Citect focuses on manufacturing information
Oak Brook, IL — Citect CEO and managing director, Wayne Morris, and marketing director, Frank Volckmar, recently discussed business and strategy with Control Engineering's Mark Hoske and Gary Mintchell.
Oak Brook, IL - Citect CEO and managing director, Wayne Morris, and marketing director, Frank Volckmar, recently discussed business and strategy with Control Engineering's Mark Hoske and Gary Mintchell.
Control Engineering : You always have such optimistic sales numbers. How are things going for you in this economy?
Wayne Morris : We are a public company, so results are open. Numbers for the fiscal year will not be out until early March, but half-year results were very encouraging. Sales were up 29% in the Americas for that period. We're bucking the trend of most technology companies in that we're growing in revenues and software license revenues consistently in every geography in which we operate.
CE: What's your assessment of the HMI/SCADA (human-machine interface/ supervisory control and data acquisition) market right now and your place in it?
WM: Dynamics of the HMI market are consolidation or declining. For example, look at GE Fanuc's purchase of Intellution. The overall market for SCADA is slow. On the other hand, the segment that we call ''industrial information management'' (IIM) is growing.
Most of our approach to the market is through OEMs and system integrators. We have a lot to offer them in the ability for custom configuration, as well as, the number of drivers we offer. We have to offer more value differentiation in the SCADA market. Citect began as a system integration company that developed its own product along the way. We offer a variety of professional services to leverage that experience both in direct sales and in providing assistance to our integrator partners. We have special expertise in water and waste water and gas pipeline industries. We believe that we've taken the lead in the IIM space with our latest Plant2Business product release.
Frank Volckmar : We have many methods of product support that incorporate user feedback. We're enhancing our user conferences. With delivery of product a ''welcome kit'' is included giving guidelines on how to use our support system. There is set-up support with levels of service offered based on user familiarity with the product. We have upwards of 2,500 articles on our Web site with application and troubleshooting tips. There is a chat room for users to share problems and ideas that is monitored by our support personnel. We've expanded that idea to include a room for beta users so that we can get faster feedback during the set up and trial run phase. That should compress the beta evaluation period.
CE: What is the most important trend in software?
FV: Input from customers tells us that they don't need a lot of additional functionality. What they want is software with no bugs, available training locally, access to the vendor, and product flexibility.
WM: Industrial information management is the new requirement. They want to use information from the control system to obtain upstream benefits. They want to understand what is causing downtime with clues to preventing it. It's important that they are able to use existing manufacturing and distribution assets without adding more cost or capital to achieve that additional information management.
FV: Microsoft .Net is all about collaboration and sharing information. We've been building on that platform, because that's what our customers want. Often expansion in a manufacturing plant creates silos of automation. IIM enables information sharing and collaboration among all those silos and the enterprise business system.
CE: What is the most important thing our readers should know about Citect? FV: Our focus on quality over mere technology. We are using "XP" (extreme programming, not the Microsoft product). [For more information, visit www.extremeprogramming.org ]
WM: Adoption of XP was a cultural shock. This is a totally new way of developing code. The customer's at the center at all development. Nothing is developed unless there is a customer requirement for it. No production code is released until there is a written test for that functionality. Software is developed in short iterations. We don't want to develop for a year, take it to the customer and hear that they really wanted something else.
Most people think ofg someone else's code after a large chunk is done is a very boring process. Peer programming is dynamic since both are involved as they go.
Another benefit is risk mitigation. Now there is more than one person who knows the code. It would take a lot of
Every morning we have ''stand up.'' Developers stand in a circle and discuss problems found, cool solutions, and otherwise share knowledge. Each person has one to two minutes to share. I attend as many of these as I can. Product marketing people are also always there to provide customer input.
XP is somewhat controversial in developer circles, and we lost a few in the process. We've been using it for nine or 10 months and feel it is going very well. It is a tool that will help us achieve our goal of being at the leading edge of quality.