Users Speak Out On Support Services

User expectations about control and automation support services are clear, even if contradictory in some instances, according to the "2001 Control Engineering (CE) Control and Automation Support Services" survey. Hundreds of users responded to Control Engineering's in-depth questionnaire about control and automation support services and, generally, users are satisfied with the services they...

06/01/2001


User expectations about control and automation support services are clear, even if contradictory in some instances, according to the "2001 Control Engineering (CE) Control and Automation Support Services" survey.

Hundreds of users responded to Control Engineering's in-depth questionnaire about control and automation support services and, generally, users are satisfied with the services they receive.

Control Engineering Online collected survey results during February and March 2001, producing 670 responses. Cahners Research provided support. Separately, automation suppliers were polled about services.

As might be anticipated, users expect excellent service in the form of timely response and accurate information and aren't bashful about speaking out when expectations are not met.

When you think about it, that's true for all of us. Daily experiences—when we take things to the dry cleaners, eat out, or travel—help develop our expectations of what constitutes excellent and not-so-excellent service.

Customer satisfaction improving

In an ongoing quarterly customer satisfaction study being conducted by University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Mich.) the quality of the service we receive got steadily worse from 1994 to 1997 and, though service has been improving since 1997, we have not returned to 1994 levels.

The Council of Better Business Bureaus (Arlington, Va.) provides another metric for measuring customer satisfaction. In 1999 The Bureau processed more than 3 million complaints, about a 10% increase from 1998 and about 2.5 times the number of complaints processed in 1995.

So has the quality of the services we receive really declined that much, or have our expectations also been changing? Both, but how does that relate to control and automation support services?

Few, if any, would deny our daily lives are accelerating, and technology is adding to the rate of acceleration. The Internet, wireless communications, and near-instant access to information have created a mind-set that everything needs to be done here-and-now, even when that's not actually necessary, so it only makes sense that our support service expectations are also changing and accelerating. When it comes to resolving problems within high-tech products, like control and automation systems, generally people must become involved, questions asked and answered, test conducted, results analyzed, and fixes developed. Could control and automation problems be more quickly resolved if computers ran diagnostics on other computers? It sure works for other industries like banking, aerospace, and automotive, but according to a separate polling of automation suppliers offering remote diagnostic services, only about 27% of users take advantage of remote diagnostic service offerings. The remote diagnostic service providers polled were ABB (Rochester, N.Y.), Fisher-Rosemount (Austin, Tex.), Foxboro (Foxborough, Mass.), Honeywell (Phoenix, Ariz.), Intellution (Foxborough, Mass.), Rockwell/Allen-Bradley (Milwaukee, Wis.), National Instruments (Austin, Tex.), Opto 22 (Temecula, Calif.), and Westinghouse Process Control (Pittsburgh, Pa.).

The low 27% figure seems strange since a staggering 76% of users ranked remote system diagnostics important, somewhat important, or very important.

Lesson to learn: Perhaps users would like to use more remote system diagnostics, but don't yet feel confident with what suppliers offer. Perhaps customers aren't convinced the proper security measures are in place, or perhaps suppliers haven't adequately demonstrated the ability to conduct meaningful, beneficial, and cost-effective diagnostic and performance monitoring services.

Whatever the reason, it appears that tremendous opportunities to improve control and automation system support using remote diagnostics are ripe for the taking.

Charting a profile

Who are the users who took the time to complete this survey, where do they work, how many systems are they responsible for, what is their knowledge, and exactly what are their expectations?

It should probably come as no surprise that control and automation systems are everywhere, even after CE standardized write-in responses there still were 46 industries represented, with utilities, electronic and semiconductor, automotive and transportation, fabricated metals, and pulp and paper rounding out the top five.

This diversity points out a potential problem in providing customer support. Many of these industries have evolved their own lingo that may be completely foreign to suppliers' customer support personnel. Perhaps that contributes to why Westinghouse Process Control's customers (almost exclusively in the power and steam generation industry) had so many nice things to say about Westinghouse's support; they serve the same industry and speak the same language.

Lesson to learn: Unless users are confident the control system supplier's support staff understands the nuances and lingo of their industry, it would be worthwhile to spend time "getting-to-know-one-another" before a support service issue arises, rather than trying to construct the communication bridge in the heat of the situation.

