Digital Platform Serves as Clearinghouse for Automation Industry

March 2015, Vol. 242, No. 3

Special To Pipeline & Gas Journal

People who work in the oil and gas pipeline industry have a convenient new way to locate experts, equipment and software they need for integrating control systems at their facilities. The Industrial Automation Exchange is an online community introduced last year by the only nonprofit, trade association for system integrators, the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). The community features profiles of system integrators and industry suppliers as well as a clearinghouse for information about industrial automation.

The new site replaces the association’s popular “Find an Integrator” directory with a more robust online platform that connects owners and operators not only with system integrators, but with the products, services and information required for an industrial automation project. The Industrial Automation Exchange offers both integrator and industry partners the opportunity to create profiles for their companies that incorporate company descriptions, graphics, screenshots of the companies’ websites, videos, whitepapers and news.

Business With People

A distinguishing feature of the Exchange is its ability to display information about the people employed by control system integration firms and industry suppliers. “People do business with people, not brands,” said Bob Lowe, executive director of CSIA. “This person-to-person approach supports our business model as an association.”

Another unique feature is the way search results are displayed. Instead of completing a form and then clicking “search,” visitors to the Exchange see results immediately. Then, using a series of filters, the users can quickly narrow results. “Sometimes, you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. The Exchange gets the visitor past that blank screen and quickly into results,” said Lowe.

CSIA members receive a free profile. Companies that do not belong to the association receive a basic listing and can purchase profiles, although pricing is structured to provide an incentive for joining the association. CSIA membership helps system integrators improve their business practices, enabling them to better serve their clients.

Membership includes an annual executive conference, educational webinars, access to the Best Practices & Benchmarks Manual and much more. Integrators and suppliers can increase their marketing exposure by purchasing advertising for specific categories of products and services. Revenue from advertising will help support the development and maintenance of the site.

Visitors to the site may create their own personal profiles. The advantage is that the site captures information that improves the user experience on subsequent visits. Anyone who creates a profile may post and answer questions in the Find an Answer section.

Oil, Gas Industries Served

A quick search of the Exchange shows 98 control system integrators and 32 manufacturers that work in the oil and gas industry. Within the same category, 19 control system integrators and 10 manufacturers serve the pipeline industry. The platform provides an online form for contacting up to five companies with a message. For example, a visitor can send one request for information to five different system integrators or suppliers.

Another time-saving feature is the networking among companies profiled on the Exchange. For example, if a pipeline operator is looking for equipment made by a particular supplier, the operator will see a list of the system integrators that are certified or authorized by that supplier. Likewise, the control system integrator’s profile will show the manufacturer partner programs they participate in.

“Being a tool for end-user owners and operators to find integrators, products and answers, the Exchange serves CSIA’s three constituents: clients – including oil and gas, suppliers and system integrators. We believe this valuable service contributes to the advancement of industrial automation globally,” said Lowe.

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