Recognizing the Best Integrators in the Business

Automation system integrators are a diverse lot, but they can generally be described as engineering contractors that design and implement computerized control systems for their clients’ industrial machinery, manufacturing lines, and automated production facilities. Examples include control, robotic, and test system integrators as well as automated machine builders and some multi-discipline...
By David Greenfield December 15, 2008
HiTech Control Systems
JMP Engineering
Brock Solutions
The judges
Online Extra: Advice in podcasts, links to more

Automation system integrators are a diverse lot, but they can generally be described as engineering contractors that design and implement computerized control systems for their clients’ industrial machinery, manufacturing lines, and automated production facilities. Examples include control, robotic, and test system integrators as well as automated machine builders and some multi-disciplinary engineering firms. Even a few of the automation industry’s equipment vendors qualify as “system integrators,” since they offer application engineering services to complement their product lines. That covers a lot of companies, from independent consulting firms to large multi-national engineering contractors. And we invited all of them to compete for System Integrator of the Year honors.

From left: Vivienne Ojala, Scott Shawyer, and Michael J. Shae represent their winning companies: Brock Solutions, JMP Engineering and HiTech Control Systems, respectively.
From right: Vivienne Ojala, Scott Shawyer, and Michael J. Shea represent their winning companies: Brock Solutions, JMP Engineering and HiTech Control Systems, respectively.

Scores of companies entered, but only three stood out as the best in their respective annual revenue classes: HiTech Control Systems (up to $10 million in revenue category), JMP Engineering ($10 to $25 million in revenue category), and Brock Solutions (more than $25 million in revenue category). These three system integrators best demonstrated their value in terms of technical expertise, business skills, and customer satisfaction. More information on their organizations follows.

Our panel of judges (see page 10) chose the winners and eight finalists based on portfolios submitted by each. Again this year, membership in the Control System Integrator Association (CSIA) and CSIA certification figured prominently in the judges’ decisions. All CSIA-certified integrators have demonstrated to a third-party auditor that they have—and use—established business procedures.

Overall, the judges were impressed by the dedication to customer satisfaction professed by so many of the entrants and demonstrated by their customers’ testimonials. A desire to finish every job properly, as well as profitably, was a common theme. Several of the winners and finalists expressed a similar interest in keeping their employees happy, as well.

The finalists

Following is a list of the finalists and their respective specialties. For more about these companies, see their listings in the directory portion of this guide, which begins on page 24 (or search online at ).

  • Martin Control Systems—PLC and HMI programming and design.

  • Insist Avtomatika—design, implementation and support of control and information systems for customers in oil and gas, metallurgy, and power supplies.

  • Emerson Process Management—automation products and technology combined with industry-specific engineering, consulting, project management, and maintenance services.

  • Tegron LP—plant consulting and information services, including manufacturing execution systems, component/material tracking, just-in-time, error proofing, lean principles, overall equipment efficiency, historian applications, and batch records.

  • Maverick Technologies—operational consulting and systems integration services that combine industrial automation, information technology, and asset reliability.

  • Interstates Control Systems Inc.—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—control, automation, and information systems for the upstream oil and gas, refining, chemical, and manufacturing industries.

  • Nova Systems Inc.—system integration, precision motion control, and specialty engineering services for manufacturers involved with leather processing, metal spinning, heavy equipment, and medical equipment.

ONLINE extra

Three winners offer advice. Click any of the following to learn more, with a link to a free podcast.

More need for outside engineering expertise, says HiTech Control Systems : Control Engineering System Integrator of the Year winner.

How system integration goals influence future: JMP Engineering ,

How to overcome the economy, grow with technology: Brock Solutions ,
Other articles in the 2009 print edition of the Automation Integrator guide .

Michael J. Shea, CEO HiTech Control Systems

HiTech Control Systems

Green Bay, WI

HiTech Control Systems, Inc. won in the up to $10 million annual revenue category. The company engineers, integrates and delivers complete automation systems, including control and information systems, PLCs, SCADA, drives and vision inspection. The company specializes in the design and build of turnkey projects including custom machines, robotics, RFID systems and custom control panels.

HiTech serves many Fortune 500 companies by reducing costs, increasing reliability, and improving quality and safety. They can help a client develop a scope, budget, design, and schedule for a project, then implement the plan with the right combination of technology and technical skills. During their 23-plus years in business, HiTech has not allowed a project to fail. They have the in-house experience and expertise to know what it takes to get a project done.

Judge Tom Bullock was impressed with HiTech’s policies and procedures, the diversity of their applications, and the number of degrees held by the company’s personnel. He also noted that “they provided six excellent examples of stepping in to salvage a bad job” — a sure sign of exceptional technical proficiency.

Judge Vance VanDoren commented on HiTech’s extensive collection of customer testimonials. “Not only has the company as a whole been recognized for its positive attitude and professional abilities, several individual contributors have been cited for serving their clients’ needs above and beyond the call of duty.”