Another area of support service contention might appear when suppliers fail to recognize the diversity and complexity users face in their daily work. For example, the "Industry, company, and responder profile information" table below arranges the top three answers to several company and user defining questions. The results provide insight about where the typical user/responder works and the daily system challenges they face. When supplier support staff examine the table, it becomes clearer that when a user calls a particular supplier's support service staff, it may take the user a little time to recall that supplier "A" refers to things differently than suppliers "B" or "C."

Lesson to learn: Suppliers, be patient! Users have a lot on their plates and may in fact be juggling more than one problem with multiple suppliers. Give them the benefit of the doubt if they don't immediately recall that supplier "A" refers to things differently than suppliers "B" or "C." Your empathy to their situations would undoubtedly be much appreciated. Perhaps this is another good reason to spend time getting-to-know-one-another.

People differences

Supplier customer support staff is frequently made up of computer hardware and software engineers (techies), and perhaps that's as it should be. But the largest number of users (67%) list themselves as control system engineers, control engineers, system engineers, manufacturing engineers, plant engineers, or corporate engineers. This difference may be another source of communication errors and frustration. Customer support speaks in terms of bits and bytes; users discuss things in terms of workflow, process dynamics, and problem symptoms.

Lesson to learn: Suppliers need to ensure their support staff, especially the techies, receive industry and application training so they gain an appreciation of the complexities and lingo of users along with an understanding of how and where control systems are being applied. Also, to get the right support-person/group working on the problem as early as possible, it benefits everyone if a methodology exists that can quickly narrow the suspected problem to hardware, software, or application. Sometimes a software problem is diagnosed as an application problem, or a hardware problem manifests itself as a software problem. With technology's ability to support dynamic knowledge management and expert systems, the frequency of such situations should nearly disappear over the life of the system.

Technology can help

Not all customer problems require people-to-people contact, and not all problems are really a defect with the supplier's hardware or software.

For example, often times users can quickly locate answers and solutions by visiting the supplier's web site, where it is common to find sections for frequently asked questions, problem report initiation and tracking, software updates and patches, and other technical information. A visit to Intellution and Opto 22 web sites in April also reveals sample application code.

Suppliers also indicate they have invested heavily in sophisticated call-tracking and knowledge management systems and use these systems to monitor activity, source or cause of problems, the responsiveness of the support staff, and the effectiveness of resolutions. The sophistication of the data captured by call-tracking systems indirectly tell suppliers what percentage of user-reported-problems might be eliminated if users read supplied documentation or attended available training. Alarmingly, suppliers report that 28 of every 100 calls/contacts received (28%) would be eliminated if users would read available documentation and/or attend training courses.

Sure there will be times when a user can't locate what they need in the documentation, but most suppliers provide documentation in searchable electronic format making it easier to locate a particular topic.

As for attending training classes, we all know travel and training are the first target of budget cuts, but as discussed in " Developing Intellectual Capital " ( Control Engineering , August 2000, p.63), when training occurs in conjunction with defined goals to solve identified business problems, the cost of the travel and training is quickly justified and recouped.

Lessons to learn: Users should keep in mind the childhood story about the little boy who too frequently cried wolf. Seek the answer to questions in the supplier's documentation and on their web site before picking up the phone. Also, keep in mind the supplier is likely using a sophisticated call-tracking system and no one wants to have a "wolf crier" note recorded when support staff enters your name or company.

Suppliers, please take a good hard look at how you organize information in electronic media and "push" as much information to the web as possible, but ensure it's up-to-date and accurate. Also review how you conduct training courses and ensure that users arrive with real-life problems to solve, and they return home with the tools, resources, and knowledge to solve those problems.

What users know

Without exception, suppliers pride themselves on the training courses they provide. There's no doubt courses designed to teach users about the supplier's products almost always receive high marks from students. But when students return to their jobs, creating a slick graphic isn't how they improve production throughput or reduce product variability.

Instructors candidly will explain that when an instructor knows the level of a student's knowledge and abilities, the learning experience is greatly enhanced, but most supplier companies are reluctant to probe a student's knowledge for fear of insulting or embarrassing the student and/or their company. But CE wasn't bashful in asking users to rate knowledge in 11 areas (See "Skills evaluation" table below).

Not surprising, but somewhat concerning, users tend to understand technology better than how to improve production operations and reduce product variability.

Lessontolearn: Suppliers, if training courses are designed to solve problems, it's important to understand the knowledge of each student and may, in the long-term best interest of all parties, be very appropriate to insist on verification of course prerequisites and/or to conduct student admission testing. Users, don't become offended when asked to validate your knowledge before being accepted into a supplier-training course. Everyone will appreciate knowing that students validated course prerequisite knowledge to ensure the entire class maximizes the learning opportunity, and, as an added bonus, students can learn from one another.

