The Essential Infrastructure Players
While field devices and controllers perform the fundamental actions of the process control loop, an extensive communications infrastructure is needed to ensure that process data is reliably and seamlessly communicated throughout the modern process control system. This next group of Readers Choice Awards recognizes those essential infrastructure players—from wire to wireless and from terminal blocks to power supplies—who make sure measurement A gets to controller B and back to valve C.
Indeed, despite all the latest advances in wireless communication, the bulk of signal transmission in today's process plants still relies on good old-fashioned wire and cable to get messages from one place to another. And for the readers of Control, Belden rates as the Wire & Cable maker of choice, while Anixter and Lapp also rate highly.
That wire, of course, needs to ultimately connect with the host control system, and Phoenix Contact holds the preferred position among a predominantly European field of Terminal Block manufacturers that also includes Weidmuller, Wago, Rockwell Automation and Schneider Electric. In the burgeoning field of Wireless Infrastructure, field device and systems leader Emerson Process Management takes pole position, followed by system-independent players Cisco and Phoenix Contact.
The analog-to-digital conversion, conditioning, powering and intrinsic safety protection of instrumentation loops also are essential communication functions. For the purposes of our Readers Choice Survey, these functions are characterized by the technology arenas of I/O Systems, Signal Conditioners, Power Supplies and Intrinsic Safety. In the overall classification of Input/Output System, top honors go to the major automation platform providers, with Rockwell Automation and Siemens Industry in the lead. As with Terminal Blocks, European suppliers also carry the day in the closely related categories of Power Supplies (Phoenix Contact), Signal Conditioners (Phoenix Contact) and Intrinsic Safety (Pepperl+Fuchs). American suppliers SolaHD (a division of Emerson Industrial Automation), Moore Industries and MTL Instruments were runners up in each of these categories.
Going with the Flow
Accurately measuring process flows is difficult—and perhaps that's why so many flow measurement companies have sprung up over the years, each exploiting a new physical phenomena to tame this historically problematic process measurement. Indeed, many novel flow measurement technologies have been co-opted (or their creators acquired) by the major instrumentation companies, although a few notable niche players remain independent.
Emerson Process Management remains the dominant flow measurement player in this year's Readers Choice Awards, complementing its win in Pressure Transmitters (used with orifice plates and other primary elements to measure flow) with top awards in six out of our 10 other categories, including Coriolis, Magnetic, Open Channel, Turbine, Ultrasonic (Closed Pipe) and Vortex flowmeter technologies. These competencies are represented in the marketplace through its Rosemount, Daniel and Micro Motion brands. Process measurement specialists Endress+Hauser and Krohne also fare well in a range of flow measurement technologies, as do the other broad-based process automation platform providers including Yokogawa, ABB and Siemens.
In other flow measurement niches, top honors in Positive Displacement Flowmeters go to FMC Technologies, in Variable Area Flowmeters to Brooks Instrument, and in Thermal Mass Flowmeters and Flow Switches to FCI.
Our Level Best
Similar to the rich landscape of providers in the flow instrumentation field, the level measurement marketplace is home to a broad variety of technologies and suppliers. Here, Emerson Process Management once again assembles a critical mass of competence, faring well in most of the mainstream technologies and winning outright in Float/Displacer and Radar technologies. With the combined forces of its Rosemount and Saab TankRadar brands it also claims top spot in the arena of Inventory-Grade Tank Gauges.
But level measurement excellence also belongs to a number of independent specialists. Notable among them in this year's Readers Choice Awards are Endress+Hauser for its wins in the categories of Ultrasonic and Capacitance/Admittance/Conductance Level Gauges, and for Vibration Level Switches. Magnetrol took top honors in Electrical Property-based Level Switches, together with subsidiary Orion Instruments' wins in Magnetic Level Indicators and Magnetostrictive technologies. Vega Americas took the top spot in Radiometric (Nuclear) Level Gauges and ABB for its Laser Level Gauges.