World Class System Integration
Since the dawn of the industrial automation industry, there have been equipment vendors, individual consultants, and independent engineering firms of all kinds who are ready, willing, and able to help factory owners automate their facilities. For the last 15 years, Control Engineering has been cataloging automation engineering services available from all such sources in our annual Automation In...
Marc Moschetto and Vance VanDoren, Ph.D., P.E. Control Engineering
Since the dawn of the industrial automation industry, there have been equipment vendors, individual consultants, and independent engineering firms of all kinds who are ready, willing, and able to help factory owners automate their facilities. For the last 15 years, Control Engineering has been cataloging automation engineering services available from all such sources in our annual Automation Integrator Guide. This year's edition starts on page 22.
And as we did for the first time last year, our judges have selected three automation system integrators that stand out from the rest: Bachelor Controls, Matrix Technologies, and Honeywell Process Systems. These are our 2008 System Integrators of the Year in three annual revenue categories: up to $10 million, $10 to $25 million, and over $25 million, respectively.
According to our panel of judges (see list on page 7), these three companies best demonstrated their value in terms of technical expertise, business skills, and customer satisfaction. The winners, plus eight finalists, were selected based on essays each submitted in response to a series of open-ended questions, including:
Have you ever successfully completed a project that had previously proven too difficult for the client's in-house engineers or another system integrator?
Have you ever completed any self-evaluations or undertaken any in-house initiatives to formalize your business procedures?
Do you have procedures for tracking customer satisfaction and redressing their grievances?
Several factors impressed the judges, as noted in each winner's profile below. Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) certification proved to be a particularly noteworthy attribute common to two of this year's winners. They've both been audited by the CSIA and successfully demonstrated their adherence to the organization's best practices and benchmarks in the areas of general management, human resources, project management, quality management, financial management, business development, and technical management. CSIA's mission is to enhance its members' businesses in those areas. For more about CSIA certification, see “
,” in Control Engineering , April 2006 online or in print. For the
on page 20.
Other attributes common to all three winners were longevity (each with 25+ years in the business), an emphasis on quality (as opposed to sheer quantity of work completed), and management's interest in the well-being of employees. Naturally enough, they all showed an interest in their clients' well-being as well, but they also tended to take a broader view of their business relationships. Winners embraced the philosophy of treating clients as trusted partners rather than mere bill-payers. In fact, several of the winners and finalists thought enough of their customer partnerships to specifically mention them in their essays.
In addition to the winners, judges named eight finalists. Here's a summary of their respective specialties. For more information, see their listings on the pages indicated.
Absolute Automation Systems, Inc. (pg. 23)– industrial control engineering, control fabrication, and systems integration solutions for industrial equipment and material processing companies.
Brock Solutions (pg. 32) — automation engineering projects, engineering construction management, MES solutions, customized drive solutions, and professional engineering and validation services for highly-regulated industries.
DLT&V Systems Engineering, Inc. (pg. 38) — industrial control systems in the Southwestern United States with a major focus on the water and wastewater industries.
HiTech Control Systems, Inc. (pg. 45) — designs and delivers software solutions for machine and process control.
Industrial Automation Engineering, Inc. (pg. 47)– enterprise system integration for a variety of industries, including building materials, fiber optics, oil and gas, pipelines, and railroads.
Interstates Control Systems, Inc. (pg. 50)– design, construction, programming, testing, and installation of custom plant-floor control systems for food and beverage, biofuels, and discrete manufacturing applications.
Mustang Engineering Automation & Control (pg. 57)– control, automation, and information systems for the upstream oil and gas, refining, chemical, and manufacturing industries.
NOVA Systems Inc. (pg. 58)– system integration, precision motion control, and specialty engineering services for manufacturers involved with leather processing, metal spinning, heavy equipment, and medical equipment.
Bachelor Controls Inc.
Sabetha, KS, www.bachelorcontrols.com
Up to $10 million annual revenue
Bachelor Controls (pg. 31) provides control and system integration solutions to manufacturers, primarily in process industries such as food and beverage, pet food, molding and extrusion, and pharmaceuticals. Bachelor Controls summarizes its approach as “making customers more successful by providing products and services of superior quality at a fair price.”