Call me

One message that sprang from the survey was, "Call me back and have a solution in eight hours or less." A whopping 67% of users expect some sort of problem resolution within eight hours or less with 43% expecting resolution in four hours or less. Apparently some suppliers have heard these demands before, because the four suppliers who shared their average time to close a call indicated a range from 15 to 90 minutes.

There were a few respondents who chose to explain that call-back times relate to the criticality of the problem, and that's true enough, but what's critical to one person may not be critical to the next. Early in the call, it's important that clear and concise communication cover the ramifications and urgency of the problem.

For those who might be skeptical about the promptness of a supplier's response verses the fee being paid for support services, it's worth noting that AutomationDirect.com (Atlanta, Ga.) received a number of very positive user comments about the quality of service they provide, summed up in this user's response: "No wait, knowledgeable staff, and best of all FREE!"

That said, AutomationDirect.com is the exception rather than the rule. When asked how they prefer to pay for support services, only 1% of survey responders indicated they expected service to be free and 59% indicated they preferred an unlimited annual contract with another 25% indicating they prefer to pay on a per-use basis. Several respondents provided food-for-thought concerning who pays and when by saying they didn't expect to be charged for service unless the supplier actually visited the site and/or the problem was clearly the fault of the user.

Lessons to learn: Suppliers should set a goal of eight-hour or less for problem resolution response. But achieving this goal requires examining the mix of current calls received to improve user "self-help" methods, with the ultimate goal of having the support staff handling only the really tough calls. This may include expanding web information, as well as providing regular customer summary reports with clear indication of different call categories including ones that could have been avoided.

Users need to view such reports as a means of improving overall service quality and expanding user knowledge. Some users will take offense, and these reports could prove to be a customer relations "tight rope," but such things will be talked about now or during the next support service contract negotiations; it might as well be now.

Users, just because you have paid for unlimited annual contracts, don't take advantage of the situation and simply call because it's easier than looking up the answer on your own. Supplier support-centers are also profit-centers, thus fees are based on resources invested and used. So when you call for things you should have already known or could have looked up, expect that to be reflected in the amount your company pays in the future.

System life-cycle

The survey included several questions to learn why, when, and how users handle bug fixes, enhancement upgrades, and other system life-cycle issues.

A nice surprise was how diligently user/responders have been in keeping system hardware, firmware, and software up-to-date. Users indicated 75% of systems (hardware/firmware and software) are either current or only one revision behind the supplier's current release.

Part of this achievement results from savvy users taking advantage of recent Y2K "opportunities" to secure hard-to-get funding. Another reason systems are kept current are supplier requirements that customers stay current to obtain ongoing support. Eighty-nine percent of respondents indicated they must keep systems current to receive supplier support, obtain bug fixes, and be able to implement product enhancements.

In the days of proprietary systems, bug fixes were commonly bundled with enhancements, but increasingly, companies, such as Altersys (Hampton, N.H.), Intellution, Siemens-Moore Process Automation (Spring House, Pa.), and Wonderware (Irvine, Calif.), separate bug fixes from enhancements. That separation permits users to operate a reliable system without incurring the cost of unneeded/unwanted enhancements, a trend likely to increase in popularity during the next few years.

Those users who indicated their systems were four or more revisions behind the supplier's current product release were asked to explain why; and explain they did. One respondent said, "The system is working as intended. With software, sometimes it's best to let sleeping dogs lie and not introduce new bugs." Another kept the response to the point by saying, "We operate 24/7/365/25yr. We can't afford to reboot." Mostly, responses focused around cost/benefits and it was clear, many respondents, or their management, aren't convinced the total cost of upgrading (i.e., purchase, install, shut down, implement, start-up, test, document, and train) would be offset by improved quality and/or increased throughput.

Upgrades require that the user has confidence in the supplier's ability to deliver bug fixes and/or enhancements that work. When asked how they ensure bug fixes and enhancements do what they should, 20% of users either install the fix or enhancement in an on-line or off-line system and conduct their own testing, while another 13% install the fix or enhancement in a non-critical part of the system first. Only 17% take a supplier's word for it.

Lesson to learn: Suppliers shouldn't use on-going support as a "bully pulpit" to force customers to purchase system upgrades. The decision to upgrade should benefit all, with suppliers and users working together to identify and develop quantified opportunities for improving quality, increasing throughput, or addressing other key business drivers. Also, suppliers should review their testing procedures to ensure the highest possible quality of released bug fixes and enhancements.

