Top picks: Readers choose best tech values

The ballots are in and counted! We don't have reds and blues, but tap into the collective mindset of CONTROL DESIGN readers to learn which companies won the annual 2004 Readers' Choice Awards for the best values in machine automation technology.

By Joe Feeley, Editor in Chief

So there you are. You're the machine control systemdesigner who has to track down some new automation and control sources to buy from. But you wonder how to get some unbiased intelligence about where to find the best value for your capital. You can and should ask your fellow company engineers. It certainly will make sense to ask some of your customers. But, perhaps even better than that, what if you could tap into the collective mindset of CONTROL DESIGN's readers to get a sense of what they think.

Well, that's exactly what you get with this edition of the results of our annual Readers' Choice Awards balloting.

We put those technology choices in the capable hands of our performance-centric readers, and many of you answered our call again, telling us which automation suppliers provide the best instrumentation, controls, and automation technologies for their industrial machine builder community. They also made it abundantly clear which of those companies they think provide top-notch service and support.

Our model for this award hasn't changed a lick. In September, we sent survey forms to more than 15,000 CONTROL DESIGN subscribers who tell us they have authority to specify, recommend, or purchase industrial automation and control products for industrial machines. 

Vendors are never eligible to vote, so we didn't knowingly let any supplier get a ballot. The few times we unearthed a vendor in the response mix, we tore up the ballot with an indignant sense of purpose. This balloting is for our machine builder and system integrator readers. Period.

Our ballot is an unaided survey. We don't include a list of vendors or product brands to choose from. We listed 53 hardware and software categories and asked participants to fill in the one best company for the products he or she had experience with. We received responses from nearly 300 readers.

While they chose the best technologies, we also asked them to rate the service and support they receive from these companies on a scale of 1 (ugh) to 5 (excellent).

Our published results include only those companies that received at least a 5% share of the vote in their category.

Allegiance Is Growing
We have a bumper crop of outright winners. The results reversed last year's trend towards more product and company diversity within categories, even though the total number of companies making the cut this year grew from 85 to 93.

That&rsquos because 40 of the 53 (76%) product categories returned margins of victory of 10% or greater vs. the second-best vote-getter. Last year, 34 races in 50 (68%) categories returned this result.

The number of close races — decided by margins of 5% or less — fell to nine, just one below 2002's level of 10 and well down from last year's 13. Five of the races were statistical dead heats, down from seven last year.

Nine companies turned in multiple-category wins. Demonstrating the impressive vote-getting power of previous years, Rockwell Automation won or tied for first place in 17 hardware and three software categories. Other multiple winners included Danaher with five, four for Emerson Process Measurement, and three for Parker, General Electric and National Instruments. Hoffman, Honeywell, and Pepperl+Fuchs each won twice.

Knockouts and Split Decisions
Seven of categories produced winners garnering more than 60% vote shares. There were five other categories where the winner didn't gain that clear majority, but still swept past its closest challenger by 25 percentage points or more.

As mentioned, we had 10 tightly contested races decided by five points or less that offset those seven 60%-share behemoths. We declared co-winners in four of those 10 races. In the six other close races, two categories were decided by just three percentage points.

Great Service or Are Readers Getting Soft?
Ninety-three companies received enough votes (5% or greater share) to appear in the published results.

You awarded 69 of them service and support scores of 4.0 or better. That's very good-to-excellent performance on a scale of 1-5. This represents a rather significant 15% increase compared to the number of companies recognized for their service last year.

Further, in 2003 only four companies were deemed worthy of service and support scores of 4.5 or better. This year you chose to recognize seven companies. Perhaps they took notice last year when you reduced those service kudos as compared with 2002, and decided to try to impress you this year.

Whether achieving a score of 4.7 or 4.0, any company making the service and support list should be pleased to receive this reader vote of confidence. As was the case last year, some of the companies achieved these noteworthy service marks in multiple categories. The Service and Support table lists those companies that readers identified as providing service with ratings of 4.0 or better.

