The best in automation system integration, 2011
Ever since Joseph Marie Jacquard automated his first textile loom in 1801, a host of equipment vendors, contract engineering firms, and individual experts have offered their services to help factory owners automate their facilities. For the last 18 years, Control Engineering has been cataloging all such sources of automation engineering services in our annual Automation Integrator Guide.
Of the 2,130 system integrators listed in the Guide’s database, only a few stand out as truly superior. In each of the last five years, a panel of judges selected by Control Engineering for their familiarity with the automation system integration industry has sought to identify three system integrators particularly worthy of recognition for their technical expertise, business skills, and customer satisfaction.
This year, the judges chose Martin Control Systems, ASECO Integrated Systems, and Maverick Technologies as the 2011 System Integrators of the Year in the up to $10 million, $10 to $25 million, and over $25 million annual revenue categories, respectively. These winners, plus six finalists, were selected based on essays each submitted in response to a series of openended questions including:
• Have you ever successfully completed a project that had previously proven too difficult for the client’s in-house engineers or another system integrator?
• Have you ever completed any self-evaluations or undertaken any in-house initiatives to formalize your business procedures?
• Do you have procedures for tracking customer satisfaction and redressing their grievances?
Common attributes, highlights
Several factors impressed the judges, as noted in each winner’s profile below. Certification by the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) proved to be a particularly noteworthy attribute common to all three of this year’s winners. They’ve all been audited by the CSIA and successfully demonstrated their adherence to the organization’s best practices and benchmarks in the areas of general management, human resources, project management, quality management, financial management, business development, and technical management.
Judge Dennis Brandl found several other attributes common to all the winners. “My top three choices all have a history of successful projects and happy customers. They are highly professional with formal training and numerous staff certifications in the important technologies for control system implementations. All three have demonstrated growth in difficult economic conditions, through a strong focus on customer satisfaction.”
Judge Don Roberts also noted that the overall quality of the integrators entering the System Integrator of the Year competition has improved over the years. “It is clear by looking at the submissions from the first competition compared to this year, that there has been a significant ‘raising of the bar.’ I like to think that it is through competitions like this and the efforts of the CSIA that we are seeing these developments.”
For more from the CSIA about their efforts to “raise the bar” in the control system integration industry, see executive director Bob Lowe’s annual report: CSIA 2010: Growth, Change.
Here are summaries of the finalists and their respective specialties.
Superior Controls designs and implements turnkey industrial automation and information systems in the biotechnology, food and beverage, energy, and chemicals industries.
Concept Systems, a member of the System Integrator Hall of Fame, focuses on automation and information systems for manufacturing partners.
Insist Avtomatika designs, implements, and supports control and information systems for customers in the oil and gas, metallurgy, and power supplies industries.
Accenture (at www.controleng.com/integrators) helps companies achieve higher levels of performance by enabling plant-to-business integration that increases process revenues, optimizes asset reliability, and reduces environmental risk.
Avanceon, a member of the System Integrator Hall of Fame, specializes in the development of real-time performance management systems for the process and discrete manufacturing industries.
Optimation offers engineering and design of process and mechanical systems, controls and system integration, fabrication and installation, and construction and maintenance services.
Martin Control Systems, Inc., www.martincsi.com, Up to $10 million annual revenue category
MartinCSI specializes in PLC-based systems, including electrical engineering, control panels, and commissioning. It works primarily for OEMs and automation users in regulated industries— pharmaceuticals, food, beverage, and nutrition.
Over 80% of the company’s business comes from repeat clients, some of whom have been working with MartinCSI since its founding in 1993. MartinCSI’s ability to meet its clients’ objectives was one of the attributes that put it at the top of judge Tom Bullock’s rankings. According to Bullock, MartinCSI has “good success stories, a feedback database, a well-organized proposal system, a project closure procedure, and formal survey cards to uncover problems.”
Judge Vance VanDoren agreed. “MartinCSI’s clients attest not only to their technical competence when executing a project, but to their ability to propose a workable solution during the bidding process. MartinCSI clearly goes above and beyond the call of duty even before they’ve landed the contract.”
