System Integrators of the Year for 2013
Automation Integrator Guide cover story: Control Engineering recognizes the best system integrators in the industrial automation business. The winners are...
Vance VanDoren, PhD, PE
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 multidisciplinary 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 wide range of companies from small, independent consulting firms to large multinational engineering contractors. And as we’ve done every year since 2006, Control Engineering invited all of them to compete for System Integrator of the Year honors.
Dozens of companies entered. Three stood out as the best in their respective annual revenue classes: Patti Engineering (up to $10 million), Integrity Integration Resources ($10 to $15 million), and SAIC (over $15 million). These three system integrators best demonstrated their value in terms of technical expertise, business skills, and customer satisfaction.
Our panel of judges chose the winners plus four finalists based on essays submitted by each. Entrants were not specifically required to limit their material to recent experiences, and most recounted successes from their company’s entire history. So even though they’re being recognized in 2013, this year’s winners are truly worthy of lifetime achievement awards and will be inducted into Control Engineering’s System Integrator Hall of Fame at the end of the year along with all of our past winners.
So what exactly do our judges look for when choosing the winners? We’d rather not say. Other than the selected comments presented in the profiles below, our judges’ deliberations are kept confidential lest revealing too many details should encourage future entrants to tell us just what we want to hear.
Case in point: Some integrators have declined to participate in this competition for lack of CSIA certification. They’ve noticed that 76% of past winners have been CSIA certified and concluded that CSIA certification is a prerequisite for winning System Integrator of the Year honors.
Not really. CSIA certification does reflect well on an entrant, but it is not required. After all, the largest of this year’s winners—SAIC—has triumphed for a second time without the benefit of the CSIA’s imprimatur, having demonstrated its business skills by other means.
Our best advice to would-be entrants is to think of our judges like prospective clients. Integrators that can demonstrate their qualifications for a multimillion-dollar automation job can demonstrate their qualifications for the title “System Integrator of the Year.” For complete details on entering this competition, see the System Integration Channel at www.controleng.com.
Here's a summary of the finalists and their respective specialties. For more about these companies, see their listings in the Automation Integrator Guide at http://www.controleng.com/integrators.
Insist Avtomatika – process automation for oil and gas production, oil and gas treatment, and refining.
Concept Systems – PLC/HMI systems, motion control, robotics, CNC, vision systems, MIS, and database applications. A member of the System Integrator Hall of Fame.
Malisko Engineering – manufacturing automation and validation services for production facilities in the food/beverage and pharmaceutical/life science markets.
EPIC Systems – modular process plants and systems, integrated packaging and assembly lines, custom machinery manufacturing, and machine vision system integration.
Patti Engineering - Up to $10 million annual revenue
Patti Engineering offers its clients turnkey control systems integration services for design/build, upgrade/retrofit, and asset/energy management projects. Although Patti Engineering is the smallest of the 2013 System Integrators of the Year, the company has worked on an unusually wide variety of applications in manufacturing facilities, retail distribution, municipalities, food industry, libraries, law enforcement, the military, ice arenas, colleges, and universities.
The company’s technical capabilities include electrical engineering, hardware design, hardware procurement, software development, installation, calibration, start-up testing, verification, documentation, training, and warranty support. The company’s 24 degreed and licensed engineers have developed industrial control systems incorporating manufacturing execution systems, robotics, continuous process control, and sortation.
On the business side, judge Vance VanDoren noted, “Patti Engineering has developed an extensive set of policies for general management, financial management, project management, system development lifecycle, and quality assurance that have earned it CSIA certification four times. It has literally recorded every step for all of its business procedures.”
“The company has a well-organized proposal system, and has proven itself in the toughest of situations,” added judge Tom Bullock. “Customers and suppliers have willingly given numerous testimonials on its behalf.” Bullock was also impressed with Patti Engineering’s ability to thrive in a geographic area—greater Detroit—that really didn’t need another system integrator when the company was founded in 1991.
What one customer had to say about Patti Engineering
“Patti Engineering has been a great resource as well as a great partner in several of our distribution facilities. We can count on Patti Engineering to come in and embrace a project with the ‘keep it simple’ concept. When we retrofitted our sortation systems controls, the company was able to reduce unneeded complexity that dramatically simplified the operation. Ease of diagnostics and component reliability has decreased downtime, simplified maintenance, increased reliability, and also aided us in efficiency. I can rely on Patti Engineering whether it’s a tactical emergency or a strategic modification. Patti has always provided capable people and reliable support.”
