So, exactly what do you look for when you try to decide what automation supplier gives you the best value for your needs? There's no one perfect company, although some of them might try to tell you otherwise.
Your criteria likely include finding a forceful presence in your field that's combined with a confidence that it can succeed in an environment where there are many other hard-charging performers competing for your attention.
You'll likely look for a leader that consistently displays strength, boldness, speed and agility, and an unrelenting drive to stay ahead of any competitor that comes its way.
That company you see as the consistent provider of the technology you need to succeed usually is the best stallion in the herd. As seen in this and every other year's Readers' Choice Awards results, it's fair to say that the automation vendors that made their way on to this year's lists must be that type of supplier.
The Way It Works
We've not changed the process for this award since we christened the Readers' Choice Awards in 2001. This year we sent questionnaires to more than 10,000 subscribers who tell us they have buying influence or buying authority for industrial automation and control products. Automation suppliers are never eligible, so we didn't knowingly let any supplier vote. Voting is reserved for our machine-builder and system-integrator audience.
We provide the voters with an unaided ballot, which means we don't provide a list of vendors or product brands from which to choose. We list about 60 hardware and software categories, and ask participants to name the companies that provide them the best technology value for products with which they have experience. This year we compiled the results of more than 250 eligible ballots. After the participants choose the best product providers, they rate the service and support they receive from them. Only companies that receive at least 5% of their category vote are listed.
The 2014 Roster
For this year, 84 individual companies, one more than last year, made the listings in one or more of 58 product categories. There wasn't as much churn this year. Nine companies made the list for the first time or returned after a year or more absence, while nine other companies that made the 2013 list did not reappear this year.
Twelve companies (same as in 2013) won in multiple product categories. Rockwell Automation won or shared first place in 23 product categories. Emerson earned four category wins, and Cisco won in three categories. Winning in two product categories each were Advantech, Belden, Festo, National Instruments, Pepperl+Fuchs, Phoenix Contact, Siemens Industry, Turck and Yokogawa.
As we've come to expect in every set of results over the years, many product categories produce clear wins. Of the 58 categories, 34 produced winners with margins greater than 10 percentage points. Close races with a winning margin of five percentage points or less occurred in 14 categories. Five of those tight races ended in dead heats among two or more companies, since differences of less than three percentage points are statistical ties.
Service and Support Ratings Up Overall
Of those 84 individual companies in the product category listings, the voters awarded service and support scores of 4.0 (very good) or better performance (on a 1 = poor to 5 = excellent scale) to 56 of them. That 67% rate largely duplicated last year's 65%.
This time, the overall distribution of these service recognition scores trended up. While scores above 4.2 remained as scarce as in prior years, this year more than half (53%) of all the service scores listed are 4.1 or better. In 2013, only 20% of the service scores awarded were better than 4.0.
Rockwell Automation received the top rating with service scores of 4.3 in the Machine Safety Components, Operator Interface Terminals and PLC Programmimg Software categories. But, let's be clear: a 4.0 (very good) voter evaluation is terrific. Every company earning a spot on the service and support list should be very pleased.
You awarded 23 of those 56 companies with these great service marks more than once. Voters recognized Rockwell Automation service and support in 31 product categories, followed by Siemens Industry in 22 categories and Phoenix Contact in nine. AutomationDirect, Emerson and Yokogawa received six service accolades, while National Instruments was recognized five times, as was the combination of Schneider Electric/Invensys. Beckhoff Automation hit in four product categories. B&R Industrial Automation, Bosch Rexroth, Eaton, Endress+Hauser and Omron were each were named three times, while ABB, Festo, Kollmorgen, Pepperl+Fuchs, Red Lion Controls, SEW Eurodrive, SMC and Yaskawa all made the service and support list twice.
So, with product categories listed alphabetically, here are your 2014 automation stallions.
>> See the 2014 Readers' Choice Award winners.
>> See the 2014 Readers' Choice Awards Service and Support Leaders.