed, but once you get it, it becomes absolutely essential. To give such a gift, the giver must know something about the recipient that he didnít know himself, which isnít surprisingly difficult, and mostly requires a little careful observation, thought, creativity and follow through.
These are the attributes shared and routinely practiced by the winners of CONTROLís 14th Annual Readersí Choice Awards. They donít wait for users to call with problems. They go out and find potential difficulties, and provide the genuine, real-time partnering thatís always far easier to promise than actually deliver. They share a rare and continuous awareness with the few remaining waiters that still fill water glasses before their diners realize theyíre close to empty.
Unfortunately, much like those waiters, these attentive and proactive suppliers seem to be growing scarcer. The respondents to CONTROLís unaided, readers-only survey only named 74 total companies with at least 5% of their votes in 74 product categories, compared to 84 firms in 2004, even though there were four new categories in 2005.
In the 2005 surveyís Service and Support section (See Sidebar at end of article), the readers only identified 26 companies (35.1%) as supplying very good-to-excellent services with scores of 4.0 or better on a 1-to-5 scale. This was a steep decline from the 47 firms (55.9%) that scored 4.0 or better in 2004. In addition, only three companies scored 4.4 or above in 2005, while 24 firms reached this level the year before. While specific causes for this decline werenít identified in the 2005 surveyís analysis, corporate consolidations, layoffs, outsourcing, accelerating retirement rates, lost expertise, technological shifts, expanding job descriptions, and many other rapidly evolving economic forces can affect the companies named and the perceived quality of their services.
The six service providers that the readers say deliver very good-to-excellent service (4.0 or above) include: Emerson in 18 categories; Siemens Energy & Automation in six; Rockwell in four; Invensys-Foxboro in three; and Endress+Hauser and K-Tek in two categories each.
Lotsa JockeyingóA Closer Horserace?
As competition heats up in the process control field, traditional frontrunners have a harder time staying in front, and some new players emerge. In the 2005 survey, new leaders took over in 12 product categories. Meanwhile, of the remaining leaders who fended off challengers and retained their titles for another year, 19 gained a larger percentage of the votes in their categories, while 31 saw their percentages shrink, often as their runners-up gained on them.
Similarly, there were also fewer dominant winners in 2005 than a year earlier. For example, 32 companies won by 10 percentage points or more in 2005, while 44 did it in 2004; 27 firms doubled their first runner upís performance in 2005, while 38 did so in 2004; and while nine companies in 2005 secured a majority of votes in their categories, 11 achieved this in 2004.
In addition, there were 13 close races again in 2005, with less than 5% separating the first and second place finishers. However, there were five ties in 2005, but only two the year before.
One notable constant was that there were nine multi-category winners in 2005 and 10 in 2004. Significantly expanding its personal lead, Emerson and its divisions won in 28 categories in 2005, which was six more than its 22 wins the year before. Similarly, Rockwell won in nine categories in 2005, and won in 8 in 2004. Other multiple-category winners in 2005 were Endress+Hauser, GE and Honeywell, each with three wins, and Fluid Components International, Invensys and Mettler-Toledo with two wins each.
One more possible sign of tightening competition was that there were 24 firms that topped the required 5% of votes required for a category mention in multiple categories in 2005, compared to 30 in 2004. In 2005ís survey, Emerson was named 40 times, Rockwell was identified 24 times, Honeywell was cited 18 times, Invensys was mentioned 17, and Endress+Hauser was identified 11 times. The year before, the celebrities were Emerson with 41, Rockwell with 20, Invensys with 17, Endress+Hauser with 14, and Honeywell with 13.
14th Annual Readers' Choice Awards
ANALYZERS, AMBIENT GAS DETECTORS
1. MSA -- 18%
2. Draeger -- 9%
Scott-Bachrach -- 8%
4. Det-Tronics -- 5%
1. Emerson Process-Micro Motion -- 20%