Just heard from Tom Bullock whose company, Bull’s Eye Research Inc., announced that its study, “Automation System Integrators – Perceptions, Preferences, Programs,” is available for purchase. He has released some of the information, which is intriguing.

The study is based on an extensive survey of automation system integrator executives in the factory automation arena, both discrete and process control. It is compared to a similar study done in 2000 to show trends.  The most important subjects addressed are:

  • How can vendor-sponsored partnership programs be improved?
  • Which vendor-sponsored partnership program do integrators prefer?
  • Through which channels do integrators purchase automation products?
  • Which vendors do integrators prefer for each of the nine product categories?
  • What are the important features of a vendor-sponsored partnership program?
  • What types of activities are most profitable for integrators and which are least?
  • What future needs do the integrators see in each of the nine product categories?
  • How do integrators promote their businesses and which industries do they target?
  • How have integrators’ views on open architecture, PC-based control and the Internet changed?
  • Who has specification authority for products in each category and how is that authority changing?

A question asked perennially among suppliers is where is the decision making influence over specifying automation suppliers–end users, OEMs or system integrators. Bullock’s study says, “Over the next five to seven years, system integrators (SIs) expect their decision making influence to increase dramatically.”

The respondents were asked to state the degree to which their decision making influence (specification authority) will increase or decrease relative to the customer’s influence over the next 5 to 7 years in each of the 9 product categories. As can be seen, there are 5 product categories where integrators expect to be much more influential in selecting vendors and products and these all tend to be the growth products. With the more traditional products, they expect the purchase decision power to remain similar. Although those expecting an increase in influence far outstrip those expecting a decrease.

For each of the 9 product categories, the integrator was asked the percent of applications where the customer specifies the vendor, where the customer provides a list of approved vendors from which the integrator can choose, and where the integrator has complete freedom. Vendor preferences for all 9 product categories were also requested with Rockwell/Allen-Bradley leading in over half of the categories. Twenty different vendor-sponsored partnership programs were rated and integrator comments were obtained.

Because of the high growth expected, the integrator needs in each of the nine product categories were ascertained and are expected to have a significant impact on new product offerings by vendors.

The study evaluates the trends in three major areas that affect machine and process control in factory automation over the past ten years. These areas are:

  • Open Architecture
  • PC Based Control
  • The Internet

Additional information was gathered on 19 different work categories to determine which are the most profitable for integrators. Integrators were also asked to rate the effectiveness of a choice of 14 different ways that they promote their business. Word of mouth still ranks as one of the most effective vehicles for them.

The 76 page report includes over 44 color charts and graphs and is available from Bull’s Eye Research, Inc.  For further information, call 920: 929-6544 and ask for Tom Bullock.

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