Emerson Process Management and GE Fanuc were the only companies to score 4.7. AutomationDirect, GE, Rockwell Automation, and Siemens Energy & Automation achieved service scores of 4.6.

Four companies — AutomationDirect, Bosch Rexroth, Danfoss and GE Fanuc--tallied 4.5 scores across six product categories. 

Voters awarded twenty-six companies a service score of 4.0 or better in multiple categories. Rockwell Automation achieved this in some 26 product categories. GE/GE Fanuc and Siemens each were recognized for service in 10 product categories, Bosch Rexroth and Emerson Process Management each made the grade in five categories. 

So let's get to it. Here, listed alphabetically by category, is this year's elite group. We welcome your analysis and comment about the outcome at controldesign@putman.net.

Alarm/Annunciator
1. Rockwell Automation 28%
2. Ametek/Panalarm 15%
3. Edwards 7%, Federal Signal 5%, Patlite 5%, Ronan Engineering 5%

Ball Screw/Lead Screw
1. THK 13%, Danaher Motion/Thomson 13%
3. Bosch Rexroth 10%, Parker Hannifin 10%

Controller, CNC
1. GE Fanuc 61%
2. Rockwell Automation Automation 11%
3. Siemens E & A 7%

Controller, Loop
1. Honeywell 15%
2. Invensys 12%
3. Watlow 9%, Emerson 7%, Rockwell Automation 7%
6. Omron 6%, Red Lion 6%, ABB 5%, Siemens 5%

Controller, Motion
1. Rockwell Automation 34%
2. Bosch Rexroth 10%
3. GE Fanuc 7%, Galil 5%

Controller, PLC
1. Rockwell Automation Automation 65%
2. AutomationDirect 8%, Siemens E & A 8%, Schneider Electric 7%

Data Acquisition System
1. National Instruments 24%
2. Rockwell Automation 12%

Data Recorder
1. Honeywell 33%
2. Yokogawa 15%, Invensys 13%
4. ABB 7%

Encoder/Resolver
1. Danaher 24%, Rockwell Automation 24%
3. BEI 6%, Encoder Products 6%

Hydraulic System Components
1. Parker Hannifin 45%
2. Eaton/Vickers 17%, Bosch Rexroth 15%

Industrial Computer
1. Rockwell Automation 19%
2. Advantech 14%
3. Dell 9%, Proface/Xycom 7%

Industrial Electrical Connectors/Cordsets
1. Turck 21%, Woodhead Connectivity 20%
3. Hubbell 10%
4. Amphenol 5%, Harting 5%

Industrial Electric Motor Drive
1. Rockwell Automation 51%
2. ABB 6%, Danfoss 5%, Mitsubishi 5%, Schneider Electric 5%, Siemens E & A 5%

Industrial Enclosure (Metallic)
1. Hoffman 73%
2. Rittal 10%
3. Saginaw Controls 5%

Industrial Enclosure (non-Metallic)
1. Hoffman 68%
2. Rittal 5%, Stahlin 5%

Industrial Network Component
1. Rockwell Automation 35%
2. Hirschmann 11%
3. Cisco 5%, Phoenix Contact 5%

Input/Output System
1. Rockwell Automation 40%
2. Opto 22 9%, AutomationDirect 7%
3. Siemens E & A 6%, Phoenix Contact 5%, Wago 5%

Intrinsic Safety
1. Pepperl+Fuchs 20%
2. MTL 8%, Rockwell Automation 8%, STI 7%
5. RStahl 5%, Turck 5%

Light Tower
1. Rockwell Automation 38%
2. Schneider Electric 13%, Patlite 12%
4. Federal Signal 9%
5. Eaton Electrical 6%

