Excellence in Automation: 2010 System Integrator of the Year Awards

And the winners are...... Every year since 1993, Control Engineering has compiled and updated the Automation Integrator Guide, an online resource to help readers find the design and implementation services they need for their industrial automation and control projects. Choosing among the now nearly 1,800 integrators listed can be a challenge, even with multi-parameter search capabilities.

By Vance VanDoren, Ph.D., P.E., Control Engineering December 1, 2009
  • The competition

  • The criteria

  • Winners & finalists

See sidebars below on other finalists and information about the judges.

From Left: Don Ulrich, Jack Woelber, and Don Colchin represent their winning companies: Stone Technologies Inc., Interstates Control Systems Inc., and Mustang Automation and Control.

And the winners are……

Every year since 1993, Control Engineering has compiled and updated the Automation Integrator Guide, an online resource to help readers find the design and implementation services they need for their industrial automation and control projects. Choosing among the now nearly 1,800 integrators listed can be a challenge, even with multi-parameter search capabilities.

In the summer of 2009, all of the integrators listed in the Automation Integrator Guide, every member of the CSIA, and all of Control Engineering ‘s subscribers were invited to submit essays describing their company’s system integration achievements in the areas of technical expertise, business skills, and customer satisfaction.

Entries were divided into three groups based on annual revenue: up to $10 million, $10 to $50 million, and above $50 million. Control Engineering ‘s panel of judges—eight automation experts and industry observers, listed on p. 8—reviewed entries in each group. Entrants that received one or more top-3 votes were named finalists (also listed on p. 8). The three finalists receiving the most top-3 votes in each group were named System Integrator of the Year.


* Customer comments: The entrants documented their qualifications for the title of System Integrator of the Year. Quotes were excerpted from each winner’s customer testimonials.

Don Ulrich, President

Stone Technologies Inc.

2010 System Integrator of the Year

Up to $10 million annual revenue

Stone Technologies is a national systems integrator headquartered in St. Louis with resources around the Midwest and Southeast. The company provides industrial automation and information services from conceptual design through commissioning for process control and manufacturing operations management systems, including electrical design and system development.

Stone’s focus is on the consumer products, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries. Their people have worked extensively in those industries and understand the unique challenges that must be met to deliver successful projects.

Judge Walt Kozikowski noted, “Stone Technologies seems to cover all the bases with [CSIA] certification, written policies and customer satisfaction. They even try to improve the industry through work on ISA standards panels.” Judge Tom Bullock agreed that Stone Technologies “exemplifies the CSIA-certified organization with its complete set of policies, procedures, and peer group audits.”

Bullock added, “Stone’s technical competence is enhanced by encouraging engineers to obtain project management certification and to author technical conference papers. They also encourage each engineer to become a technical expert on some subject critical to the success of the business.”

Judge Mark T. Hoske was impressed by Stone’s quest for “raving fans,” not just satisfied clients. He noted that Stone is still doing business with all 20 of the highest revenue clients they’ve worked for since 1996, averaging nine years of service and 50 projects for each. As a result, Stone has earned a profit every year and averaged a 20% annual growth rate.

Customer comments

“Efficiencies, uptime, and throughput have increased from 80% to between 85% and 90%, resulting in $100,000 savings in labor. Yield has gone up 5% … 10% more cases get out the door per week. Availability of information has created a culture of internal competition that has been driving improvements and camaraderie.”*


Jack Woelber, President

Interstates Control Systems Inc.

2010 System Integrator of the Year

$10 – $50 million annual revenue

Interstates Control Systems’ services range from traditional plant floor automation — programming, engineering, panel construction — to working with clients to determine their business needs. ICSI can automate equipment, collect data, generate reports, and interface with a client’s existing business systems.

Interstates serves a wide variety of industries from agriculture and biotechnology to chemicals/petrochemicals, food & beverage, and material handling. ICSI has three professional engineers plus several degreed engineers on staff.

Contest judge Renee Robbins noted that ICSI’s work history showed “creative problem-solving and clear dedication to doing whatever it takes to ensure that projects are successful and customers are satisfied.” She added that their engineers seem “adept at analyzing process problems and developing solutions that their clients’ in-house resources and former consultants could not solve, ensuring a high percentage of repeat-client business.”

Robbins and judge Shari Worthington also noted ICSI’s extensive budget for and commitment to employee training.

