METQUIP Systems is celebrating its 10th anniversary as the sole distributor of Wonderware products Australia-wide.
The name itself however has been around for a long time and is a synonymous of automation software in industry, getting on to 20 years.
The company started trading in 1987 in Sydney (North Ryde) as a division of Metquip, which was owned by Bateman Corporation, a South African mining equipment and engineering conglomerate.
Metquip Systems is one of the early pioneers in software for industrial automation.
The company was set up to provide SCADA systems and software products to industry, with its main operations conducted from the Sydney office with sub-distributors in other states.
In the early 1990s and heading towards the middle of that decade, a number of takeovers and amalgamations took place on the world scene that saw many leading brands swallowed up by multinational vendors. Around that time, the pervious management at Metquip saw the need to make radical changes in the structure of this division and review the alignment of their partners.
1995 was a pivotal year for Metquip Systems: it was appointed by Wonderware as the national distributor in Australia.
During the same year, Jose Lobato, the current general manager of Metquip Systems, joined the company as sales manager for New South Wales.
Lobato is an electrical engineer and, at the time of joining Metquip Systems, had worked in the automation industry for over 10 years.
Because Wonderware’s business model is to work globally through distributors, the alliance gave Metquip Systems a “de facto” presence nationwide.
The company dispensed with its sub-distributors and moved to a direct model, thereby being able to service the market horizontally.
Today, Metquip Systems is an independently owned organisation with established offices in Melbourne, Brisbane and most recently in Perth. It provides product sales, technical support and training as well as consulting services.
“Our focus at the time was to go beyond the traditional and well established SCADA platform, by dedicating ourselves as a complete software supplier, from ‘sensors to boardroom’,” said Lobato.
“We clearly saw that, to be able to achieve this, not many suppliers had the right technology and the right infrastructure to deliver real products out of the box,” he added. “We went with Wonderware because, at that time, no other company had the vision, strategic direction and leadership committed to fulfil these goals.”
Ten years ago, Wonderware was emerging as a multi-supplier of software products.
Based in Lake Forest, California, the company has been in operation since 1988. It currently employs over 400 employees globally. Wonderware products are sold in every country.
Ten years ago, Wonderware had three main products in its line-up complementing InTouch, a leading HMI. Some of these products have contributed to the core technology that has emerged recently - like InTrak (Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and tracking), InBatch (batch management) and Industrial SQL (plant historian).
Today, Wonderware offers additional core products, as well as the emerging ArchestrA technology and Industrial Application Server (IAS).
Many of these are already major brands like ActiveFactory (reporting tools), Suite Voyager (web analysis and plant portal), Downtime Analyst (downtime and OEE reporting), SCADA Alarm (alarm annunciation by phone and mobile communications), IAS (Industrial Application Server) and PEM (production event module - for product tracking inside ArchestrA/IAS).
For the past two years, Wonderware has supplied industrial tablets and touch panel computers with combined InTouch HMI software.
IN addition to Metquip Systems’ alliance with Wonderware, the company has been in a partnership agreement since 1999 with another major supplier of software tools, Northwest Analytical (NWA). Also based in the US, NWA provides statistical process control and quality assurance software tools.
Since those early days, Lobato has seen the complete transformation of Metquip Systems into what it is today.
“Our company continues to excel in a tough market and has been able to expand to levels that many of our competitors could only dream of,” he said. “Many of them have ceased or simply disappeared from the industrial automation sector.”
Year on year, the company has been achieving growth on average of between 15 and 20 percent.
Aside from administrative personnel, Metquip Systems’ staff have engineering or technical backgrounds, and focus on business development and accounts management.
According to Lobato, the cornerstones to the company’s stability reside within its products, people and know-how.
Unhesitatingly, he credits Wonderware with being a key strength to Metquip Systems’ survival and success.
“Firstly, Wonderware’s ability to provide all the necessary diverse tools and out-of-the-box products has enabled us to penetrate a broader set of industry sectors and expand our customer base,” said Lobato,
“Secondly is Wonderware’s leadership in continuously releasing new products, giving real value to our end users in being able to maintain their investment and migrate many applications. Our software maintenance program is a true testimony of this fact.
“Wonderware has a huge investment in ArchestrA and IAS technology, which no competitor can offer,” he added.
“By enabling the object-based deployment of re-usable objects, this technology accelerates engineering and maintenance, drastically reduces the time in providing automation solutions, and provides a sustainable, long term application.”
Lobato says IAS is enabling his company to move into sectors of the market previously undreamt of - like the telecommunications sector.
He also attributes Metquip Systems’ success as deriving from its individuals and “the autonomy and sense of independence that have been driven through Wonderware’s business model”.
“I realised very early on that, in order to survive in the software business, we needed to invest substantially in developing our people,” Lobato said. “We also had to be prepared to endure two to three years of developing end-users before any substantial sales were realised. Consequently, by understanding the technology, our people are able to present the business benefits and ROI (return on investment) to our customers.”
Lobato describes his staff as being the team with which he shares the responsibility of running the business and with whom many diverse decisions are made across the various states in which Metquip Systems operates.
“Business today can no longer sustain ego-driven organisations which attribute their success to single individuals or group of individuals,” he emphasised, noting that that the company has had “very little turnover if any” of staff over the past 10 years.
In paying tribute to his team as being the backbone of the success that Metquip Systems has achieved, Lobato notes that the combined engineering experience of staff members exceeds 60 years.
“You have to have a passion in software, and a clear motivation and hunger for new technology, to be able to make it in this industry,” he said.
Lobato predicts that the company will continue to expand its presence and market share nationally.
“We are strong in a broad spectrum of industry,” he said. “Areas where we have achieved our biggest growth in the past five years have been in food and beverage, dairy products, steel, wastewater, mining and packaging.”
In particular, Metquip Systems is experiencing tremendous growth in the use of Industrial SQL, IAS and Downtime Analyst.
Lobato notes that 10 years ago a number of established brands serviced the market. Now there are only two independent players left.
“That has to say volumes about Metquip Systems’ continued ability to excel as a software supplier in industrial automation,” he said. “As the industry evolved, we remain the only independent supplier organisation of automation software.”
He adds as a potent conclusion, “Don’t forget, the nature of the software sector in industrial automation remains one of the toughest and most competitive environments. Even so, we are in business for the long haul.”