The Usual Suspects Win the Readers' Choice Awards!

The Question Isn't Who Won, but Rather Why Do They Win and How Do They Do It

By Walt Boyes, Keith Larson

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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.

Seeing What's Going on Here

Operators have to be able to see what is going on in their processes, and they need highly effective and highly reliable ways to do that. The companies on this list (Table 4) are highly competent at hardware design and manufacturing, and many of them have been doing what they are being recognized for a very long time. Emerson, GE, Honeywell, Yokogawa, Invensys Operations Management and Rockwell Automation each have over 100 years' experience in effectively communicating process conditions to operators.

Connecting the Dots

We shouldn't forget that for the devices and software to be useful, somebody has to provide the information infrastructure. In Table 5, you'll see the essential infrastructure players. There's not much difference from last year in the basic categories here, except in the Wireless Infrastructure category where the responses mirror the survey done in our August 2011 issue: Emerson Process Management, Phoenix Contact, and Siemens Industry are all purveyors of devices that use the IEC62591-WirelessHART standard. Cisco, of course, owns the 802.11 space for networking. The only ISA100.11a supplier that made the list is Honeywell Process Solutions.

Keeping the Process Flowing

Table 6 shows the recognized masters of the flowmeter. From Coriolis to Open Channel, these vendors have the expertise to ease the deceptively simple process of specifying, designing and operating a flow measurement system. The recurrence of company names like Brooks Instrument and Badger Meter that have long and storied pasts shows just how important longevity and applications expertise gained from that longevity actually are. Of course, Endress+Hauser and Emerson Process Management dominate this category, because they are the number one and number two, respectively, suppliers of field instrumentation. There are other smaller companies, though, who shine, like Hoffer Controls, Sierra Instruments and Magnetrol.

Leveling the Field

Level measurement continues to be one of the most difficult of the basic measurements necessary to operate process plants, even though it is certainly the oldest measurement of this type known to us—as we've noted before, the oldest existing level meter is the Nilometer in Egypt, which is well over 2000 years old, and may be far older as a technology. Table 7 shows that, although Emerson Process Management and Endress+Hauser again dominate the category, there are other, smaller companies who shine too. Companies like Krohne, Vega, Magnetrol and its subsidiary Orion Instruments, ISE Magtech, MTS, and others continue to make the list because their design, manufacturing and above all application expertise continue to demonstrate what we said last year was "sheer bloody competence." End-users respect competence more than anything, especially at 3 a.m. when there's been a failure.

The Heat is On, and the Pressure Too

As always, Emerson Process Management won every category in Table 8, except Infrared Temperature and Infrared Imaging, both of which were captured by Fluke Raytek/Ircon, a division of Danaher. Smaller companies made the list in their niches, like JMS Southeast, Pyromation, BBP Sensors, and Omega Engineering (which was recently sold to Spectris, the large U.K.-based instrumention supplier). Moore Industries, Micron and FLIR also made the list.

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