Subscribe and listen to AW’s podcast!
Subscribe and listen to the Automation World Gets Your Questions Answered podcast!
Listen Here

Salaries Take a Hit in the Process Control Supplier Industry

Compensation levels in 2010 are down by an average of 5.2 percent across all positions, says a recent report from the Measurement, Control & Automation Association.

Compensation levels in the process control supplier industry are down across the board in 2010, according to the 2010 MCAA Compensation Report, published by the Measurement, Control & Automation Association (MCAA,, a Williamsburg, Va.-based trade association for process control suppliers. In addition, the industry employs fewer people during 2010 than in the past, with the incumbent base for this year’s report down by 25 percent, when compared to the average over the past five years.

All compensation categories showed a decrease in value from 2009 with an average decline for all positions averaging 5.2 percent, the MCAA said in a Sept. 7 press release.  Hardest hit for salaries were Software Personnel, where average salaries were down by 11 percent, incentive/commission compensation was down by 66 percent and the incumbent base was down by 43 percent. Least affected by the adjustments to salaries were Product Design & Development personnel, where salaries averaged only a 0.8 percent decrease.

The MCAA is a national trade association representing manufacturers and distributors of instrumentation, systems and software used in industrial process control and factory automation. “We have reported previously that companies in the measurement, control and automation industry appeared to be replacing more experienced employees with less seasoned workers. It would appear from the data that those younger, newer employees were ones that were outplaced during the economic downturn,” the MCAA said.


The MCAA noted two caveats regarding the comparative nature of this year’s numbers. First, although the total number of companies participating in the report remained constant, 17 percent of the reporting population of companies changed—that is, nine companies participating this year while nine others elected not to contribute data. For the most part, the size of the companies in vs. out was about the same, the association said.

Second, the business downturn that started in 2008 continued throughout 2009 and into 2010, and resulted in salary freezes, wage reductions and layoffs. This had a significant impact on the base rates and incentive compensation reported in 2009 as well as the employee count noted.

Nonetheless, the association said it believes the 2010 report provides a reasonable consistency in the data, as in years past, despite the changing mix of companies year to year. The General Compensation section of the report included the following about participating companies:

•    The participating companies reported a total employee population of 7,994 including both salaried and hourly workers. This is down significantly from the 16,336 reported in 2009. The MCAA believes this is due to a large company that had reported divisional employees last year for the first time and did not continue that expanded scope in 2010. Those included in the compensation report covering salaried employees only number 2,665 or 33 percent of the workforce.

•    67 percent of the participating companies reported some freeze on salaries in 2009 which dropped to 50 percent this year, while 25 percent reported a freeze on incentive payments, down from 35 percent in 2009.

•    In this reporting population, 68 percent of the employers have some incentive plan for employees (down from 75 percent in 2009) with 89 percent of those plans being based on performance (again, down from 95 percent last year).

•    Company performance was the most important factor in determining compensation adjustments (according to 80 percent of participants) while last year, Group Performance was the critical factor.  Other factors included Regional factors/surveys, COLA (cost-of-living adjustment) and group performance.

•    Employers indicated they allocate the “money pool” in annual budgets with an average of 84 percent for merit or performance increases, with 28 percent available for market adjustments and about 13 percent earmarked for promotions.  Because there are multiple options, these averages won’t total 100 percent.

The annual report published by MCAA is targeted at salaried positions but does include an annual hourly wage rate section for both regular and temporary workers. The 51 companies who contributed data reported an average hourly rate for regular hourly employees of $16.14 (down 2.3 percent from the prior year). The average population of hourly employees was down significantly from 129 in 2009 to 65 in 2010. Conversely, nearly 50 percent of the companies this year reported using temporary hourly workers (an increase of 25 percent over 2009) and paid them an average rate of $11.81 (a decrease of 16 percent) with an average 32.5 percent agency add-on.

Category results

The report covers six job categories:

General Management Personnel—25 positions are reported here from CEO averaging more than $200,000 down to Metrologist Managers averaging less than $45,000. There was an average decrease in base salary for this group of 3.9 percent with only seven positions showing base rates equal to or more than 2009. Meanwhile, the average  incentive compensation for the group decreased a dramatic 51 percent compared to 2009 levels as companies tried to maintain the workforce by eliminating or cutting incentives (none of the positions showed any increase in incentive pay).

Field Sales and Service—This category includes 18 positions ranging from Regional Service Manager averaging $91,000 in base pay down to Service Technicians whose base rates averaged less than $47,000. The average decrease of this group was 3.1 percent with half of the positions showing increased base rates. The category saw a 25 percent loss of incumbents and a 51 percent decrease in average incentive compensation for the group.

Technical Marketing & Sales Support Personnel—Represents 11 positions and salaries ranging from Industry Market Manager at more than $96,000 base down to Inside Sales Specialist at $47,500.  Seven of the positions showed decreases in base rates from 2008 with the average change for the group down 5.2 percent. Incentive compensation was only down 6.2 percent. In this category, the MCAA continues to see a shift to lower base salaries and higher incentive payments, but the incentives in 2010 were definitely curtailed.  Again, the association sees a shift in the mix in multi-level categories where there are more employees (by percent) reported at the lowest to middle levels even though this category saw a decline in population of 23 percent.

Product Design & Development—Covers six positions and ranged from Engineering Supervisor at more than $90,000 down to Design Engineer Level 4 at less than $57,000. The category reports a drop of less than 1 percent in base salaries and an average drop of 46 percent in incentive pay.  This year, the incumbent population is half of what was reported in 2009 and appears to be a continuation of an overall reduction in emphasis on research and development (R&D) for MCAA companies and a “hunkering” position in product development through the worst of the economic uncertainty. It may also be symptomatic of the lack of qualified engineering candidates in the industry, the MCAA said.

Manufacturing Engineering Personnel—Includes three positions where the base salaries fell against 2009 levels by 7 percent and incentive pay dropped an average of 19 percent. Again, a shift was noted of more employees in the two lower levels of this category.

Software Personnel—Includes eight positions for systems and application engineers and programmers. In 2009, there was a huge upswing in the number of incumbents reported in 2009, which was normalized this year, although the number of incumbents is still 42 percent higher than either 2007 or 2008 levels. Salaries of these employees were down by more than 11 percent—the greatest decline in the report—with incentive compensation also well down (66.5 percent) and based on relatively small average dollars ($2,600).

In 2010, the Association also published its Benefits Survey as a companion piece to the Compensation Report. The trend of shifting expense to employees continues but most benefits have been maintained by participating companies during the economic slowdown without substantial program change, the MCAA said.

Measurement, Control & Automation Association

Discover New Content
Access Automation World's free educational content library!
Unlock Learning Here
Discover New Content
Test Your Machine Learning Smarts
Take Automation World's machine learning quiz to prove your knowledge!
Take Quiz
Test Your Machine Learning Smarts