Who delivers the best value? Survey gives some good answers

Several hundred plant professionals answered Plant Services' inaugural awards survey, a 63-category, unprompted, fill-in-the-blank electronic ballot. Their responses were enough to determine statistically valid scores within 3% for the categories and rankings presented. Find out who they say delivers the best value.

By Paul Studebaker

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As a plant manager, maintenance practitioner or engineer, some of the most valuable knowledge you possess is your hard-won awareness of what works and what doesn't. By buying, using, maintaining and scrapping hundreds of examples of equipment, software and services, you've winnowed out the losers and built respect for the best stuff and the vendors that provide it. But you don't have first-hand experience with everything.

Where do you turn when it's time to identify a new source for one of the many products or services your facility relies upon to meet critical cost, reliability and performance requirements? Whose opinion do you want your purchasing department? Your local reps? Magazine editors? The Web?

How about several hundred of your fellow plant professionals? That's who Plant Services polled to determine the recipients of our inaugural Readers' Choice Awards.

Early in December, we e-mailed survey invitations to 20,000 qualified subscribers asking them to "identify those suppliers you recognize as offering the best value in their product category: the products that deliver the combination of functionality, durability and low maintenance that add up to the lowest estimated lifecycle cost."

Exactly 295 respondents took on the challenge of our daunting, 63-category, unprompted, fill-in-the-blank electronic ballot, enough to determine statistically valid scores within 3% for the categories and rankings presented on the following pages.

The results are uninfluenced by Plant Services editors, sales staff or advertisers.

No losers here

The fill-in-the-blank format means every supplier has an equal chance the choices are not limited to a selection of entries determined by vendors, editors or other persons who are not practicing MRO professionals.

Every vendor named in the rankings has been designated as offering the best value by a significant number of respondents. We do not ask who has the second- or third-best offerings, so each company in the rankings is rated No. 1 by a significant following.

On the survey, we ask respondents to vote only in those categories where they have personal experience. A vote for a specific company should mean the respondent has found its products to be better than other companies' in that category. But no plant professional has personal experience with every company in a category.

Because more respondents have experience with companies that have higher market share, the results are inevitably biased toward the larger companies. Furthermore, there are certainly small companies that don't make the rankings no matter how excellent their value just because they are relatively unknown. If you have a favorite smaller supplier, consider yourself fortunate and don't be concerned that they aren't in our Readers' Choice Awards.

While we ask respondents to write in the name of the company that offers the best value, some write in the names or numbers of specific products or software packages. Wherever possible, we recognize and translate these responses into company names.

Our Readers' Choice Awards methodology is not perfect, and you have to understand how it works if you want to get the most out of it. It's not a ranking of best/better/good, but of the best in order of popularity. We hope you'll use it as we do: a reference list of brands that readers like you say offer benchmark value a veritable Who's Who of plant equipment vendors.

Congratulations and thanks

We've done our best to get experienced plant professionals people who have the necessary perspective and wisdom to judge, without prejudice or penalty, who makes the best stuff for maintenance, reliability and operations.

We express our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the hardy respondents who shared their valuable wisdom by selecting our winners.

And we congratulate each vendor mentioned in the following 63 categories on being recognized for delivering value in our 2004 Plant Services Readers' Choice Awards.

*NOTE: Differences of less than 3% are of marginal statistical significance.

Aerial work platforms

1. JLG 37%

2. Genie 29

3. Grove 8

Alignment instrumentation

1. Ludeca 52%

2. Vibralign 15

3. Computational

Systems Inc. 10

Automated storage/retrieval

1.* HK Systems 14%

MegaStar 14

Balancing instrumentation

1. Entek/IRD Balancing 27%

2.* Computational

Systems Inc. 20

Schenk Treble 18

Bearings

1. SKF 45%

2.* Timken 9

Dodge 7

4.* Fafnir 6

Motion Industries 5

NSK 4

Boiler equipment

1. Cleaver Brooks 28%

2. Babcock & Wilcox 14

3. Weil McLean 5

Chemical feeder equipment

1. LMI 20%

2. K-tron 16

Chiller equipment

1. Trane 34%

2. Carrier 27

3. York 10

Communication equipment, person-to-person

1. Motorola 77%

2. Nextel 5

Compressors

1. Ingersoll-Rand 31%

2.* Atlas-Copco 12

Quincy 12

Sullair 11

5.* Gardner Denver 7

Kaeser 6

7. Joy 3

Conveyer belting

1.* Goodyear 18%

Gates 16

3. Habasit 8

Couplings, mechanical

1. Falk 27%

2. Lovejoy 24

3.* Omega 8

Dodge 7

Motion

Industries 6

Cranes and hoists

1. Columbus McKinnon 15%

2.* P&H 10

Demag 9

Yale 9

Cylinders, hydraulic and pneumatic

1. Parker 32%

2. Bimba 12

Data collection equipment

1. Computational Systems Inc. 17%

Distributor

1. Motion Industries 18%

2. W.W. Grainger 15

Dock equipment (excluding doors)

1. Rite-Hite 38%

2. Kelley 23

Doors

1.* Overhead Door 21%

Rite-Hite 21

3. Rytec 9

Drive belts

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