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Citect consolidates to chase growth globally

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CITECT , one of the world’s larger independent providers of industrial automation, used the platform of its Australia/New Zealand Oceania User Conference recently to make a number of major policy and product announcements.

“I believe that the next generation of business improvement systems will come from the implementation of real-time business intelligence software and the implementation of business improvement solutions and systems,” said Richard Webb, who joined Citect as the managing director and CEO in April 2005. “Citect is well positioned with its current strong SCADA offering, emerging next generation MES [Manufacturing Execution Systems] offering, global distribution footprint, and its blue chip client base to exploit these emerging trends.”

The historically slow growth of Citect’s business over the past few years has been attributed to the structure of the sales and product development organisation and the ambiguity of department objectives.

To rectify this situation, in April this year the Citect organisation was restructured to align the sales and product development teams’ objectives and remuneration, and to focus the business on acquiring large global multinational contracts.

The restructure included setting up a new SCADA software management team, creating a global support and training team, establishing a global marketing structure, and introducing a technology development group to accelerate the introduction of new products.

Citect also appointed a number of new senior executives (including that of a senior executive from Microsoft in Europe), implemented a new global CRM and financial accounting system, restructured a few of its geographic sales organisations, introduced three new product enhancements, and launched three new products.

In Australia, the regional sales organisation was restructured, reduced in headcount size, aligned by product and industry vertical, and expanded to include the remainder of the Oceania region. In the Americas, the restructuring of the indirect sales channel commenced 18 months ago.

Citect meanwhile is expanding its operations in Oceania and the Asia Pacific by opening new offices in New Zealand, Singapore and Japan. This brings the number of Citect offices worldwide to 19. In addition, the company is evaluating expanding its direct presence in India, Latin America and the Middle East. This geographic expansion is being funded through internally generated cash flow. The cost of opening the new offices is expected to be earnings positive in 2006.

“The expansion will allow us to capitalise on the manufacturing and infrastructure project opportunities that these fast growing markets are offering,” said Webb. “To grow our SCADA and MES business in these complex markets, it is vital to have a direct presence of sales, professional services and support. That is what we are putting in place.”

In China, Citect recently established new offices in Guangzhou and Chongqing. The company is looking to further expand its operations in China over the next few years.

On the product front, Citect made three major announcements to 150 customers at its user conference.

Firstly, the company launched Switch2Citect, a conversion tool for SCADA customers that allows them to convert from one or multiple legacy systems to CitectSCADA with minimal configuration costs, time and effort. Switch2Citect provides upgrades from InTouch, Fix32, iFix and FactoryLink.

Version 6.1 is expected to be released on 23 December and Version 7 to come out during the second half of next year.

Also at the conference, Citect unveiled Ampla as the new name for its suite of MES solutions (formerly known as CitectIIM). Under the re-branding, the brand name and aesthetics change. There are no functional changes to the product. Version 2.2 is due out in November, offering improved track and trace capabilities.

In its final major announcement at the conference, Citect announced a strategic partnership with MESware, a Belgium-based MES solution provider, to extend and distribute Ampla.

Under the alliance, Citect and MESware are jointly developing analysis and control modules to be included in future releases of Ampla. Additionally, the two companies have joined forces in the promotion, integration and support of MES solutions throughout the European food and beverage market.

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