Welcome to the 20th Annual Control Readers' Choice Awards. It seems to us to be fascinating that we've made it with this award survey for 20 years. We are pleased with the response of readers and vendors, and we know how important this survey has become because we get the phone calls. We've surveyed our readers and we are pleased to present the collective opinion of over 1000 automation professionals on over 100 process automation technologies.
The survey continues to have, as we noted last year, a North American bias, but the number of responses from outside North America continues to grow. 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 www.ControlGlobal.com
Why is this survey important?
This survey and the resulting Readers' Choice Awards are the only completely unaided brand preference survey in the process automation industries.
As always, we pulled a random sample of end users from our databases, and we asked them, in a series of unaided (they have to write in the names—no preselected choices in dropdown boxes) surveys for their selections among all the solution providers they regularly work with.
This means that Control's staff has to make sure that all the various ways to name an ABB or a Rockwell or an Emerson product are counted correctly. This is time consuming and requires significant knowledge of the history of the industry. Did you know that there are over 17 different ways to list what is now an ABB product, for example? One of the things this indicates is the persistence of original brands in the minds of the end users, even after name-changes, acquisitions, and the passage of time.
Since this is a private survey, we have control over the responses, and we take great care to make sure that the survey is reasonable and accurate.
What You're Going to See
For the fourth year, we've broken out control platform awards by discipline, and also by industry vertical. Each category represents end-user selections in the six basic process control disciplines (see Table 1: "Overall 'Best in Control' Winners by Application Type"): Continuous Regulatory Control, Batch Process Automation, Safety/Emergency Shutdown, Sequential Logic, Continuous Sheet/Web Monitoring and Control, and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA). We have broken out the awards by the 10 industry verticals (see Table 2, "Best in Control" Winners by Application Type and Industry) that we serve: Chemicals Manufacturing, Electric Power Generation, Food and Beverage Manufacturing; Metals, Minerals and Mining; Oil and Gas Extraction, Petroleum Refining, Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences, Plastics and Rubber Manufacturing, Pulp and Paper and Water/Wastewater.
You will see, if you compare the current results to the 2011 Readers' Choice Awards that there has been very little change. ABB moved into the lead in Pulp and Paper; Rockwell and Emerson flipflopped position in Water/Wastewater, and other small changes.
Why Do They Win?
Too much should not be read into absolute position on these lists. 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 services, but has demonstrated these 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, and they all deserve congratulations for their efforts.
Branding, which is really what the Control Readers' Choice Awards are about, is made up of several components. One, as we've said, is "walking the walk." But high quality marketing and the concomitant sales effort by knowledgeable staff make up a very large component of the strength of these suppliers' brands.
We get asked fairly regularly how to "win" the RCAs. The answer, which the person asking the question generally isn't happy with, is to spend lots of time and money providing outstanding service to a large end-user base, and communicating what you're doing to the largest market you can. Sure, we'd like to sell more ads, but the fact remains that if you don't market your product, and provide outstanding service to your customers, you're hiding yourself and your light under the proverbial bushel basket. So that's how the usual suspects "win" the RCAs every year.
The Soft Side of Process Automation
These suppliers (Table 3) have consistently demonstrated expertise in software development and execution—and in providing applications expertise and high-quality customer service. Obviously, since this is a brand preference survey, the top awards usually go to the larger suppliers, but note the presence of smaller suppliers like PAS, TiPS, Kepware, Mathworks and Mynah Technologies. Good branding and the strength of a supplier's brand doesn't just reside with the major suppliers.