Automation Leaders Buying Market Position

Sept. 5, 2008
Automation Vendors Are Spending to Gain Strength in Particular Markets

A plethora of announcements recently indicates that automation vendors with cash are spending it on smaller companies in acquisitions and partnerships designed to give them added strength in particular markets.

The Wonderware unit of Invensys has acquired Houston-based SAT Corporation to offer mobile solutions that will help drive operational excellence for its customers. With this acquisition, Wonderware will form a new mobile solutions group that the company says will expand on SAT's position as a global supplier of mobile workforce management and decision support solutions for enhancing manufacturing visibility and task execution within industrial and manufacturing markets. 

The gem of the acquisition is the IntelaTrac Enterprise Suite product, which includes configurable software and ruggedized mobile hardware solutions that enable workflow, procedural and general task management capabilities typically focused around plant operations, maintenance management, production tracking and compliance applications.

According to Alison Smith, research director at AMR Research, the move gives Wonderware entre into  fast-growing mobile market. "Wonderware is in a position to leverage its global sales and support channel and system integration partners to deliver asset improvement solutions across a broad range of industries that incorporate combinations of instrumented and non-instrumented assets," Smith said.

Mike Pring, Wonderware's general manager of the new mobile solutions group and vice president of Wonderware customer support and services says, "Wonderware will be investing in extending both the capabilities and the value of Wonderware IntelaTrac with strong support of existing customer applications, as well as adding new industry solutions that can be delivered and supported on a global basis."

The former SAT organization, now the Wonderware Mobile Solutions Group, will report to Mike Pring. The office will remain in Houston.

Meanwhile, in Europe, Siemens has expanded its portfolio of industrial software with an agreement to acquire innotec GmbH of Schwelm, Germany, an international vendor of digital engineering software and services for the process industries. The purpose of the acquisition, according to Siemens, is to increase the global leadership of Industry Automation, a division of the Siemens Industry Sector, in the market for industrial software and to make it the first industrial equipment provider able to offer all sectors of the manufacturing and process industries system-wide solutions for integrating the entire production sequence and production life cycle.

As a result of the acquisition, innotec will become a subsidiary of Siemens AG, and for organizational purposes it will be assigned to the Industrial Automation Systems Business Unit.

"innotec is an outstanding technological supplement to our portfolio. It will make us the first vendor in the world that can offer the process industry an integrated software solution, from the planning stage of a production plant, through operation, right up to modernization,” said CEO Ralf-Michael Franke.

According to Franke, the innotec software complements Siemens' automation engineering products and services, such as its Simatic PCS 7 process control system and wide range of process instrumentation. Additionally, the sales expertise of the innotec employees, along with their long-established and close customer relationships with leading companies in the process industry, form a suitable supplement to the corresponding regional sales units of Siemens.

The purchase price of innotec was not disclosed, and the transaction is subject to the agreement of the authorities. In 2007, Industry Automation already had acquired U.S.-based UGS, an industrial software supplier primarily active in the discrete manufacturing industry.

On the Latin American scene, control systems integrator, Automation Alliance Group (AAG), has added South American automation services provider Omnicon as its newest business unit. Omnicon is based in Colombia, South America, with offices in Cali, Bogota and Barranquilla. Vertical markets served include oil and gas, food and beverage, pharmaceutical and mining. Current projects include work in South America, North America, Europe and Asia. The company provides automation services, including MES and motion control.

Eduardo Acosta, CEO of Omnicon, says, “Omnicon becomes AAG’s key resource base and leader for Latin America and is thrilled to become a business unit of Automation Alliance Group.”

The shifting process automation market is not all about big fish scooping up little ones. Some are settling for closer alliances. For example, Ametek PMT Products has announced that Standard Calibrations Inc. (SCI) of Chesapeake, Va., has joined its team as the exclusive representative of its military and marine pressure transducer product lines.

“As part of our team, Standard Calibration also partners with MMC Metrology--our military and marine product distributor and repair service—to more effectively meet the needs of our customer base in terms of technical expertise, product service and sales,” notes James DiNunzio, director of sales for Ametek PMT.

“SCI is pleased to partner with Ametek PMT and MMC Metrology,” comments Kevin Knaack, vice president of sales and marketing for Standard Calibrations. “We already have an excellent relationship with MMC and see our partnership as a ‘win-win’ for all involved. By combining our product and marketing resources, we now provide our expanded customer base with even greater customer service and support.”

German process control equipment supplier Pepperl + Fuchs is enlarging its U.S. footprint by opening a second office in Houston. This facility will provide local technical support, hands-on training, real-world application demos, video conferencing and an experienced staff.

“This is an exciting time for Pepperl+Fuchs, and our new facility provides the opportunity for Pepperl+Fuchs Process Automation Division to be even more accessible and to bring even more value to our customers and markets,” says Tyler Redslob, vice president of sales. 

Pepperl+Fuchs boasts double-digit sales growth over the last five years. The company has broadened its technology base and stimulated growth through acquisitions, including Extec, a  of industrial PC components, visualization equipment used in hazardous locations and purge/pressurization equipment maker Bebco EPS, the intrinsic safety instrumentation (ISB) business from Cooper Crouse-Hinds, a division of Cooper Industries.

This expansion works in both directions across the Atlantic. P + F is opening in Houston and, meanwhile, San Leandro, Calif.-based OSIsoft, Inc. has acquired the remainder of shares of OSI Software GmbH. Altenstadt, Germany, from Hans Meder. This acquisition, which occurs after 20 years of presence in Europe through a joint venture with OSI Software GmbH, consolidates OSIsoft operations around the world and positions the company to seamlessly support its enterprise and global customers in Europe.

"We see this investment as a great opportunity to further the presence of OSIsoft in Europe and to strengthen existing relationships with our important and rapidly growing customer base in Europe," said Dr. J. Patrick Kennedy, OSIsoft, Inc. founder and CEO.

The wholly owned subsidiary, which will be named OSIsoft Europe GmbH, will continue the company's focus on sales, customer support and customer service. OSIsoft plans additional investments to expand capabilities in other regions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Engineering activities will be maintained and integrated into existing OSIsoft development operations at other locations.