Many companies make that claim, but Bachelor Controls delivers. As judge Walt Kozikowski notes, “Bachelor Controls focuses on institutionalized continuous process improvement and the development of a close relationship with customers, which demonstrates their desire to provide the best integration solutions possible.”
Judge Tom Bullock was equally impressed with Bachelor's technical expertise, citing the many industries they serve, the technical papers their staff has written, as well as the adaptive control product they've developed specifically for automated extrusion applications. Technical staff members are encouraged to undergo continuing education to stay current on technology and best practices affecting their specific job functions.
In addition to CSIA certification, Bachelor Controls has achieved authorized integrator status with several leading automation vendors as well as panel-assembly certification with Underwriters Laboratories. Their professional affiliations include the Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society (ISA), including a voting seat on the ISA SP 95 committee.
Matrix Technologies Inc.
Maumee, OH, www.matrixti.com
$10 to $25 million annual revenue
CSIA-certified integrator Matrix Technologies (pg. 54) provides a wide variety of process engineering services including electrical, process, mechanical, civil, and structural engineering, as well as system integration. They have executed projects in 45 different countries, specializing in applications for the food and beverage, life sciences, chemicals, glass, transportation, mining and semiconductor industries.
Says judge Shari Worthington, “Matrix Technologies has demonstrated an array of skills above and beyond the norm in their size category. Their international client base shows an ability to handle more than the usual plethora of technical issues.”
One key to Matrix Technologies' success has been diversification, not only by geography but by industry as well. They aim to develop projects in at least five major industries in any given year, enabling the company to maintain growth even if any two of those industries experience slowdowns.
Judge Dennis Brandl was impressed with the broad scope of the projects Matrix has completed. He added that the company is “dedicated to having a trained and happy work force as well as satisfied customers.” Matrix has also demonstrated a laudable concern for the well-being of the community in general by contributing to numerous good causes both at home and abroad.
Honeywell Process Solutions
Phoenix, AZ, www.honeywell.com/ps
Over $25 million annual revenue
In the process control industry, Honeywell Process Solutions (pg. 45) is one of the largest and most experienced providers of complex engineering and support services. Its Project Services Group has more than 3,000 project engineers and designers who work worldwide through a network of 50 design centers.
Honeywell's Global Project Engineering (GPE) methodology provides the foundation for consistent engineering processes, tools, and standards across the company. GPE also allows for collaboration among multiple offices around the world when a project calls for geographically distributed resources.
Judge Renee Robbins was impressed with Honeywell's depth of knowledge and experience, as well as its focus on rigorous training, knowledge-sharing through GPE, and sound project management practices. “The company seems to pursue excellence in people and project management,” said Robbins. “The customer testimonials and case histories bear this out.” Robbins also points out that Honeywell requires all project managers to become certified project management professionals through the Project Management Institute (PMI).
Judge Don Roberts added, “Honeywell clearly understands the importance of having a project-centric organization that not only manages risks on behalf of their customers but also strives for continuous improvement of their processes to ensure that future projects will meet expectations.”
Honeywell's project experience spans a wide range of process industries, including refining; oil and gas; pulp and printing; hydrocarbon process; power generation; chemicals; petrochemicals; life sciences; and metals, minerals, and mining. A whopping 98% of their projects have been completed on time and under budget.
Marc Moschetto is editorial director of Control Engineering. Vance VanDoren, Ph.D., P.E., is consulting editor. Reach them through
The judges for
Dennis Brandl, president and founder of
Tom Bullock, president of Bull's Eye Research
Bull's Eye Research, an automation industry market research firm.
Walt Kozikowski, industry director for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA)
National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA)and NEMA's representative to the CSIA.
Don Roberts, auditor for the CSIA Exotek
CSIAand principal of
, a management-consulting firm focused on the engineering and systems integration industry.
Renee Robbins, senior editor for
Dr. Vance VanDoren, system integration editor for
Dr. Michael Workman, president of Michael E. Workman Associates and professor emeritus of the Industrial Distribution faculty at Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University.
Shari Worthington, president of Telesian Technology
Telesian Technology, a marketing and e-business services firm specializing in the industrial automation market.