How does that go, again? Is it tougher to get to the top, or tougher to stay there once you get there? It's clear that the answer is "yes."
The journey to market acceptance, and in some cases dominance, requires immense work and excellent listening skills. Staying there requires that these same companies never rest on their laurels. There are plenty of worthy competitors working hard to knock them off the platform.
Our annual Readers' Choice Awards balloting is one venue where automation supplier companies get put in their places by our audience, and that has clear reflection on their market standing. It's our automation users who anoint the most worthy.
SEE ALSO: 2009 Readers' Choice Awards Winners
Our model for this award is the same as when we first presented Readers' Choice Awards results 10 years ago. We sent questionnaires to about 15,000 subscribers, who tell us they specify, recommend or buy industrial automation and control products. Vendors are not eligible, so we didn't knowingly let any supplier vote. If we did find a vendor in the mix, we deleted it. The voting is only for our machine-builder and system-integrator readers. We use an unaided ballot, meaning we don't provide a list of vendors or product brands to choose from. We include 50-odd hardware and software categories and ask participants to name the companies that provide them the best technology value for the products with which they have experience. We tallied nearly 400 ballots this year. Once they chose the best providers, participants rate service and support they receive from them. Only companies that received at least 5% of their category vote are recognized.
Those Usual Suspects and the Up and Coming
In 51 product categories, 87 individual companies made the cut this year, compared with 92 in 2009 and 107 (in 54 categories) in '08. Eleven companies made this elite list in 2010 either for the first time or after a one-year or more absence. Reflecting a somewhat traditional annual churn, the results jettisoned 20 companies that had been in the rankings in 2008.
Nine companies, two fewer than in 2009, won in multiple categories. Perennial heavyweight Rockwell Automation won or tied for first place in 19 hardware and software categories. Emerson received five category wins. Advantech, Cisco, Fanuc CNC, National Instruments, Parker-Hannifin, Pepperl+Fuchs and Thomson each won twice.
Similar to prior results, many of companies had clear wins in their categories. This year, 34 of the 51 (35 last year) categories had winners with margins of greater than 10 percentage points. Close races decided by a margin of five percentage points or less dropped slightly to nine, compared with 11 in 2009. Four of those tight races ended in statistical dead heats between two or more companies.
Service Scores Better
Of those 87 individual companies in the product category results, you awarded service and support scores of 4.0 or better (very good-to-excellent performance on a 1 = poor to 5 = excellent scale) to 62 (71%) of them. This is noticeably up from the 63% rate last year, and more in line with the 70% in '07, and 80% in '06.
Reversing last year's result, service recognition scores generally rose. You assigned 20% of the service recognitions to the 4.3+ columns, compared with 15% last year, and 17% in 2008. Awards in the 4.0 to 4.1 ranges dropped to half the total service recognitions, compared with 59% last year.
You awarded the highest service praise this year — at 4.4 — to AutomationDirect in the Operator Terminal category and to Precsion Digital in the Panel Meter category.
Every company making the service and support list should be pleased. Some achieved great service marks more than once. The table on p. 32 lists those companies that voters say have terrific service/support in specific product categories. Voters again recognized Rockwell Automation service and support in 26 product categories, followed by Emerson Process Management and Siemens Industry in eight categories. Yokogawa made the service rankings in seven categories while Banner Engineering, Invensys, National Instruments and Schneider Electric each received six service accolades.
Endress+Hauser, General Electric, Phoenix Contact and Turck were recognized four times; ABB, AutomationDirect, Cisco/Linksys, Honeywell, Mitsubishi Electric, and Pepperl + Fuchs each received service plaudits in three categories.
Belden, Cooper Bussmann, Hoffman, Moxa, Omega Engineering, Omron and SMC made the list twice.
So, with product categories listed alphabetically, here are 2010's choice companies.
Ball Screw/Lead Screw
1. Thomson 22%
1. Fanuc CNC America 27%
1. Honeywell 17%
1. Rockwell Automation 32%