Contest judge Dennis Brandl elaborated on Interstates’ commitment to their employees by noting “their low turnover rate, continual employee feedback, on-going training and a focus on continual employee improvement.” Brandl also noted that “Interstates’ experience in plant relocation shows an attention to detail that is critically important in control system integration.”

Worthington added, “I love the new chief technologist position. It keeps the company focused on finding the best solutions for their customers.” She was also impressed by ICSI’s past projects, including the creation of the first continuous flow biodiesel plant, and a particularly challenging application where ICSI’s engineers had to “put the pieces of an existing system back together without documentation, then make it work.”

Contest judge Don Roberts summarized the panel’s impressions: “They appear to be a very well structured and run company. Their use of balanced score cards shows how well they balance their customers, processes, and employees with financial returns.”

Customer comments

“I was very impressed with the interactive process used to develop the control narrative and ultimate programming. Accessibility and responsiveness were excellent! Everyone was thorough and committed to getting things operating smoothly and properly. This was a hard project to start up due to multiple stages and long delays, yet ICSI continued to support us well even though I know we were taking time away from other, ‘newer’ projects.”*


Don Colchin, President

Mustang Automation & Control

2010 System Integrator of the Year

Above $50 million annual revenue

Mustang Automation & Control is the automation business unit of Mustang Engineering, an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) management service provider focused on the global oil, gas, chemical, petrochemical, power, and automotive industries. Their core automation experience ranges from individual projects to main automation contractor programs for large, multi-EPC projects.

Mustang Automation & Control’s services are provided by a team of automation experts supported by several hundred instrument, electrical, process, and construction professionals. More than 75% of their project work is executed as an independent systems integrator. The remainder is performed in support of Mustang’s other business units.

Based on his review of Mustang’s submission, contest judge Don Roberts concluded that “Mustang has an intensity and focus that their customers must really appreciate. There is no question that in their targeted arena they would be the integrator of choice.”

Contest judge Dennis Brandl liked Mustang’s commitment to customer satisfaction, its professional staff of over 600 professional engineers, and support for industry associations. Contest judge Shari Worthington was impressed by Mustang’s global presence and faith-based values, though expressed disappointment that they had not yet achieved CSIA-certified status.

Still, said contest judge Renee Robbins, “Mustang’s Automation & Control business unit seems to be the best all-around system integrator in this year’s [large category] line up. The company’s process control experience, vendor independence, and success with projects large and small put it ahead of the competition. Mustang extensively tracks customer satisfaction and creates detailed scorecards, defining success and creating a culture of continuous improvement. Ninety percent of its clients say they would use Mustang again.”

Customer comments

“Your team’s performance was the key component in making this a successful project. The team drove all major components of the project, field survey, detailed design, DCS configuration and on-site field support through the last cutover. At times, some tasks were difficult, but the team exhibited professionalism, persistence, ownership of the issue, and unity. Everyone analyzed the issue, developed a plan how they could contribute to the solution, and went about solving the issue. No issue was too big or complex.” *

From the 2009 edition of the Automation Integrator Guide, a supplement to Control Engineering magazine. https://www.controleng.com This annual print guide to nearly 1,800 automation system integrators is searchable online at https://www.controleng.com/integrators .

See more photos from the 2010 System Integrator of the Year winners .

See other articles in the 2010 Automation Integrator Guide .

Other finalists

Five other entrants were recognized as finalists by receiving at least one top-3 vote. Here’s a summary of their specialties:

  • Sunapsys Inc. specializes in the design and implementation of controls and information systems for municipalities, manufacturers, and OEMs.

  • Accenture helps companies achieve higher levels of performance by enabling plant-to-business integration that increases process revenues, optimizes asset reliability, and reduces environmental risk.

  • ESE Inc. blends analytical solutions with customers’ control systems to provide food analysis; system commissioning; process retrofits; electrical design and control panel fabrication; fluid, batch, and blend processes; and advanced process controls design.

  • Sigit Automation Inc. provides fit-for-purpose solutions to their clients in electrical, instrumentation, automation, and SCADA systems, including engineering and design services, programming, technical and feasibility studies, project management, and field audits.

  • TM GE Automation Systems LLC delivers variable-speed drive and motor solutions to the metals, paper, and material handling markets, as well as custom-engineered solutions for general industrial applications.

For more about these finalists, see their information in listings starting on page 27.

The judges

The judges for Control Engineering ‘s 2010 System Integrator of the Year competition 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 —retired industry director for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association

  • Renee Robbins —senior editor for Control Engineering

  • Mark T. Hoske —editor-in-chief 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. 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.