Linear Actuator/Slide
1. Danaher Motion/Thomson 11%, Parker Hannifin 9%
2. Bosch Rexroth 7%, Rockwell Automation 7%, THK 7%, Duff-Norton 5%, PHD 5%, SMC 5%

Machine Vision System
1. DVT 30%
2. Cognex 23%
3. Banner Engineering 13%, Keyence 12%
5. National Instruments 5%

Measurement, Flow
1. Emerson Process Management 30%
2. Endress+Hauser 15%

Measurement, Level
1. Emerson Process Management 25%
2. Endress+Hauser 12%
3. Danaher/GEMS Sensor 7%, Siemens/Milltronics 7%, Magnetrol 5%

Measurement, Load Cell/Weighing System
1. Mettler Toledo 30%
2. Hardy Instruments 13%

Measurement, Pressure
1. Emerson Process Management 29%
2. Endress+Hauser 10%, Honeywell 8%
4. Dwyer Instruments 5%

Measurement, Temperature
1. Emerson Process Management 22%
2. Omega  9%, Watlow 9%, Honeywell  8%, Pyromation 7%

Measurement, Vibration
1. GE/Bently Nevada 24%

Motor, Industrial Electric
1. Baldor  34%
2. Rockwell Automation 18%
3. Emerson/U.S. Motors 9%, SEW-Eurodrives 8%, General Electric 7%, Regal-Beloit 7%
7. Toshiba 5%

Motor, Linear
1. Danaher/Kollmorgen 24%

Motor, Servo
1. Parker Automation 30%
2. GE Fanuc 12%
3. Bosch Rexroth 9%, Danaher/Kollmorgen 9%

Motor Starter
1. Rockwell Automation 59%
2. Schneider Electric 17%
3. Eaton Electrical 5%, General Electric 5%

Motor, Stepper
1. Danaher Motion 28%
2. Rockwell Automation 19%

Operator Interface Terminal
1. Rockwell Automation 50%
2. Maple Systems 6%, AutomationDirect 5%, Proface/Xycom 5%, Siemens E & A 5%

Panel Meter
1. Red Lion Controls 32%
2. Precision Digital 11%, Yokogawa 11%
4. Simpson Electric 7%, Omega 6%

Pneumatic System Components
1. SMC 23%
2. Festo 18%, Parker Hannifin 18%
4. Numatics 14%

Power Supply
1. SOLA 31%
2. Phoenix-Contact 10%, Acopian 8%
4. Rockwell Automation 6%, IDEC 5%, Power One 5%

Presence Sensing
1. Rockwell Automation 19%
2. Banner Engineering 16%
3. Turck 10%
4. Keyence 7%, ifm efector 5%, Omron Electronics 5%

Programmable Safety Controller
1. Rockwell Automation 36%
2. Pilz 13%, Siemens E & A 13%

Purging System
1. Pepperl+Fuchs/BPS 57%

Relay
1. Rockwell Automation 36%
2. IDEC 17%
3. Potter & Brumfield 10%, Schneider Electric 10%
5. Omron 7%

Safety Network/Component
1. Rockwell Automation 29%
2. Banner Engineering 17%
3. Siemens E & A 12%, STI 10%

Safety Relay
1. Rockwell Automation 38%
2. Pilz Automation Safety 15%
3. STI 10%, Siemens E & A 8%

Signal Conditioner
1. Action Instruments 24%
2. Phoenix Contact 11%, Moore Industries 9%
4. Acromag 7%, M-System 6%

Single-Board Computer
1. Advantech 16%
2. Z-World 9%

Software, CNC
1. GE Fanuc 62%

Software, Data Acquisition
1. National Instruments 38%
2. GE Fanuc 8%, Measurement Computing 6%

Software, E-CAD
1. Autodesk 73%
2. ECT 6%

Software, HMI
1. Rockwell Automation 36%
2. GE Fanuc 14%, Invensys 14%
4. Siemens 6%

