How you measure up against your peers

Nov. 9, 2015
Its a global world out there, and you need all the competitive advantage you can get to survive, thrive and keep those stakeholders enjoying their steaks
About the author
Paul Studebaker is chief editor of Control. He earned a master's degree in metallurgical engineering and gathered 12 years experience in manufacturing before becoming an award-winning writer and editor for publications including Control and Plant Services.If you've spent any time reading industrial research studies, you're familiar with analysts' penchant for dividing respondents into fifths, quarters, thirds or halves according to their status or performance against their chosen metrics. Leaders vs stragglers, strategists vs planners vs laggards—they define criteria and invite you to put yourself and your company into the appropriate bin.

This comes up all the time in asset management: a company's ability to deploy, operate, maintain, upgrade and dispose of assets cost-effectively. Studies ask you to rate yourselves on overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) or availability, then ask you whether you're taking advantage of smart instrument diagnostics, or your DCS talks to IT, or you embrace the ISO55001 asset management or ISO31000 risk management standards, or some other topic of the day.

Their quick correlation lets you know where your company stands, and it's always pretty clear: you're in a bin, and unless it's at the top, it behooves you to have a plan to improve. It's a global world out there, and you need all the competitive advantage you can get to survive, thrive and keep those stakeholders enjoying their steaks.

The studies often imply that if your company were to embrace (or buy) certain technologies, software or services, you'd have a ticket to a higher quartile. The better ones try to identify what's holding you back—cost? Knowledge? Company culture? The best ones delve into those aspects and offer insights to help you overcome the obstacles.

But getting from where you are to where you want to be is seldom simple. To start with, "where you are" is not always clear. Your company has departments and people of varying knowledge, strength and inclination. Each is in their own set of quartiles, probably excellent at some things and abysmal at others. How do you address individual and department weaknesses, fill them with information, and inspire them to help move the company to a higher level of performance—a better bin?

One of the concerns we have when planning Control topics and articles is reliving the past. Especially now that everything we've published in the past 10 years (and a lot more) is available at, we ask ourselves if it's appropriate for us to revisit technologies, to update trends that haven't changed much, to tell you again about something we told you about six months or a year or two ago.

We want to focus on the new, trendy, interesting and exciting developments in technology, and highlight the most advanced practices in process control. These are often examples where generous funding and company circumstances have created an inspiring opportunity.

Then we're reminded that many readers are relatively new to the field, or taking on new challenges or a new job, or just now coming across a problem they haven't had to solve before. Like the members of your organization, as readers, you represent a wide variety of knowledge and experience. Not everyone can understand or relate to the latest in advanced control—they need to learn a little more about loop dynamics and tuning, how to select a flowmeter or how to keep one working.

You also might tend to overlook an article that isn't about something you're working on at the time, but really appreciate the opportunity to read it later, when you find yourself dealing with that exact topic. So we sift together a blend of articles, columns and departments ranging from how-to to why not, from back to basics to beyond the pale.

Of course, if this month's magazine doesn't tell how to solve all your problems, there's much, much more at Please keep that in mind when some industry analyst tells you it's time you moved up.