Each year for more than two decades now, we've asked the readers of Control to identify the best solution providers in a broad array of process automation disciplines and technologies--from batch control to safety systems and wireless infrastructure to terminal blocks. Thanks to the loyal participation of readers from across the process industries, this year's awards represent the expressed brand preferences of nearly 1,000 automation professionals from all corners of the process industries. Those surveyed include the print magazine's U.S.-centric readership as well as subscribers to our increasingly international digital media outlets anchored at our ControlGlobal.com website. And while the results certainly reflect a North American bias, the increasingly global nature of the process automation business, together with the increased participation of industry professionals from outside the U.S., continues to buoy the standings of more than a few European and Asian players.
As in recent years past, our Readers Choice Awards include recognition for “Best in Control" across six distinct process automation disciplines: continuous regulatory control, batch process automation, continuous sheet/web monitoring and control, safety/emergency shutdown, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and sequential logic control (Table I). Further, we've identified the top vote-getters in each of these process automation disciplines in each of the 10 primary process industry verticals we serve (Table II). In addition to these system capabilities awards, our usual rankings in a wide range of instrumentation, control and infrastructure technologies are presented on the pages that follow. In terms of methodology, each survey respondent was allowed to vote for up to three suppliers in each technology category and discipline. Their first, second and third place votes were then weighted accordingly to yield a rank listing of up to five top suppliers in each category.
Our congratulations go out to all the solution providers that made this year's lists. To be mentioned at all, each supplier has demonstrated to a significant, loyal contingent of users that they provide the very best technology in their respective domains. And that's no small feat at all.
The Software Suite
Closely complementing our Readers Choice Awards across the range of essential process automation disciplines are the Readers Choice Awards for specific software competencies. Highest honors in several of these categories go to the integrated platform players, notably Emerson Process Management and Rockwell Automation. Through a combination of in-house development and acquisition, each of these companies has developed a broad competency in the core software categories.
But in the spirit of entrepreneurship, so central to innovation in the software space, a number of smaller software publishers have maintained an independent leadership role, notably ExperTune in the Loop-Tuning Software category, MatrikonOPC for its competency in OPC Connectivity, and Mynah Technologies in Simulation Software. In the arena of Calibration Management Software, Fluke takes top honors in part on the strength of its industry-leading hardware offering in the category.
Elsewhere in the Control Room
Core competency in process control disciplines—and their software implementation—are well and good, but other control room technologies are needed to effectively communicate process conditions with human operators, and to ensure accurate data is acquired and that control is maintained. For this group of Readers Choice Awards winners, it's an acknowledged expertise in hardware design and manufacturing that typically carries the day.
Ametek's Panalarm division specializes in Annunciators—all day long—and is once again recognized as the long-time leader in that display technology niche. Other platforms used for human-machine interface (HMI) applications include Panel Displays, Operator Interface Terminals and Industrial Computers; Rockwell Automation gets the nod in all three of these categories, although niche specialists such as Advantech, Pro-face and Red Lion also placed highly in this functional family of technologies.
In the more specialized categories of Process Loop Controller and Recorder, Honeywell Process Solutions and Yokogawa took top honors, respectively.