Integrity Integration Resources - $10 to $15 million annual revenue
Integrity Integration Resources (I2R) has experience is in motion control, dashboard, and SCADA systems supported by a staff of more than 30 engineers and project management professionals. Its employee/expertise matrix covers all major PLC and HMI systems and a broad range of industries.
Judge Dennis Brandl noted that “I2R has a corporate philosophy of integrity, and even has the tag line, ‘Integrity is not just our name—it’s who we are.’” He was impressed by the variety of success stories the company can tell about past automation projects as diverse as package handling, food processing, tank farm automation, and motor controls.
Judge Mark Hoske cited a particular project with a “very politically charged situation” that resulted in on-time delivery despite lack of cooperation from a prior integrator. Additional projects ensued. Hoske was equally impressed with I2R’s policy of saying “no” to projects that are likely to be more trouble than they’re worth. Before accepting a project, the company’s management considers its current workload, the match between the project’s requirements and I2R’s capabilities, the risk of a poorly defined scope, and the customer’s ability to pay.
Like Patti Engineering, I2R has earned CSIA certification in recognition of a “highly professional and methodical approach to its business,” said judge Ken Crater. He adds that “all of this is confirmed by a number of positive written testimonials from its customers.”
What one customer had to say about I2R
“I2R’s knowledge of our process and technology and the ability to tie all of these areas together is second to none. Also, its ability to work with technicians at all levels and ability to explain things in terms that are easy to understand are greatly appreciated. We’ve had several integrators for several different projects. All others fall short in comparison to I2R’s performance, skill, knowledge, and ability to deal with difficult situations as well as dealing with people from the site and other external contractors.”
SAIC Energy, Environment & Infrastructure - Over $15 million annual revenue
SAIC Energy, Environment & Infrastructure, formerly the Benham Companies and now a subsidiary of Science Applications International Corporation, is a repeat winner of System Integrator of the Year honors, having won in the competition’s inaugural competition.
The company’s Systems Integration Business Unit provides turnkey hardware and software development and integration services to just about every industry that can be automated. The company’s technical specialties include process controls, factory information / quality control, and HVAC optimization and control systems.
Judge Don Roberts quoted SAIC’s literature in summarizing the company’s qualifications for System Integrator of the Year honors: “It has an impressive set of credentials and seems clearly focused on ‘bringing the right people, technology, and systems together’ to deliver ‘the innovative, integrated solutions customers require.’”
And though SAIC is not a CSIA-certified integrator, judge Rob Carter noted that “it can boast 21 different ISO standard awards and certification in quality six sigma procedures.” Carter was equally impressed with the company’s broad customer base and two especially successful projects—one that showed “an ability to work well with existing infrastructure” and another that showed “an ability to successfully address new problems.” It’s no wonder that SAIC enjoys 80% repeat business.
What one customer had to say about SAIC
“We just completed a multimillion-dollar vibration facility and reverberant acoustic chamber, the most powerful and complex of their kind anywhere in the world. SAIC was responsible for the control room, the HMI, and the PLC programming and for making them all work together as a unit. The company successfully managed its subcontractors’ efforts as well as its own parts of the project. We were able to come in, sit down, and operate the finished control system without having to tailor the software in any way. It was truly a turnkey project. We’ve run the system several times with minimal problems. What problems we’ve had SAIC has come in and fixed under warranty, and it has given us no heartache at all about coming back and modifying the programming to our satisfaction.”
The judges for 2013
The judges for Control Engineering's 2013 System Integrator of the Year competition were:
- Paul Barnard – insurance program manager for the CSIA and president of Taylor Gembridge financial advisors
- 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
- Mark 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
- Vance VanDoren, PhD, PE – contributing content specialist for Control Engineering and editor of the Control Engineering Automation Integrator Guide
- Michael Workman, PhD – professor emeritus of the Industrial Distribution faculty at Texas A&M University
- Ken Crater – founder and Chairman of Control Technology Corporation, a manufacturer of automation controllers
- Rob Carter – senior analyst for fluid power, process, and instrumentation with market research firm IMS Research
Note: Customer comments were excerpted from customer testimonials provided in entrants’ documentation provided in their application for Control Engineering System Integrator of the Year.
- Vance VanDoren, PhD, PE, is contributing content specialist for Control Engineering. Reach him at ControlEng(at)msn.com. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, mhoske(at)cfemedia.com.
See prior winners, in the System Integrator of the Year Hall of Fame: www.controleng.com/SIY
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