Control 2009 Readers’ Choice Awards

Control Readers Report Their Solution Provider Preferences in More than 100 Process Automation Technology Categories

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Indeed, despite all the latest advances in wireless communication, the bulk of signal transmission in today’s process plants still relies on good old-fashioned wire and cable to get messages from one place to another. And, for the readers of Control, Belden rates as the wire-and-cable maker of choice. Lapp, Kerpen and Anixter also rate highly.

That wire, of course, ultimately needs to connect with the host control system, and Phoenix Contact holds the preferred position among a predominantly European array of terminal block manufacturers that also includes Weidmuller, Wago and ABB (including the former Entrelec brand), as well as Rockwell Automation. In the burgeoning field of wireless infrastructure, two of the leading automation platforms took top honors in the form of Emerson Process Management and Honeywell. Wireless networking and communication specialists, Cisco and Motorola, also were mentioned.

The analog-to-digital conversion, conditioning, powering and intrinsic-safety protection of instrumentation loops also are essential communication functions. For the purposes of our Readers Choice Survey, these functions are characterized by the technology arenas of I/O systems, signal conditioners, power supplies and intrinsic safety. Here, too, the European infrastructure players fare quite well, with Phoenix Contact taking the top spot in signal conditioning, and MTL in intrinsic safety. Fellow European suppliers Pepperl+Fuchs and R. Stahl also fare well, together with American supplier, Moore Industries.

In the overall classification of input/output system, top honors went to the major automation platform providers, with Rockwell Automation in the lead. And last, but certainly not least, SolaHD (formerly Sola Hevi-Duty and a unit of the EGS Electrical Group) took first place in the category of power supplies. Phoenix Contact, Siemens and Acopian were also mentioned frequently.

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Our Level Best

Similar to the rich landscape of providers in the flow instrumentation field, the level measurement marketplace is home to a broad variety of technologies and suppliers. Here, Emerson Process Management once again assembles a critical mass of competence, faring well in most of the mainstream technologies, and winning outright in both non-contact and guided radar technologies. With the combined forces of its Rosemount capabilities and Saab acquisition, it also claims top spot in the arena of inventory-grade tank gauges.

But level measurement excellence also belongs to a number of independent specialists. Notable among them in this year’s Readers Choice Awards are Magnetrol for its wins in float/displacer and magnetostrictive gauges, as well as magnetic level indicators; Ohmart Vega for the top spot in nuclear; and K-Tek for its laser level instrumentation. Endress+Hauser gets the nod for its electrical and ultrasonic level switches and Siemens for its ultrasonic level sensing capabilities.

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The Heat (and Pressure) Is On

Back to the days of the original Rosemount 1151, the pressure transmitter is in many ways the foundation from which Emerson Process Management built or assembled market leadership position in a broad range of field instrument technologies. Temperature sensors and transmitters are no exception, and only the arena of infrared sensors has remained beyond their scope. Independent temperature sensor specialists Omega Engineering, Pyromation and Sandelius also made the honor roll.

In the area of infrared sensors, Raytek, which recently acquired competitor Ircon, having already been acquired by Fluke to become part of Danaher (got all that?), takes the top spot. In the category of multi-dimensional infrared imaging/thermography, FLIR Systems takes top honors.

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A Process Analysis Primer

Typically a step in complexity beyond the measurement of primary physical variables, temperature, pressure, flow or level, is the realm of process analysis. These devices, once confined primarily to the laboratory, have increasingly moved into the field, gone on line, and are helping to improve control and boost quality throughout the process industries.

Here, as in other field instrument categories, Emerson Process Management has established a leadership position in key analytical instrumentation technologies, including process chromatography, concentration/density measurement, pH/ORP/conductivity analysis and stack gas/emissions analysis. The other leading automation platform providers also are well represented in process analysis, including ABB, Siemens, Yokogawa and Invensys Process Systems. Other specialized analytical players ranking well in this year’s Readers Choice Awards include Ametek’s Thermox division, Thermo Scientific, Endress+Hauser and Hach.

In the yet-more specialized category of humidity and moisture analysis, Vaisala carries the day among our readers. Finally, another important technology category closely aligned with process analysis is for those devices used to detect toxic or combustible gas in ambient air. Here, MSA won top honors.

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Going with the Flow

Accurately measuring process flows is difficult. Perhaps that’s why so many flow measurement firms have sprung up over the years, each exploiting new physical phenomena to tame this problematic process measurement. Many novel flow measurement technologies have been co-opted or acquired by the major instrumentation companies, although a few niche players remain independent.

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