System Integration at its Best

Every year since 1993, Control Engineering has published the “Automation Integrator Guide” supplement to let readers know who they can turn to for help with industrial automation and control projects. This year's edition, starting on page 36, includes more than 1,400 system integrators, consultants, and contract engineering firms that can design and install custom automation systems.

12/15/2006


AT A GLANCE

 

  • The competition

  • Criteria

  • Winners & finalists

Sidebars:
The judges

Every year since 1993, Control Engineering has published the “Automation Integrator Guide” supplement to let readers know who they can turn to for help with industrial automation and control projects. This year's edition, starting on page 36, includes more than 1,400 system integrators, consultants, and contract engineering firms that can design and install custom automation systems.

Choosing among those 1,400 integrators can be a challenge, even using geography or application experience to help make the choice. In 2001, a series of Control Engineering reports identified other useful criteria, including the efforts of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) to define what makes a good system integrator better. This year, Control Engineering teamed up with CSIA and others in the industry to bring you the first System Integrator of the Year competition.

Consulting Editor Dr. Vance VanDoren designed and administered the project, which garnered 47 entries from system integrators around the world. VanDoren invited system integrators to submit essays describing company achievements in the areas of technical expertise, business skills, and customer satisfaction — areas that make quite a difference in a project's overall success.

Entries were divided into three classes based on annual revenue — up to $10 million, $10 million to $50 million, and above $50 million. Each of nine judges selected three finalists based on the merits of the supporting documentation, and the entry with the most top-three votes in its category was chosen as a System Integrator of the Year. (See box below for a list of judges.)

Winners and finalists

And the winners are… Concept Systems Inc. (up to $10 million annual revenue category), Advanced Automation Inc. ($10 million to $50 million annual revenue), and The Benham Companies LLC (above $50 million annual revenue). Descriptions (starting on page 6) summarize some of the judges' comments, and include customerquotes are excerpted from each winner's customer testimonials. More detailed winner summaries are located in the Resource Center section of www.controleng.com .

Winning system integrators exemplify excellence in all three areas. Their technical abilities, for example, are demonstrated by number and type of degreed engineers, certifications held, memberships in associations, and successful projects highlighted. Business skills show up strong in internal processes of training and project management, as well as in partnerships with other companies. Customer satisfaction was conveyed by the satisfied customers themselves through letters and testimonials. While the judging was necessarily subjective, the entries companies put together were substantial. All 47 entrants should be commended for their pursuit of continuous improvement.

The judging panel chose to reward that commitment by also identifying 13 finalists. These companies each received at least one top-three vote. To find out more about these companies, see the guide in print, or use the searchable database at www.controleng.com under the Integrator Guide tab.

Here's a summary of the finalists and their respective specialties:

Bachelor Controls Inc. — high-end batching systems, automated cooking extrusion, modified starch processes, bulk material transport, and material handling.

Brock Solutions Inc. — automation engineering projects, engineering construction management, MES solutions, customized drive solutions, and professional engineering and validation services for highly regulated industries.

Control Systems International Inc. — process control and instrumentation solutions, building SCADA, and pipeline SCADA.

DL Engineering & Control Inc. — industrial control systems in the Southwestern United States with a major focus on the water and wastewater industry.

HiTech Control Systems Inc. — designs and software solutions for machine and process control.

HK Systems Inc. — integrated solutions for the management of enterprise-wide inventory, distribution, logistics management, and automated material handling systems.

Honeywell Project Services , division of Honeywell Process Solutions — plant automation and control systems for process-driven industries, including refining, oil and gas, power and energy, life sciences, pulp and paper, printing, chemicals, metals, minerals, and mining.

Martin Control Systems Inc. — PLC and HMI programming and design.

Matrix Technologies Inc. — control, supervisory control, data acquisition, and business systems.

Revere Control Systems Inc. — control systems and design/build solutions for a variety of automation and information applications.

Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. , Plant Automation Services group — automation system design, development, commissioning, and maintenance.

Tegron, LP — plant consulting and information services, including manufacturing execution systems, component/material tracking, just-in-time, error proofing, lean principles, overall equipment efficiency, historian applications, and batch records.

VI Engineering Inc. — test engineering systems for the military/aerospace, medical device, automotive, and electronics industries.

Concept Systems Inc.

UP TO $10 MILLION ANNUAL REVENUE

Concept Systems, a CSIA Certified Member, focuses on automation and information systems for business. Co-owner Ed Diehl reports that their services include project management, system design and development, UL 508 panel fabrication, Autodesk AutoCAD drawings, installation supervision, system start-up, and training.