HiTech Controls — What one customer had to say

“Your company assisted [us] in project management for a major controls project upgrade. We had four different major vendors plus various other vendors that needed to be managed to complete this project on time and within budget. We also needed to service our customers without any disruption in business. [We] operate seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. So scheduling cutovers and shutdowns around this work was no small task. I am proud to say, we met all of our goals! I want to thank you and your company for providing a service that exceeded our expectations.”

JMP Engineering

London, Ontario, Canada

JMP Engineering won in the $10 million to $25 million annual revenue category. The company provides reliable and easily maintained automation, control, and information systems that leverage current technology to meet a client’s business objectives. JMP Engineering applies domain expertise gained from more than 8,500 projects that involved improving a facility’s production performance, quality, safety, and profitability.

Scott Shawyer, president, JMP Engineering

JMP has branch offices located throughout North America with more than 125 professionals on staff. With strong project management capabilities supported by CSIA certification, they are able to meet the needs of their regional and international customers both efficiently and affordably.

Said judge Dennis Brandl, “JMP Engineering exhibits the long-term stability and dedication to growth that exemplifies the best system integrators. They have a vision for excellence, extensive technical competence, an impressive list of successful projects, satisfied customers, and also a sense of humor and family friendliness in their vision and their operations.”

Judge Shari Worthington was likewise impressed with JMP’s technical experience, as evidenced by the extensive collection of successful case histories included in the entry for this year’s award. A marketing expert herself, Worthington also pointed to JMP’s excellent marketing material, a rarity among automation system integrators.

Judge Mark Hoske was impressed by JMP’s stated goal to “engineer solutions that make our customers successful and ultimately improve the quality of life of our customers, our communities and ourselves,” meaning safer products, fulfilled employees, jobs in the local economy, safer workplaces, more enjoyable jobs, and an improved environment. Both Hoske and Brandl commented on JMP’s professed “big, hairy, audacious goal” to eventually generate $2.6 billion in annual revenue, employ 8,600 people, and speak 10 languages in 400 offices globally.

JMP Engineering — What one customer had to say

“JMP has done an exemplary job in providing our plant with a turnkey energy metering system. It’s been refreshing to work with a systems integration firm that is this flexible and adaptable with comprehensive skills in project management and general contracting. Even though their office is several hundred miles away, I have found them to be very responsive in meeting our needs as they have evolved this capital project. They have even gone out of their way to develop simple, effective solutions to problems that have been outside this project’s scope, ensuring we all look good at the project’s end.”

John Southcott, co-CEO and Vivienne Ojala, president and co-CEO, Brock Solutions

Brock Solutions

Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

Brock Solutions took the honors in the $25 million and up annual revenue category. Brock Solutions is an engineering solutions company specializing in the design, build, and implementation of controls and automation systems for manufacturing and logistics industries. From panel fabrication, through the controls layer and manufacturing execution system (MES) layer, with seamless integration into enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, Brock delivers from the “shop floor to the top floor.”

All of Brock Solutions’ 275 employees are focused on helping their clients systems perform by solving complex problems and substantially reducing operating costs within their facilities. Clients benefit from tested, reliable solutions, each of which is built on a strategic methodology, industry specialization, and engineering integrity.

Said judge Lou Zimmer, “I was impressed by Brock’s initial and continuing focus on its people and their relationships with their clients. All of Brock’s strengths were a function of their employees’ skill, experience, and commitment; not company-centric. Especially impressive was its broad scope of tools to support and recognize employees. The strength of their employees’ across-the-board competence and their involvement in professional organizations is an underlying message throughout.”

Judge Renee Robbins commented on Brock’s strong employee training and support as evidenced by “their mentor program, internal awards program, and extensive training.” On the technical side, she pointed to Brock’s expertise that is “both broad and specific: from the MES installations to panel shop operations.” She was also impressed by Brock’s list of conveyor projects, including 44 U.S. airport baggage handling systems.

Brock Solutions — What one customer had to say

“How well the controls of a baggage handling system are implemented has, above all other aspects of the system, the most significant bearing on the level of performance for the overall system. This is despite the fact that the controls portion of a baggage handling system is financially a smaller part of the overall investment. Brock Solutions has reduced this risk for [us] by providing controls for some of our best performing baggage handling systems. As a result of these successes, Brock Solutions has become [our] preferred controls supplier and currently provides us with 24/7 controls support for six of our top stations.”

The judges

The judges for Control Engineering’s 2009 System Integrator of the Year competition were:

Dennis Brandl, president and founder of BR&L Consulting and a Control Engineering “IT & Engineering Insight” columnist.

Tom Bullock, president of Bull’s Eye Research, an automation industry market research firm.

Mark Hoske, editor-in-chief for Control Engineering.

Walt Kozikowski, retired industry director for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA).

Renee Robbins, senior editor 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. Vance VanDoren, consulting editor for Control Engineering.

Shari Worthington, president of Telesian Technology, a marketing and e-business services firm specializing in the industrial automation market.

Lou Zimmer, retired marketing communications consultant (long associated with the CSIA).

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