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Selecting the right suppliers for equipment or services can be tough but also crucial. Plant performance and even competitiveness can depend upon making the soundest choices. A company’s approved vendors list, however, only really provides a perspective of which suppliers have performed acceptably in the past, not which have the best technology.
It makes sense to identify which firms are technology leaders early in the purchasing process. After all, you want to ensure that you ask for quotes from these vendors; perhaps you will need time to convince corporate to allow a company to bid if it is not on the approved vendors list. Knowing which suppliers are top technically also may help you decide among competing bids. (Comparing such proposals fairly can pose substantial challenges, as last month’s article “Which is the best hardware quote,” p. 23, showed specifically for distillation column internals.)
But how can you pinpoint the suppliers with the best technology? If you are lucky, you can locate people with extensive experience in particular areas who can give you guidance. Unfortunately, the availability of such specialists is dwindling as the ranks of skilled veterans thin. And, anyway, there probably are lots of areas for which you can’t easily find knowledgeable unbiased sources.
For insights on a broad range of technical topics, you can turn to the new “Ask the Experts” feature on our Web site. However, while these authorities will provide real-world guidance, they will not specify specific vendors.
So, where can you turn? The Chemical Processing Readers’ Choice Awards.
Last year we inaugurated the awards to let readers share their perspectives about which vendors are technical leaders. This year’s survey provides updated results for a wide variety of products and services employed at chemical plants. We hope that you will find them interesting and valuable.
Readers were alerted via email and electronic newsletters and on our Web site about the on-line questionnaire. A total of 276 tackled the extensive survey form. This involved typing a single choice into a blank text box rather than picking from a pre-selected list of companies for each category. By not restricting the inputs, we eliminated a potential source of bias. However, this significantly added to our workload in compiling the results because many respondents entered the names of divisions, predecessor companies or specific products or used inaccurate, and sometimes quite creative, spellings for names. Suffice it to say that we paid considerable attention to properly matching these inputs with the appropriate company.
This time, the survey covered 46 categories, up a couple from last year. For the first time, we can present results on computerized maintenance management systems, laboratory and quality systems, lubricants, materials of construction, and pneumatic conveying systems. (We welcome your suggestions for additional categories for the next survey.)
Respondents generally offered opinions only on those categories about which they had the most familiarity. The number of responses for a category reasonably reflects how widespread the use of that type of technology is in the chemical industry. The categories garnering the most responses were flow instrumentation and centrifugal pumps, followed by valves, level instrumentation and pressure instrumentation.
In five categories, only a single company received votes from more than 5% of the respondents, while in eight categories, at least five firms exceeded the 5% mark. In more than a quarter of the categories, one vendor alone garnered a third of more of all responses. In some categories, a dozen or more suppliers received at least one mention.
Kudos go particularly to Emerson Process Management which came in a strong first in seven categories. Aspen Technology got top marks in two categories, while Alfa Laval won one and tied for the top spot in another.
Following are the detailed results, showing companies that got 5% or more of the votes cast in a particular category We consider scores within 3% of each other to be statistical ties.
Babcock & Wilcox 14%
Süd Chemie 6%
Goulds Pumps – ITT 39%
Andritz Bird 15%
Alfa Laval 14%
Atlas Copco 9%
Cooper Turbocompressor (Joy) 7%
Gardner Denver 6%
Computerized Maintenance Management Software
Carrier Vibrating Equipment 6%
Dust Control Systems