Users should maintain an open mind, constantly seek areas in need of improvement, and regularly discuss these opportunities with the control system supplier. You never know when the tools necessary to solve a difficult production problem are part of an upcoming system upgrade. Also users who agree to participate in software beta testing should ensure they are prepared to commit the necessary resources to ensure adequate testing and thus the quality of the software when released.

Be careful what you ask for

The word "obsolete" tends to raise the hair on the back of everyone's necks—we all own some obsolete products. If we have learned one thing from our relationship with computers and software, it's that obsolescence occurs at alarming rates. The more control and automation systems rely on off-the-shelf hardware and software, the more frequently we will hear the word "obsolete" and find the need to migrate.

To examine user expectations in the area of obsolescence, or what many refer to as "legacy" products and systems, several questions were included in the survey with legacy products and systems described in the following way: "Manufacturers use a variety of ways to define legacy products and legacy systems. For example, a system may still be available, but the original I/O subsystem has been replaced making the original I/O subsystem a legacy product. For this survey a legacy product is defined as not available for purchase or requires special ordering. A legacy system is defined as not being available for purchase. Support is defined to include planning services, documentation, training, and technical expertise."

Quite surprisingly, two years was the number-one answer users expect suppliers to support legacy products (54%) and legacy systems (55%). Only 4% and 3% (respectively) indicated a need for suppliers to support legacy products and legacy systems longer than eight years. What makes this surprising is several supplier companies currently support systems for 8-10 years after the product and/or system has been declared legacy (removed from sale), a very costly undertaking for suppliers. If in fact a majority of users, as this survey indicates, don't require legacy product and system support beyond two years, several supplier companies could free up much needed assets and resources.

Since software comprises the bulk of today's control systems, users were asked how many prior major software revisions a supplier should support. To avoid ambiguity in the term "major," CE defined a major software revision as one that requires recompiling or reloading software, or taking a device off-line for 10 minutes or more.

Thirty-six percent indicated suppliers should support the current and two past major software revisions with 23% declaring a need for five past revisions.

Lesson to learn: Users, be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. If you can really get by with two years of support for legacy products and systems, that's good. Just ensure you're willing to live with your claims. Suppliers, re-examine your legacy product, system, and software support policies, talk to users, and ensure you are meeting customer current requirements based on a thorough understanding of those requirements and not on antiquated data or misconceptions.

Help wanted

During development of this survey, several reviewing supplier companies suggested probing users about their service needs over the next three years. Which services were they most likely to job out and which might they keep or bring in-house?

As discussed earlier, remote diagnostic and performance monitoring seemed like a potential service growth area, especially since Honeywell Hi-Spec Solutions has demonstrated considerable success with their Loop Scout remote diagnostic service.

Starting in late 1998, the Loop Scout staff in Thousand Oaks, Calif., have been increasing the number of loops analyzed; through first-quarter 2001, the total number of loops analyzed far exceed 40,000. Yet only 35% of respondents expect to use supplier remote diagnostic and monitoring services in the next three years, and 52% say they will keep remote diagnostic and performance monitoring in-house during the next three years.

The numbers are just as confusing when users are asked about life-cycle planning; 68% of responders indicate they will keep life-cycle planning services in house, and only 22% indicate they intend to use the control system supplier.

Suppliers say that customers rarely conduct control and automation system life-cycle planning, and those that do seldom apply the same rigorous discipline as the information technology folks apply to business systems. Maybe that helps explain why many companies make annual investments in business systems, yet follow a "buy and hold" philosophy for control and automation system assets and then conduct a wholesale change-out every 15 or so years.

Even in areas where responders had earlier ranked their expertise for things like process analysis, optimization, and debottlenecking as "fair or poor," users indicate these services will remain in-house.

Bottom line, responders indicate a propensity to keep most control and automation services "in-house," indicating either a failure to seriously consider their survey response or a substantial amount of naivete about how thin they can spread themselves.

This self-sufficient, good-at-everything attitude seems at odds with business executives who claim they want their companies to focus on what they do best and partner and/or outsource everything else.

Lessons to learn: Users should determine what things they should be excellent at performing for their company and then set out to achieve excellence in these areas. Users should then examine the remaining services the process and the control system require and find someone (i.e., third-party supplier, system supplier, system integrator, etc.) who's excellent at providing those services.

