Readers' Choice Awards

Our 19th Survey! Control Readers Pick Their Preferences in More than 100 Process Automation Technologies

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January 2011 CoverWelcome to the Annual Control Readers’ Choice Awards, our 19th edition. We’ve surveyed our readers, and we asked them, in a series of unaided (that means no preselected choices in dropdown boxes) surveys for their selections among all the solution providers they regularly work with. As we have for the past several years, we surveyed not only the print magazine's readers, but also subscribers to our digital media outlets: email newsletters, webinars, podcasts and all of the other media you can find at ControlGlobal.com. This year's awards represent the collective opinion of over 1000 automation professionals.

The results still reflect a North American bias. However, each year we see more responses from automation professionals from outside the United States. This has made some clear changes in the standings.

For the third year in a row, we've broken out control platform awards by discipline. We've named them "Best in Control" (see Table 1, "Best in Control" Readers' Choice Awards by Process Automation Discipline), and each category represents end-user selections in the six basic process control disciplines: Continuous Regulatory Control, Batch Process Automation, Safety/Emergency Shutdown, Sequential Logic, Continuous Sheet/Web Monitoring and Control…and a new category for 2011, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA). We've also broken out the top readers' choices by industry vertical (see Table 2).

If you compare these results to the 2010 Readers' Choice Awards (January 2010, Control, p. 34, www.controlglobal.com/articles/2010/RCA2010_1001.html), you can see some jockeying for position, with Invensys Operations Management appearing in several more categories, and Siemens Industry, Schneider Electric and GE Intelligent Platforms having a bigger footprint in process automation.

As you read deeper into the awards, you'll see that we have also asked our readers to rank solution providers of a wide range of instrumentation, software, control and infrastructure products. To be mentioned in these Readers' Choice Awards at all, regardless of final position, means that the solution provider has not only consistently provided exceptionally fine quality products and service, but also has demonstrated those capabilities to a large number of very loyal end-user customers. These are the suppliers who have consistently demonstrated excellence in customer service and responsiveness. We congratulate all of the companies on the list.

Elsewhere in the Control Room, Competency Reigns Supreme

In addition to the six basic process control disciplines, our readers ranked their favorite vendors in their core competencies, from advanced process control software to simulation software, and many competencies in between. While the top rankings in this table go to the large integrated suppliers, this is where smaller supplier companies, such as ExperTune, ControlSoft, Mynah Technologies and Kepware, shine. You don't have to be a behemoth in the market to produce products and service that attract loyal end users. The spirit of entrepreneur/engineer-driven, small, niche companies is still strong in the process automation marketplace.

The Operators' Best Friends

Software and systems competencies are fine, but operators have to have the means of seeing what is going on, understanding what they see, and easily controlling the process they're running. In this group of Readers' Choice Awards, we find companies that have consistently demonstrated expertise in hardware design and manufacturing. Some of these companies, such as Ametek Panalarm, Watlow Electric, Federal Signal and others, have been doing what they do for a long time. Emerson, GE, Honeywell, Yokogawa and Rockwell each bring over 100 years' experience in effectively communicating process conditions to operators.

Interesting changes in this year's list: Advantech took the Industrial Computer category, Invensys Operations Management surged in the Process Loop Controller category, and Rockwell once again took the Operator Interface Terminal and Panel Display categories.

It's All About Infrastructure

In order to connect the controllers and transmitters and final control elements in the field with each other and the control room, each process plant requires a sophisticated and significant communications infrastructure. These systems are the nuts and bolts that hold the plant control system together, and see to it that measurements and control signals get to the valves or drives they need to get to.

While there has been much ballyhoo about wireless over the past few years, the bulk of plantwide communications, especially for control, are still accomplished over wires. Rockwell again topped the Input/Output System category. Pepperl+Fuchs, Moore Industries-International, Belden and Emerson all reprised their finishes from 2010. Phoenix Contact edged out SolaHD in the Power Supply category, and also nipped by Rockwell Automation in the Terminal Block category.

The Wireless Infrastructure category showed the most change, as you might expect, with new names like Elpro Technologies (part of Cooper Wireless), ProSoft Technology, Phoenix Contact and GE MDS appearing this year. We'll likely see more players as the demand for IEC 62591 (WirelessHART—the only international wireless sensor standard) grows in 2011.

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