Networks, computing purchasing for automation

Purchasing Industrial Computing and Networking, August 2022: Control Engineering research says one-third of buyers would switch vendors; half would consider given good reason; just 15% were very satisfied. For responses to a write-in question, honesty was most important.

By Mark T. Hoske September 9, 2022
Courtesy: Control Engineering Purchasing Industrial Computing and Networking Report, August 2022

 

Learning Objectives

  • In the last 18 months, about one-third of respondents to a Control Engineering survey on industrial computing and network device purchasing said supply chain issues have not improved or worsened.
  • Most respondents purchase industrial computing and network devices as part of a team.
  • Among leading products and services expected to be purchased in the next 12 months: industrial computers, and networking devices for IIoT devices, cybersecurity and I/O uses.

Industrial Computing, Networking Device Research Insights

  • Control Engineering research on purchasing industrial computing and networking devices found little loyalty among buyers, with about a third of respondents ready and willing to switch suppliers. Cost comparisons and access to engineering talent is important to those purchasing industrial computing and networking devices.
  • Among write-in device, honesty among vendors of industrial computing and networking devices was the most important issue. Acknowledgement of industrial computing and networking devices to automated production was clear among advice offered, including for remote monitoring and preventive maintenance.

Eighty-five percent of those involved with industrial computing and networking devices and systems are open to other options when purchasing such automation in the future, according to Control Engineering research on “Purchasing Industrial Computing & Networking, August 2022.”

Among survey respondents, 8% said they were very interested in new purchasing options; 27% said they were interested in other purchasing options and weren’t tied to their current supplier; half said they were somewhat interested, though would need a good reason to switch suppliers. Only 15% were very satisfied with their current suppliers.

Industrial computing, networking research: Access to engineers, honesty

Research shows that vendors seeking to retain industrial computing and networking devices business should ensure they provide buyers with access to knowledgeable engineers, not just the sales department (79%). Five other ways to retain business in these areas of automation purchasing, in a statistical dead heat, from 58% to 52%, respectively, were:

  • Honest answers and information, including product lead time, competitive advantage
  • Demonstrate competence and dependability
  • Responsiveness
  • Product data sheets
  • Technical accuracy of information and feedback

Industrial computing and networking device vendors seeking to attract new business need to provide cost comparisons, upfront and long-term; provide access to knowledgeable engineers, not the sales department; and deliver honest, correct information (each around 62%).

In the Control Engineering survey and study, “Purchasing Industrial Computing & Networking, August 2022,” among survey respondents, 8% said they were very interested in new purchasing options; 27% said they were interested in other purchasing options and weren’t tied to their current supplier; half said they were someone interested, though would need a good reason to switch suppliers. Only 15% were very satisfied with their current suppliers. Courtesy: Control Engineering Purchasing Industrial Computing and Networking Report, August 2022

In the Control Engineering survey and study, “Purchasing Industrial Computing & Networking, August 2022,” among survey respondents, 8% said they were very interested in new purchasing options; 27% said they were interested in other purchasing options and weren’t tied to their current supplier; half said they were somewhat interested, though would need a good reason to switch suppliers. Only 15% were very satisfied with their current suppliers. Courtesy: Control Engineering Purchasing Industrial Computing and Networking Report, August 2022

Original automation research; survey method, margin of error

Survey methods: 133 subscribers to Control Engineering answered the emailed survey questions, for a 95% confidence level and margin of error of plus or minus 8.5%. Responses were collected from July 14, 2022, to August 2, 2022.

Industrial computing, networking purchasing, products

How has the research and purchasing process changed in the past 18 months? For industrial computing and networking devices, 35% there’s been no significant change. Among other responses, more respondents have seen longer wait times than shorter.

Most, 61%, work on a team or committee when purchasing industrial computing and networking devices or systems.

In the computing area, half of respondents expected to see an increase involving industrial computers in the next 12 months. The next four were in a statistical tie for second: human-machine interface (HMI)/flat-panel computer, computer systems, cloud computing and server-based computing.

In the networking area, the leading products and services, in a statistical tie for first (within margin of error) were Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) at 45%, and cybersecurity and input/output (I/O) and networking adaptors, cards and modules both at 37%.

In the Control Engineering survey and study, “Purchasing Industrial Computing & Networking, August 2022,” most, 61%, work on a team or committee when purchasing industrial computing and networking devices or systems. Courtesy: Control Engineering Purchasing Industrial Computing and Networking Report, August 2022

In the Control Engineering survey and study, “Purchasing Industrial Computing & Networking, August 2022,” most, 61%, work on a team or committee when purchasing industrial computing and networking devices or systems. Courtesy: Control Engineering Purchasing Industrial Computing and Networking Report, August 2022

Automation value of industrial computing, networking devices

One question asked, “What advice would you like to give to manufacturers, users or system integrators of industrial computing and networking devices or systems?” Among the 133 respondents, 65 provided industrial computing and networking devices or systems advice. Two leading areas of concern are honesty/credibility and integration/engineering/support.

Think again about trust when purchasing industrial computing and networking devices or systems. Key advice about industrial computing and networking devices or systems (lightly edited) includes:

Focus on optimization: Rich flow of monitoring data from smart, connected products, coupled with the capacity to control product operation, allows companies to optimize product performance in numerous ways, many of which have not been previously possible. Smart, connected products can apply algorithms and analytics to in-use or historical data to dramatically improve output, utilization, and efficiency. Real-time monitoring data on product condition and product control capability enables firms to optimize service by performing preventive maintenance when failure is imminent and accomplishing repairs remotely, thereby reducing product downtime and the need to dispatch repair personnel. Even when on-site repair is required, advance information about what is broken, what parts are needed, and how to accomplish the fix reduces service costs and improves first-time fix rates.

Availability of parts is very important, but so is communication. Even if it is bad news about delivery or other information, responsiveness is a must. Price increases need to be done with a long-term outlook.  Manufacturers are starting to offer “value-added” services that are pushing the local distributors and integrators out of the way. In my opinion, this is somewhat of a nuisance and interrupts the established relationships that are necessary for good information technology (IT) function and support. I would rather talk to my local networking integrator than a manufacturer trying to take some of the pie that already belongs to the local integrator.

The market will only bear so much cost until the machine will no longer be cost-effective for the end-customer.

Be available, honest, forthright and competent. Listen to perspectives other than your own.

Clear, representative data sheets are the most important aspect of a system.

Complete detailed specifications for wiring/data integration and example use cases. Complete information on failure behaviors and provide more details on troubleshooting.

Do not lie to customers on delivery dates just to get an order. You will lose customer faith quickly.

Make product integrate-able with existing customer solutions; allow product scalability, ease of maintenance, lower lifecycle costs.

Take the time to understand the problem at hand or how an enhancement will result in more productivity.

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, mhoske@cfemedia.com. Research performed and compiled by Amanda Pelliccione, CFE Media and Technology research director.

KEYWORDS: Purchasing research, industrial networks, industrial computing

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Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.