Who Had the Nicest Ice in This Year's Readers' Choice Awards?

Readers Pick the Gems Among Automation Products and Suppliers

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It's All About Infrastructure

These days, it's all about data. But you can't use data you can't get. So manufacturers of infrastructure products such as I/O and terminal strips, wire and cable, and power supplies and signal conditioners should not be forgotten. A category that absolutely was not even thought of for the first Readers' Choice Awards is "wireless infrastructure," which got a mixture of votes for 802.11 infrastructure (Cisco) and wireless sensor networks (Emerson, et al.) (Table 5).

The Big Four: Flow, Level, Pressure and Temperature

For more than 100 years, the process industries have controlled by means of four basic variables: flow, level, pressure and temperature. Process automation professionals have strongly held favorites in each of these categories, but newer technologies are also used. There is no such thing as the "perfect instrument" here. That's why there are so many sub-categories in each grouping.

The Masters of Flow

You'd think there wasn't anything else to add about flow, but you'd be wrong. Every one of the major flow vendors released new devices in the past year, but each of the winners in this category proves that you need to provide the best product you can and support it the best way you know how. There have been some name changes, like Vega Americas, formerly Ohmart Vega. Some of the names are different, but many of the products are the same as in the first survey, 21 years ago (Table 6).

Getting on the Level

Level is a very tricky measurement, so the number of ways to make the measurement are many and technically quite difficult. There are some changes here. The biggest one is that we lumped all forms of radar level together, since the customers didn't seem to differentiate between non-contact and contacting radar level instruments. And ABB won the laser category, through its subsidiary formerly known as K-Tek. In the nuclear level gauge category VEGA Americas won again. The interesting story here is that just shortly after introducing its product into the United States, Endress+Hauser has already placed third (Table 7).

Pressure and Temperature, Oh My

As usual, Emerson Process Management and Fluke won these categories, but surprisingly, there were new vendors in the Infrared Temperature Sensor category: LumaSense and Williamson. Once again, we see that if there is a new product that serves the end user base, they'll use it and recommend it (Table 8).

Looky Here, Watch This Analyzer

More and more, analyzers are going on-line or at-line, because of the increasing emphasis on process quality. These vendors clearly know how to make a complicated product dependable and durable enough to use as a process sensor.  Once again, ABB, Emerson Process Management and Yokogawa repeat as the leaders in most of these categories (Table 9).

The Essential Final Control Elements

All the sensors and software in the world won't help you if you don't have dependable and accurate final control elements. As usual, Emerson Process Management, the world's largest control valve vendor, won the category for "Control Valve," but there are other vendors grabbing end users' attention too. In the "Electric Motor Drive" category, Rockwell and Toshiba crashed the party at numbers 1 and 5 respectively. In the "Electric Motor" category, the Baldor Electric win again shows the slight bias toward North America in the survey, with Siemens Industry second. The bias is getting less, as is shown by the addition of SEW Eurodrive to the category (Table 10).

Last, But Not Least: The Indispensables

You can't have data without data acquisition systems, and you can't put sensors in the field without enclosures to put them in. Pentair wins again, for its Hoffman brand, with Rittal and Hammond Manufacturing in the second and third positions.

Sometimes you just can't improve on a technology. Pepperl+Fuchs wins again for purge systems.

The list of portable calibrator vendors is getting longer, and the calibrators are getting more sophisticated, with multifunction documenting calibrators all the rage. Fluke, a relative newcomer to calibrators, wins this year.

What a "remote terminal unit" is these day is subject to debate, but our readers know whose they like. Rockwell Automation, Emerson Process Management, Schneider Electric, ABB and Yokogawa all get the nod in the RTU category (Table 11).

We see an additional vendor in the "Instrument Fittings" category, Anderson Greenwood, and some new faces in the "Vibration Instrumentation" category: Fluke, ifm efector and IRD Mechanalysis. And last, but certainly not least, in the "Weighing System/Load Cell" category, Mettler Toledo takes top honors, followed by the usual suspects and a new name in the category, but an old name in weighing: Fairbanks Scales.

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