Bullock added, “Martin Control Systems follows the CSIA Best Practices and Benchmarks with its complete set of policies, procedures, quality control, and assessment of customer satisfaction. They go the extra step in promoting their staff and the skills of each member and have a profit sharing reward system.”
A MartinCSI customer in automotive parts industry said…
“The entire group worked very well together throughout the fabrication and installation and addressed every concern we had with the final testing. I appreciated the follow-up calls to ensure all issues had been taken care of with production. I look forward to this next installation and feel a little less stressed knowing how well this team works together.”
ASECO Integrated Systems Ltd., www.aseco.net, $10 to $25 million annual revenue category
ASECO offers a range of automation engineering services, including shop floor controls, SCADA systems, ERP integration, and manufacturing execution systems. The company uses its knowledge of manufacturing processes to implement solutions that directly address a client’s business and manufacturing objectives.
ASECO’s industry expertise includes advanced fiber materials, automotive, consumer packaged goods, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, metals, tobacco, and utilities. It can design, develop, test, and commission an integrated automation system and train the plant’s personnel to use it.
“Even their competitors praise their abilities,” said judge Mark T. Hoske, “and they handily exceeded their CSIA certification requirements.” He was also impressed by the company’s double-digit growth in each of the last three years and the reusable software modules it has developed to facilitate its integration projects.
Judge Shari Worthington noted that much of ASECO’s business is from existing clients—an indication of how well the company satisfies its customers. Furthermore, “their CSIA certification tells me they have their business processes well in hand,” and “their impressive development relationship with Invensys Operations Management whereby they contribute to the development effort and provide input during betas” demonstrates the company’s technical expertise.
An ASECO product development partner said…
“What makes ASECO unique is the fact that they have a wide range of expertise, and it is well balanced. They are strong in all three fields of system integration—automation, MES, and IT—while most SI’s have a primary focus with limited expertise in others. In their project teams, they never rely on a single person but rather on a dedicated team, and they always have a few people they can rely on for a specific task. Customers have always been their number-one focus. Even if the customer problem has nothing to do with their implementation, they will always volunteer to help solve the issue.”
Maverick Technologies, www.mavtechglobal.com, Over $25 million annual revenue category
Maverick Technologies is a global provider of industrial automation, enterprise integration, and sustaining services for clients across a range of manufacturing and process industries. Maverick identifies suboptimal operations and improves performance for greater safety, efficiency, and overall profitability.
Judge Paul Barnard was impressed by the extent of Maverick’s global reach and noted that its customer references were both “numerous and glowing.” He also commented on the company’s “clear commitment to a well-defined project methodology and quality control procedures.”
The judges also found that Maverick Technologies excels in how it treats its own employees. Judge Renee Robbins Basset was particularly impressed by Maverick’s in-house university. Founded in 2007, Maverick University supports employee requests to create a learning organization. The organization presents live courses and seminars and offers a catalog of 1,200 online courses. The company’s skills database is used to match employee skills to project teams, and an extensive list of partner affiliations expands the company’s reach and resources.
Maverick Technologies by the numbers:
- 650 employees
- 23 global locations
- 1,000 resources, vendors, and partners
- 50 partnership locations worldwide
- 11,000 years of combined experience
- 6,000 projects completed
- 43 international worksites
A Maverick machine tool customer said…
“We had a horrible experience with our previous business partner before talking to Maverick and were a little leery restarting our project. But we’ve had a great experience working with them over the last six months. Even though our employees were dedicated to completing this project on time and on budget, I can honestly say that we couldn’t have done it without Maverick’s personnel.”
The judges for Control Engineering’s 2011 System Integrator of the Year competition:
- 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.
- Renee Robbins Basset – a former senior editor for Control Engineering who now helps growing companies communicate more efficiently and effectively online, in print, and at events.
- Mark T. Hoske – content manager 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.
- Shari Worthington – president of Telesian Technology, a marketing and e-business services firm specializing in the industrial automation market.
- Vance VanDoren, PhD, PE – contributing content specialist for Control Engineering and editor of the Automation Integrator Guide.
- Russ Novak – research director at ARC Advisory Group, a research and advisory firm for industry and infrastructure.
- Paul Barnard – insurance program manager for the CSIA and president of Taylor Gembridge financial advisors.
*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.
Also read: How to Avoid Project Failure.