HOT AIR sometimes isn’t a good thing. That’s particularly true when it comes to exaggerated claims of product performance that machine control designers would be wise to steer clear of.
For six years now we’ve trusted you to tell us—with your votes—which of the vendors provide the best value for you, based on your experiences using those products—not the distracting descriptions.
It’s those evaluations that make some automation suppliers’ products rise above the rest. After the usual careful consideration, Control Design’s readers told us how they rate the technology value of suppliers in 54 product categories.
Our model for this balloting remains unchanged from its 2001 origins. This summer, we sent ballots to about 15,000 Control Design subscribers who tell us they have influence over the purchase of industrial automation and control products for industrial machines.
The vendors themselves aren’t eligible to vote, and we didn’t knowingly let any supplier get a ballot. If we did come across a vendor in the responses, we gleefully deleted it. This voting is for our machine builder and system integrator readers and no one else.
The ballot again was what’s known as an unaided survey. We don’t include a dropdown list of vendors or product brands to choose from. We listed the hardware and software categories and asked participants to name the company that provides the best value for the products they work with. We received responses from more than 250 readers.
As they voted for the best technology value providers, we also had them rate the service and support they receive from these companies on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent). Our published results include only those companies that received at least a 5% share of the vote in their category.
While we report results in four additional categories this year, the number of companies making the cut this year climbed significantly to an even 100, up from 82 companies in the 2005 results. That’s a hopeful indication of increasing competition. We found 25 companies joining the elite list for the first time or returning after at least a year’s absence. Voters dismissed seven companies that were listed in 2005.
As happens every year, many companies are easy winners in their category. This year 34 of the 54 (compared with last year’s 34 of 50) categories had winners with margins of greater than 10 percentage points. Among that group, eight companies received a 50% majority vote in their category, down slightly from nine last year.
Another indication of increased competition: the number of close races decided by a margin of 5 percentage points or less increased again to 12, compared with 10 in 2005. Five of the races ended in statistical dead heats between two or more companies, one more than last year.
Eight companies won in multiple-categories. Ever-present Rockwell Automation won or tied for first place in 21 hardware and four software categories. Other multiple winners include Emerson Process Measurement with four category wins; General Electric/GE Fanuc won three times, while Hoffman, Honeywell, National Instruments, Parker, and Pepperl+Fuchs each won twice.
Service Is Sizzling
Of the 100 distinct companies that appear in the category results, you chose to award 82 of them with service and support scores of 4.0 or better (very good-to-excellent performance as measured on a scale of 1-5). In contrast, last year you gave service kudos to 67% of the listed companies.
While you chose to put more companies on the service kudos list this year, you awarded your highest praise (4.5 or higher) to just one company—Schneider Electric—compared with seven companies last year. But you largely duplicated the number of times you awarded at least 4.3 scores compared with last year.
Any company finding itself on the service and support list should be pleased to receive this vote of confidence, and some of the companies achieved terrific service marks more than just once. The Service and Support table (p.46) lists those companies that readers identified as providing service with ratings of 4.0 or better.