This year’s Control Readers Choice Awards represent unprecedented levels of both breadth and detail.
The most ambitious effort to date, our 17th annual effort represents the expressed brand preferences of more than 1,000 process automation professionals. Those surveyed include the print magazine’s U.S.-centric readership as well as subscribers to our increasingly international digital media outlets anchored at our website, ControlGlobal.com.
And, while the results certainly still reflect a North American bias (more than 90% of respondents hail from the 50 U.S.), the increased participation of industry professionals from outside the U.S. buoyed this year’s standings of more than a few European and Asian players.
Increased participation also has allowed us to go more granular for the first time in the arena of systems capability. In years past, we compiled a single ranking of solution providers in the categories of “Process Automation Systems” and “Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC).” Most would agree (and more than one supplier has argued!) that this was a rather blunt category classification that belied the application-specific subtlety that the breadth of the process industry represents.
So, new this year, we’ve broken out systems capabilities into a new group of Readers Choice Awards dubbed “Best in Control.” These rankings (see Table I) allowed users to register their preferences in each of five essential process control disciplines—continuous regulatory control, batch process automation, continuous sheet/web monitoring and control, safety/emergency shutdown and sequential logic control. Further, increased participation has allowed us to present the top solution providers in each of these process automation disciplines in each of 10 process industry verticals (see Table II). We think you’ll agree that the results capture a more meaningful, contextually sensitive image of true industry sentiment.
In addition to these new system capabilities awards, our usual rankings in a wide range of instrumentation, control and infrastructure products are presented on the pages that follow. And, for those of you keeping track of methodology changes from last year, each survey respondent was allowed to identify up to three top providers in each category. These second- and third-place votes were weighted accordingly, but precluded the percentages of the category vote results that we reported in the past.
Our collective hats are off to all the solution providers that made this year’s list. To be mentioned at all, each supplier has demonstrated to a significant, loyal contingent of users that they provide the very best technology in their respective domains. And that’s no small feat at all.
The Software Suite
Closely complementing our Readers Choice Awards across the range of essential process automation disciplines are the Readers Choice Awards for specific software competencies.
First place in several of these categories goes to the integrated platform players such as Emerson, Honeywell and Rockwell. Through a combination of in-house development and acquisition, each of these companies has developed a broad competency in the core software categories.
But in the spirit of entrepreneurship, a number of smaller software publishers have maintained an independent leadership role, notably Expertune in the loop-tuning software category; Matrikon, for its competency in alarm management software; and EPLAN in design/documentation software. In the arena of calibration management software, competency is ascribed to hardware companies that produce field calibrators as well, with Fluke and Beamex rating second and third only to Emerson.
Wonderware, now part of Invensys, for many years represented the ultimate packaged software upstart. It retains its leadership position in the SCADA software space.
Elsewhere in the Control Room
Core competency in process control disciplines—and their software implementation—are well and good, but other control room technologies are needed to communicate process conditions with human operators effectively, and to ensure accurate data is acquired and that control is maintained. For this group of Readers Choice Awards winners, it’s an acknowledged expertise in hardware design and manufacturing that typically carries the day.
Ametek’s Panalarm division specializes in annunciators—all day long—and is once again recognized as the long-time leader in that display technology niche. For panel displays and operator interface terminals, Rockwell Automation gets the nod, although niche specialists Pro-face (including the former Xycom brand) and Red Lion also placed highly. And in the category of industrial computers, Advantech nosed out Rockwell and Siemens for top honors.
And Yokogawa, long respected for its excellence in instrumentation hardware, tops the charts in recorders (pun intended!) as well as loop controllers.
The Essential Infrastructure Players
While field devices and controllers perform the essential actions of the process control loop, an extensive communications infrastructure is needed to ensure that process data is reliably and seamlessly communicated throughout the modern process control system. This next group of Readers Choice Awards recognizes those essential infrastructure players—from wire to wireless and from terminal blocks to power supplies—who make sure measurement A gets to controller B and back to valve C.