Suppliers should determine what set of services they can be excellent at delivering, articulate those services in an excellent manner, and not hesitate to find customers other excellent resources when the need arises. Everyone should re-examine the importance of the control and automation system in achieving key business drivers, followed by a second re-examination of how that asset/investment is best managed to achieve its full potential, year-after-year.

System anatomy

It is an age-old question often discussed by users, suppliers, and integrators: "Does hardware content have any relationship to application size?" To avoid biasing results, users were asked to provide quantities of hardware related elements including I/O channels, controllers, operator interface stations, and integration/application stations. On the other side of the equation, users were asked to provide quantities of application-related elements, including the number of discrete and analog devices, intelligent field devices, regulatory control elements, sequential control elements, and operator graphic displays. (See "Application element examples" sidebar.)

During data analysis, system size categories were established based on I/O channel quantities. (See "System size based on I/O channel quantities" table.)

While certainly not scientific, and most people will agree it's possible to have a very complex application with a small amount of I/O channels and vice-versa, these three tables provide insight that control system hardware and application relationships exist; but more among hardware elements or application elements than between hardware and application elements.

Identifying who's best

Everywhere you go these days, someone claims they are the best at this and that. Ironically, the airline industry hangs large banners stating "We're number one in customer satisfaction" directly behind the ticket agent who's rebooking your canceled flight.

Not to be outdone, CE asked responders two related questions, "Of all the control and automation system manufacturers you work with, which manufacturer provides the best support services?" and "Describe what makes them so good."

Seventy-one manufacturer companies received one or more votes, and that's really quite remarkable, because it says a lot of supplier companies are going the extra mile to provide excellent customer support services.

After looking through the data, CE also applied the previous "system sizing" criteria to determine a secondary breakdown of companies providing high quality support services. (See "User selections for 'best' support services" table.)

Among the reasons users gave for selecting various companies were, "They never give up;" "They respond quickly with competent people;" "They call you back with the right answer the same day;" "They are quick to respond and they stick to the problem until resolved."

Of course if you really want to butter-up your suppliers' support staff, here's a response sure to please: "All of the system manufacturers, third-party suppliers, and software developers provide equally excellent support services. Service levels are excellent across the board. In Honeywell's case, the local Honeywell support person is the son of the plant employee who is responsible for our Honeywell DCS. You can't beat that."

Hiring a customer's relations may be an extreme form of customer relations, but the user's point is abundantly clear.

Industry, company, and responder profile information

Number 1 answer

Number 2 answer

Number 3 answer

Note: Percentages have been rounded to nearest whole number.

Industry

Utility services (14%)

Electronics & semi-conductor (8%)

Automotive & transportation (6%)

Size based on number of employees

More than 10,000 (30%)

2,000 to 10,000 (20%)

Less than 100 (19%)

Number of countries where they manufacture

Less than 5 (57%)

5 to 10 (15%)

11 to 30 (14%)

Annual company sales in U.S. dollars

More than $20 million (68%)

Less than $2 million (11%)

$8 to $20 million (11%)

Number of system suppliers used

5 to 10 (29%)

More than 20 (28%)

Less than 5 (25%)

Job function

Control system engineer (26%)

Control engineer (16%)

Corporate engineer (10%)

Purchasing authority in U.S. dollars

More than $10,000 (61%)

Less than $2,000 (14%)

Tie between $2,000 to $5,000 & $5,000 and $10,000 (11% each)

Number of control systems

More than 10 (44%)

1 to 3 (22%)

4 to 6 (21%)

Number of different suppliers

4 to 6 (35%)

1 to 3 (31%)

More than 10 (20%)


