Head of the Pack

The 2008 Roster of Readers’ Choice Award-Winning Fast Companies Has Grown. Service Scores Indicate a Tune-Up Might Be Needed

ARC 2008 AwardsBy Joe Feeley, Editor in Chief

Every supplier in our automation and control space wants to be recognized as the best. It’s a grueling, relentless ordeal to become the leader in such a race. Few make it.

Our annual Readers’ Choice Awards balloting is one of the races that determines which companies get to be called winners. In this case, it’s the automation users who decide.

Our model for this award hasn’t changed since we first presented Readers’ Choice Awards results in 2001. During the summer, we sent questionnaires to 15,000 Control Design subscribers who specify, recommend or buy industrial automation and control products.

Vendors are ineligible, so we didn’t knowingly let any supplier vote. If we did spy a vendor in the mix, we deleted it. The voting is only for our machine-builder and system-integrator readers.

As always, we provide an unaided ballot. We don’t include a list of vendors or product brands to choose from. We list 50-odd hardware and software categories and ask participants to name the companies that provide them the best value for the products with which they have experience. We received responses from nearly 300 readers.

Once they chose the best providers, they rate service and support they received from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent).

Spread the Wealth

In 54 product categories, individual companies making the cut this year rose to 107 (mentioned a total of 276 times), compared with 91 companies (258 mentions) last year. We saw 27 companies join the elite list in ’08, either for the first time or after at least a one-year absence. Voters banished 11 companies that were listed in ’07.

Twelve companies, four more than in ‘07, won in multiple categories. Perennial heavyweight Rockwell Automation won or tied for first place in 20 hardware and software categories. Other multiple winners include Emerson Process Measurement with four category wins; Danaher Motion, General Electric and Parker Hannifin won three times, while Belden, Cisco, Hoffman, National Instruments, Pepperl+Fuchs, Phoenix Contact and Turck each won twice.

Many firms were clear winners in their category. This year, 39 (vs. 35 last year) categories had winners with margins of greater than 10 percentage points.

Despite more clear wins, close races decided by a margin of five percentage points or less increased to eight, compared with seven in 2007. Five of those races ended in statistical dead heats between two or more companies.

Service Scores Continue to Sag

Of the 107 individual companies in the product category results, you awarded 69 service and support scores of 4.0 or better (very good-to-excellent performance on a 1-to-5 scale). Compared to this 64% rate, last year you gave service kudos to 70% of the companies, and 80% in ’06.

Again this year, more service recognition fell in the 4.0-to-4.1 score ranges. You assigned 56% of the service recognitions to the 4.0-to-4.1 ranges, compared with 43% last year. Awards in the 4.3 or higher score ranges dropped to a total of 29, or 17% of the total service recognitions, compared with 47 (nearly 30% of the total) last year.

Highest service praise this year—at 4.4—was awarded to Endress+Hauser in the Flow Measurement category, Phoenix Contact for Connectors and Cordsets, and Siemens E&A for Flow Measurement.

Every company making the service and support list should be pleased. Some achieved great service marks more than once. The table on p. 44 lists those companies that voters say have terrific service/support in specific product categories.

Rockwell Automation was recognized in 25 product categories. Phoenix Contact, Yokogawa and Siemens E&A garnered seven recognitions. Emerson Process Management received six.

AutomationDirect, Banner Engineering, National Instruments and Schneider Electric each received five, while Beckhoff, Danaher Motion and Invensys each were recognized four times.

Endress+Hauser, General Electric, Honeywell, Mitsubishi and Yaskawa achieved service/support recognition three times, and B&R Industrial Automation, Belden, Eaton, IDEC, Omron, Pepperl+Fuchs, Pilz Automation Safety, Red Lion Controls, Rittal, Sick, Tolomatic, Turck and Wago all were recognized twice.

Listed alphabetically, here are ’08’s fast companies. (PDF format)