The 2010 Control Readers' Choice Awards, our 18th annual survey of brand preference among suppliers of process automation technologies, represent the collective opinion 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 United States), the increased participation of industry professionals from outside the U.S. buoyed the standings for more than a few European and Asian players.
As we first reported last year, we've now broken out control platform awards by discipline. These "Best in Control" rankings (Table I) represent end-user sentiment 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, the top solution providers in each of 10 process industry verticals are identified in Table II.
In addition to these system capabilities awards, our usual rankings in a wide range of instrumentation, software, control and infrastructure products are presented on the pages that follow. Our collective hats are off to all the solution providers that made this year's list. To be mentioned at all, each supplier has successfully demonstrated to a significant, loyal contingent of users that they provide the very best technology in their respective domains. And that's something to crow about!
The 'Suite' Spot in Software
Closely complementing our Readers Choice Awards across the range of essential process automation disciplines are the Readers Choice Awards for specific software competencies.
High rank in most of these categories goes to the integrated platform players such as Emerson, Invensys and Rockwell. Through a combination of in-house development and acquisition, each of these companies has developed a broad competency in the core process automation software categories.
But in the spirit of entrepreneurship so central to innovation in the software space, a number of smaller, specialty software publishers also scored well, notably ExperTune and ControlSoft in the Loop-Tuning Software category, Matrikon and TiPS in Alarm Management Software and Mynah Technologies in Simulation Software.
New to the Readers Choice Awards this year is the category of OPC Connectivity Software. Matrikon took top honors in the category, followed by Kepware Technologies, Rockwell Automation and Software Toolbox.
Where Operator Meets Automation
Core competency in process control disciplines—and their software implementation—are well and good, but other control room technologies are needed to effectively communicate process conditions with human operators, and to ensure accurate data is acquired and that control is maintained. For this group of Readers Choice Awards winners, it's 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 alarm display technology niche. Top honors for most of the other major control room visualization components, including Panel Displays, Operator Interface Terminals and Industrial Computers, went to Rockwell Automation. But a broad range of other visualization specialists were also voted among the best. And in the panel instrumentation categories of Loop Controller and Recorder, Siemens and Yokogawa took top honors
Tying it All Together
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.
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 & Cable maker of choice. Anixter and Lapp also rate highly.
That wire, of course, needs to ultimately connect with the host control system, and Rockwell Automation this year claims the preferred position among an otherwise predominantly European array of Terminal Block manufacturers, including Phoenix Contact, Weidmuller, Wago, ABB (including the former Entrelec brand) and Schneider. In the burgeoning field of Wireless Infrastructure, three of the leading automation platforms providers—Emerson, Honeywell and Invensys—get the nod, as do wireless networking and communication specialists Cisco and Moxa.
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. The top spots in these categories went to Rockwell for I/O Systems, Moore Industries for Signal Conditioning, SolaHD for Power Supplies, and Pepperl+Fuchs for Intrinsic Safety.