Skills evaluation

Excellent

Good

Fair

Poor

Total #

Fieldbus

3%

15%

38%

45%

553

Networks

9%

41%

39%

11%

607

Computer hardware

26%

50%

22%

2%

616

Computer software

22%

55%

21%

2%

616

Control system hardware

39%

50%

11%

1%

617

Control system software

31%

51%

15%

3%

618

System integration

28%

48%

20%

4%

618

Application software design and support

19%

46%

24%

11%

608

Loop tuning

16%

40%

31%

12%

595

Process dynamic analysis and optimization

11%

36%

35%

17%

576

Debottlenecking analysis and optimization

11%

32%

37%

21%

542


System hardware and application element averages

Small

Medium

Large

Very large

Huge

Hardware elements

I/O channels

230

1,580

3,978

7,083

16,812

Controllers

9

15

29

40

163

Operator interface stations

4

7

11

20

26

Integration/application servers

2

2

2

4

6

Application elements

Discrete elements

188

670

1,627

3,075

5,508

Analog elements

70

384

1,073

2,650

3,729

Intelligent devices

6

34

97

32

413

Regulatory control

53

141

563

845

1,051

Sequences

30

119

357

193

151

Graphic displays

14

76

159

306

512


System hardware and application element as a percentage of I/O channels

Small

Medium

Large

Very large

Huge

Hardware elements

I/O channels

230

1,580

3,978

7,083

16,812

Controllers

5%

1%

0.7%

0.6%

1%

Operator interface stations

2%

0.4%

0.3%

0.3%

0.2%

Integration/application servers

0.7%

0.1%

0.1%

0.1%

0.03%

Application elements

Discrete elements

82%

42%

41%

43%

33%

Analog elements

31%

24%

27%

37%

22%

Intelligent devices

3%

2%

2%

0.5%

2.5%

Regulatory control

23%

9%

14%

12%

6%

Sequences

13%

8%

9%

3%

1%

Graphic displays

6%

5%

4%

4%

3%


System hardware and application element as a percentage of combining discrete and analog application elements

Small

Medium

Large

Very large

Huge

Hardware elements

I/O channels

89%

140%

147%

124%

182%

Controllers

4%

1%

1%

1%

2%

Operator interface stations

2%

1%

0.4%

0.3%

0.3%

Integration/application servers

1%

0.2%

0.1%

0.1%

0.1%

Application elements

Discrete elements

188

670

1,627

3,075

5,508

Analog elements

70

384

1,073

2,650

3,729

Intelligent devices

2%

3%

4%

1%

5%

Regulatory control

20%

13%

21%

15%

11%

Sequences

12%

11%

13%

3%

2%

Graphic displays

6%

8%

6%

5%

6%


System size based on I/O channel quantities

I/O channels:

Systems:

Small

0 to 999

318

Medium

1,000 to 2,999

95

Large

3,000 to 5,999

53

Very large

6,000 to 9,999

25

Huge

10,000 and more

29


User selections for "best" support services
Voted best overall
Rockwell/Allen-Bradley Voted best by system size

Small

Medium

Large

Very large

Huge

Note: System sizes are the same as defined earlier using I/O channel counts.

First

Rockwell/Allen-Bradley

Rockwell/Allen-Bradley

Westinghouse Process Control

Westinghouse Process Control

ABB & Rockwell/Allen-Bradley

Second

Group Schneider

Fisher-Rosemount & Westinghouse Process Control

Fisher-Rosemount

Rockwell/Allen-Bradley

Foxboro & Honeywell

Third

AutomationDirect.com & GE Fanuc

See tie for second.

Rockwell/Allen-Bradley

Fisher-Rosemount & Honeywell

See tie for second


Comments? E-mail dharrold@cahners.com



Among the findings:

76% of users rank remote system diagnostics important to very important, but vendors offering remote diagnostics, polled separately, report only 27% of users currently take advantage of such service offerings.

67% of users expect some sort of problem resolution within eight hours or less with 43% expecting resolution in four hours or less; only 1% of survey responders indicated they expected service to be free.

Nearly 60% of users prefer an unlimited annual service contract with another 25% indicating they prefer to pay on a per-use basis.

75% of systems (hardware/firmware and software) are either current or only one revision behind the supplier's current release, users say.

Two years was the number-one answer users expect suppliers to support legacy products (54%) and legacy systems (55%).

36% indicated suppliers should support the current and two past major software revisions with 23% declaring a need for five past revisions.

Nearly 90% of responders indicated they must keep systems current to receive supplier support, obtain bug fixes, and be able to implement product enhancements.

68% of responders indicate they will keep life-cycle planning services in house, seemingly at odds with business executives who claim they want their companies to focus on what they do best and partner and/or outsource everything else.

Suppliers report that 28 of every 100 calls/contacts received (28%) would be eliminated if users would read available documentation and/or attend training courses.

Additional survey results follow in detail, along with user comments, tables, and analysis, or "lessons learned."

Application element examples

The following examples were provided in the survey to assist users in providing quantities of application elements.

Discrete elements: Motors, pumps, switches, and push buttons.

Analog elements: Transmitters, thermocouples, and control valves.

Intelligent field devices: Robots, vision systems, and feeders.

Regulatory control elements: PID loops and control blocks.

Sequential control elements: Sequences, recipes, and operations.

During data analysis, system size categories were established based on I/O channel quantities. (See "System size based on I/O channel quantities" table.)



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Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Control Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.