Judges were impressed by Concept Systems' technical competence and the diversity of their engineering skills, including PLC control, motion control, system networking, database systems, HMI/SCADA systems, CNC, and vision inspection. “In addition,” said judge Walt Kozikowsky, “Concept Systems has demonstrated innovation, low employee turnover, and a commitment to the community. While the other entrants may do the same, Concept Systems was proud enough of these achievements to add them to their application.”

Judge Mike Workman was likewise impressed with Concept Systems' “business focus beyond technology.” He also noted the diversity of the industries that they serve, including forest products, converting, food processing, aerospace, and packaging.

Both Workman and judge Tom Bullock commented on Concept Systems' business processes and internal metrics. Said Bullock, “Their business skills showed the best project methodology with good marketing, sales growth, case studies, and procedures.” Workman added that their marketing seems to be “infused with engineering,” a laudable attribute for a technology-oriented company.

Bullock also noted that this isn't the first time that Concept Systems has been honored for technological achievements. The application cited a “Technology Enabler” award in 2004 that recognized use of the latest technology to solve customers' critical business challenges. The specific challenge mentioned in the award was an implementation of an equipment monitoring database system at a bulk container manufacturing plant.

Advanced Automation Inc.

$10 - $50 MILLION ANNUAL REVENUE

Bob Zeigenfuse, president of Advanced Automation Inc., describes his company as “an independent systems integrator committed to working in partnership with clients to develop cost-effective, integrated industrial control systems that improve productivity, competitiveness, and profitability.”

Those sound like ambitious goals, but judge Dennis Brandl noted that Advanced Automation representatives say they make good on commitments. “I liked the way they evaluated themselves. They seem a little harsh, not promising more than they can deliver, but that is a good thing for an integrator.”

Judge Shari Worthington agreed. “Advanced Automation has an integrated system that rewards employees for quality work and customer satisfaction. They are obsessively dedicated to internal processes that control business development and workflow.” That's supported by Advanced Automation's work to be among the early adopters of the CSIA's “Best Practices and Benchmarks” and among the first class of integrators to pass CSIA's certification audit.

Worthington was also impressed by a project that Advanced Automation completed successfully after an architecture and engineering firm lost control of it. Part of Advanced Automation's advantage, says Zeigenfuse, is using “a structured approach, applying field-proven strategies and methodologies in a consistent style to minimize client risk and promote client self sufficiency.”

For all projects, Advanced Automation can provide consulting, project and construction management, systems engineering and design, field installation and start-up, training, and continuing system maintenance and support.

The system integration firm serves industries including chemicals/petrochemicals, food and beverage, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and printing/ converting.

The Benham Companies LLC

ABOVE $50 MILLION ANNUAL REVENUE

“Benham provides hardware/software development and integration to the industrial, manufacturing, commercial, and municipal sectors,” says Chuck Sherman, division vice president. Services include architecture and engineering design, infrastructure, environmental, systems engineering and integration, advanced communication systems, performance contracting, project consulting and development, and design/build project delivery.

In particular, Benham's Process Controls Division supports engineering projects at the process level. They take responsibility for production of the hardware and control logic to meet a client's needs from HVAC systems and central utility to conveyor and material handling to discrete manufacturing systems.

The Factory Automation Division provides the extraction, consolidation, and presentation of real-time and historical process and facility information, enabling clients to view, understand, and examine processes. The Advanced Communications Division builds the communications infrastructure to transmit process and facility information wherever necessary. Benham's clients can analyze process information from an Internet connection anywhere in the world.

Judge Don Roberts reviewed Benham's entry and concluded that “they seem to be well-focused, respected for their accomplishments, and willing to take on challenging work in a highly competitive environment. Their attention to the details is certainly a component of their success strategy.”

Judge Renee Robbins was likewise impressed by Benham's “complex projects and large, often multi-plant installations with complex physical installations.” She also noted their extensive portfolio of project management tools, ability to complete a project that had proven too difficult for another system integrator, and extensive list of satisfied customers.




The judges

Judges for Control Engineering 's first System Integrator of the Year awards are:

Dennis Brandl, president and founder of BR&L Consulting and a Control Engineering columnist focusing on manufacturing IT.

Tom Bullock, president of Bull's Eye Research, an automation industry market research firm.

Walt Kozikowski, industry director for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and NEMA's representative to the CSIA.

Norm O'Leary, executive director of the Control System Integrators Association.

Renee Robbins, editorial director for Control Engineering .

Don Roberts, auditor for the CSIA and principal of Exotek, a management-consulting firm focused on the engineering and systems integration industry.

Dr. Vance VanDoren, system integration editor for Control Engineering .

Dr. Michael Workman, president of Michael E. Workman Associates and professor emeritus of the Industrial Distribution faculty at Texas A&M University.

Shari Worthington, president of Telesian Technology, a marketing and e-business services firm specializing in the industrial automation market.