Readers' Choice Awards

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

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Going With the Flow

There are 10 flow measurement technologies commonly in use in the process industries. We asked our readers to rank the suppliers they felt epitomized the best in each of the most popular nine flow measurement categories and in flow switches. Flow measurement is hard on the best of days, and there are some applications too hard to do. The companies listed in this table have some of the most detailed applications expertise and domain knowledge of any suppliers in any category in the Readers' Choice Awards.

Emerson Process Management, FCI and Endress+Hauser dominate these categories, as usual, but it is nice to see the re-emergence of a proud old name in flow measurement, Brooks Instrument. Another old name has also re-emerged, Brodie International. Both Brooks and Brodie have storied histories, and at one time were both part of Rockwell and later, Emerson. You just can't keep a good flowmeter supplier down.

Our Level Best

Level measurement is undoubtedly one of the very earliest measurement technologies. The oldest existing level meter is the Nilometer in Egypt, which is well over 2000 years old.

Still, we have great difficulty with this measurement, and there are numerous technologies being used to make it.  We present our readers' selections for the 10 most popular continuous-level technology suppliers and the suppliers of two types of point-level switches. As you might expect, the two largest vendors of field instruments, Emerson Process Management and Endress+Hauser, dominated this list, but smaller niche companies, such as FCI, Magnetrol, Ohmart/Vega and the recently acquired ABB subsidiary K-Tek, also did well, thanks to their loyal following of end users. This is a set of categories where sheer bloody competence reigns.

The Heat (and Pressure) Is On 

As you might expect, the supplier of the most commonly used pressure transmitters and temperature transmitters overwhelmingly dominated this category. If you haven't guessed, it was Emerson Process Measurement that won every pressure and temperature transmitter category except Infrared Temperature Sensors and Infrared Imaging/Thermography. In a bit of a surprise, JMS Southeast took top honors in the RTD category, and Fluke Raytek/Ircon took the infrared categories. Fluke Raytek/Ircon is part of Danaher. Omega Engineering, Pyromation and Thermo Electric also made the temperature honor roll.

See the entire list.

A Process Analysis Primer

As quality and performance have become more important in the batch, hybrid and continuous process industries, online process analyzers have proliferated, gotten more robust, and less costly. In this table, we present the top honors in the online process analyzer group. This year, ABB surged to lead four of the seven categories of online analyzers. Emerson Process Management took two categories, while GE Measurement and Control took one.

Online analyzers are not yet to the level of pressure or temperature measurement in terms of simplicity, robustness and operator friendliness, but new operator interface designs by ABB and Emerson are clearly making themselves felt in the readers' choices.

Valves and Motors and Drives, Oh My!

Of course, all the control systems, I/O, operator interfaces and advanced control software in the world won't work if the final control elements don't work. This generally means a valve or a motor drive and a motor. As usual, Emerson Process Management's Fisher Valve division took the Control Valve category, with mentions going to Flowserve, the recent GE acquisition Dresser Masoneilan, and two European suppliers, Samson Controls and Metso Automation. In the Electric Valve Actuator category, Rotork Controls reprised its 2010 showing, while Emerson, Auma,  Flowserve and Limitorque rounded out the category.

Rockwell Automation took the Electric Motor Drive category, while Baldor Electric (even more recently acquired by ABB) took the electric motor category. This is an example of the sometimes North American bias of our readership, with Siemens taking second in both categories.

See the entire list.

Elsewhere in the Field

As always, last in our story, but certainly never least in the hearts of our readers, the final group of Readers' Choice Awards includes essential field instrumentation technologies that don't really fit in any other logical group we've discussed so far. These include "data acquisition"—which means many things to different people, apparently—enclosures, purge systems, fittings, calibrators, remote terminal units (RTUs), vibration instrumentation and weighing systems.

This year, Rockwell and Invensys led in the DAQ category, while perennial winners Pentair Technical Products (previously listed as Hoffman Engineering), Pepperl+Fuchs Bebco, Swagelok, GE Measurement and Control (listed last year as GE Energy) and Mettler-Toledo round out the pack. Fluke took the portable calibrator category once again.

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