Deep dive into brands

The days of proprietary solutions that locked controls buyers into a supplier are pretty much over. Has a more-open-architecture, standards-based industry dimmed the value of your brand affinity?

Joe FeeleyBy Joe Feeley, Editor in Chief

REPORTING THE results of our annual Readers’ Choice Awards balloting always is a worthwhile exercise for me. It’s an article I never mind writing. Part of the “attraction” is the time I need to devote to reviewing the responses and converting votes that are cast for product brand names, in order to attribute the vote to the right company. Sometimes it’s a bit of a hunt to match the brand with the company, depending on product age. While it would be easier if you just named the darn company, it does provide a little insight into the brand affinities some of you hold, which I’ll bet often are more important to you than the provider company itself.

There’s also, as an indication of the amount of well-performing legacy equipment still out there, a significant number of votes cast for companies that have been assimilated—brand names and all—into larger companies that market themselves only as the large parent. I sometimes wonder why you still identify them by the long-gone company name. I imagine, too, that if you have a still-performing product that doesn’t need after-sales support, the new name of the providing company is largely irrelevant.

Tell me what you think of these observations. I’m just scratching the surface here, so help me dive a bit deeper into the data. Do many of you still gravitate towards a brand of encoder or operator display or motor that exists now only as a naming convention in a different company, and, quite possibly, an entirely different manufacturing environment? How many of you stick with a brand only as long as it clearly maintains its company origins?

When a supplier company has been Borg-ed, do you treat it as if its brands died too, and move on to the alternatives?

The days of proprietary solutions that locked controls buyers into a supplier are pretty much over. Has a more-open-architecture, standards-based industry dimmed the value of brand affinity?

Time now for a word about senior technical editor Dan Hebert’s orchestration of the subject matter for both his Mojo column and the OEM Insight column this month and next. Based on some conversations with system integrators and machine builders at our annual AutomationXchange this year, a thread emerged about how machine builders involve or exclude system integrators from automation decisions and implementation activities.

Rather than limit the discussion just to the event, Dan decided to devote his next two columns to a point-counterpoint reporting of the discussions that took place. This month he summarizes the views of several machine control professionals, and next month he does the same from an SI perspective. He’s been on both sides of this business during his career.

The exclamation point on this project is provided via OEM Insight, where this month, Jeff Klinger, chief controls engineer at machine builder Ingersoll Production Systems, explains why his company doesn’t like to use SIs for its machine automation initiatives. Next month, an integrator will take the column and tell his story. Dan recruited both writers.

Finally, I think you’ll enjoy Loren Shaum’s article ("Here Comes the Virtual Factory") on how simulation and emulation software are evolving into a valuable design  and collaboration tool. It provides some fine examples of industrial OEMs that use simulation and emulation in a way that results in faster machine design and commissioning, and a more satisfied clientele of end users.

We’ll be visiting this topic periodically next year to see if it evolves—as it should—to be a tool that machine builders and end users of all sizes can put to good use.