Software, Motion Control
1. Rockwell Automation 48%
2. Bosch Rexroth 6%, GE Fanuc 6%

Software, PC-Based Control
1. National Instruments 17%
2. Phoenix Contact 11%, Rockwell Automation 11%, Beckhoff 9%, GE Fanuc 9%

Software, PLC Programming
1. Rockwell Automation 70%
2. Siemens E & A 6%, Schneider Electric 5%

Terminal Block
1. Phoenix Contact 25%, Rockwell Automation 23%
3. Wago 13%, Weidmüller 11%
5. AutomationDirect 8%, ABB/Entrelec 6%

Wire & Cabling
1. Belden CDT Electronics 53%
2. LappUSA/Olflex 7%

 



The 2004 Readers Choice service and support leaders

CONTROL DESIGN readers tell us these 69 companies provide very good (4.0) to excellent (5.0) service and support

4. 7
Emerson Process Management -- Loop Controller
GE Fanuc -- Motion Controller

4.6 
AutomationDirect -- Input Output System
General Electric -- Industrial Electric Motor
Rockwell Automation -- PC-Based Machine Control Software
Siemens E & A -- Operator Interface

4.5 
AutomationDirect -- Programmable Logic Controller
AutomationDirect -- Terminal Block
BoschRexroth Indramat -- Motion Control Software
Danfoss -- Electric Motor Drive
GE Fanuc -- Servo Motor
General Electric -- Motor Starter

4.4 
ABB -- Electric Motor Drive
AutomationDirect -- Operator Interface
Dell -- Industrial Computer
Galil -- Motion Controller
GE Fanuc -- Data Acquisition Software
Honeywell -- Temperature Measurement
ifm efector -- Presence Sensing
Precision Digital -- Panel Meter
Siemens E & A -- Programmable Safety Controller
Siemens E & A -- Safety Network/Component
Siemens E & A -- Safety Relay
SMD -- Pneumatic System/Component
STI -- Safety Network/Component

4.3 
Banner Engineering -- Presence Sensing
Banner Engineering -- Safety Network/Component
Bosch/Rexroth -- Ball Screw/Lead Screw
Bosch Rexroth -- Motion Controller
Danaher Motion/Thomson -- Ball Screw/Lead Screw
Eaton Electrical -- Motor Starter
Emerson Process Management -- Flow Measurement
Encoder Products -- Encoder/Resolver
GE Fanuc -- Motion Control Software
Hardy Instruments -- Weighing System/Load Cell
Keyence -- Presence Sensing
Lapp USA/Olflex -- Wire and Cabling
Measurement Computing -- Data Acquisition Software
National Instruments -- Data Acquisition Software
Numatics -- Pneumatic System/Component
Pepperl+Fuchs -- Intrinsic Safety
PHD -- Linear Actuator/Slide
Rockwell Automation -- Data Acquisition System
Rockwell Automation -- Loop Controller
Rockwell Automation -- Programmable Safety Controller
Rockwell Automation -- Safety Network/Component
Rockwell Automation -- Safety Relay
Rockwell Automation -- Stepper Motor
RStahl -- Intrinsic Safety
Saginaw Controls -- Industrial Enclosure (Metallic)
Schneider Electric -- PLC Programming Software
Siemens E & A -- Computer Numerical Controller (CNC)
Siemens E & A -- Electric Motor Drive
Siemens E & A -- Loop Controller
Siemens E & A -- Programmable Logic Controller
STI -- Intrinsic Safety
THK -- Linear Actuator/Slide
Yokogawa -- Data Recorder
Z-World Engineering -- Single-Board Computer

4.2
Acopian -- Power Supply
Acromag -- Signal Conditioner
Action Instruments -- Signal Conditioner
Advantech -- Single-Board Computer
Danaher Motion/Kollmorgen -- Linear Motor
ECT Intl. -- Electrical CAD Software
Endress+Hauser -- Flow Measurement
GE Fanuc -- PC-Based Machine Control Software
Hoffman -- Industrial Enclosure (Non-metallic)
MTL -- Intrinsic Safety
National Instruments -- PC-Based Machine Control Software
Omega  -- Panel Meter
Pepperl+Fuchs -- Purging System/Component
Rittal -- Industrial Enclosure (Metallic)
Rockwell Automation -- Industrial Electric Motor
Rockwell Automation -- Motion Control Software
Rockwell Automation -- Relay
Rockwell Automation -- Servo Motor
SOLA/Hevy-Duty -- Power Supply

4.1
ABB/Entrelec -- Terminal Block
Belden EDT Electronics -- Wire and Cabling
Danaher Motion -- Servo Motor
Emerson Process Management -- Level Measurement
Emerson Process Management -- Temperature Measurement
Federal Signal -- Light Tower
Festo -- Pneumatic System/Component
Hoffmann -- Industrial Enclosure (Metallic)
Maple Systems -- Operator Interface
National Instruments -- Data Acquisition System
Omega -- Temperature Measurement
Phoenix Contact -- Industrial Network/Component
Phoenix Contact -- Signal Conditioner
Phoenix Contact -- Terminal Block
Potter & Brumfield -- Relay
Pyromation -- Temperature Measurement
Regal Beloit/Marathon -- Industrial Electric Motor
Rockwell Automation -- Alarm/Annunciator
Rockwell Automation -- Encoder/Resolver
Rockwell Automation -- Industrial Computer
Rockwell Automation -- Motion Controller
Rockwell Automation -- Motor Starter
Rockwell Automation -- Power Supply
Rockwell Automation -- Presence Sensing
Rockwell Automation -- Programmable Logic Controller
Schneider Electric -- Motor Starter
Schneider Electric -- Programmable Logic Controller
Siemens E & A -- PLC Programming Software
Wago -- Terminal Block
Watlow -- Temperature Measurement

4.0
ABB -- Loop Controller
Rockwell Automation -- HMI Software
Amphenol -- Industrial Electric Connector
Banner Engineering -- Machine Vision
BEI -- Encoder/Resolver
Bosch Rexroth -- Hydraulic System Components
Bosch Rexroth -- Servo Motor
Cisco System -- Industrial Network/Component
Cognex -- Machine Vision System
DVT -- Machine Vision System
Emerson Process Management -- Pressure Measurement
Endress+Hauser -- Pressure Measurement
Federal Signal -- Alarm/Annunciator
GE Fanuc -- CNC
GE Fanuc -- CNC Software
GE/Bently Nevada -- Vibration Measurement
Honeywell -- Pressure Measurement
Invensys -- Data Recorder
Invensys -- Loop Controller
Keyence -- Machine Vision System
Moore Industries -- Signal Conditioner
National Instruments -- Machine Vision System
Omron -- Presence Sensing
Parker Automation -- Servo Motor
Parker Hannifin -- Ball Screw/Lead Screw
Parker Hannifin -- Linear Actuator/Slide
Phoenix Contact -- Power Supply
Pilz Automation Safety -- Safety Relay
Proface/Xycom Automation -- Operator Interface
Red Lion -- Panel Meter
Red Lion -- Loop Controller
Rittal -- Industrial Enclosure, Non-Metallic
Rockwell Automation -- Data Acquisition
Rockwell Automation -- HMI Software
Rockwell Automation -- Input/Output System
Rockwell Automation -- Light Tower
Rockwell Automation -- Operator Interface
Rockwell Automation -- PLC Programming Software
Schneider Electric -- Industrial Electric Motor Drive
Siemens/Milltronics -- Level Measurement
SMC -- Linear Actuator/Slide
Stahlin -- Industrial Enclosure, Non-Metallic
THK -- Linear Actuator/Slide
Turck -- Industrial Electrical Connector
Wago -- Input/Output System
Weidmuller -- Terminal Block

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