PLC investments: Low and scattered; ‘brighter' in emerging economies
PLC investments driven by desire for machine productivity and energy efficiency, says IMS Research.
After a sharp contraction in 2009, the recovery of the global market for PLCs is expected to be slow throughout 2010, according to Jan Zhang, senior market research analyst, Industrial Automation Group, IMS Research .
PLC sales, which are perceived to be the first step toward complete factory automation market recovery, are predicted to show uneven progress depending on global region and product type. But, "the PLC market outlook in 2010 is brighter for emerging economies," said Zhang, who is based in Shanghai.
"Although financial conditions have already improved more than expected during the second half of 2009, the global recession is not over, and response of global manufacturing industries is generally slower than the change in the general economy," said Zhang.
There are indications that manufacturing was starting to pick up during the second half of 2009. "Loadings have been strengthening for several months, and volumes are finally looking stronger than at the end of 2008," said Zhang. "For compact PLCs, which are typically aimed at high volume, less engineering-intensive OEM applications, the figures have been and will still be largely driven by the rapidly developing regions of China, Eastern Europe, Russia, India and Latin America."
As for modular PLCs, they will still be the most significant part of the PLC family, generating the largest proportion of PLC revenues, said Zhang. "Enhancing the price-performance ratio of standard modular PLCs will enable them to do more jobs that larger, more expensive PLCs did previously. High-end modular PLCs will continue to evolve into fully-fledged automation controllers, penetrating the hybrid or process applications that were traditionally DCS strongholds."
Zhang said government stimulus programs, increasing consumer demand, and continuing globalization of production are all driving projected growth in the emerging markets mentioned above. Globalization has caused manufacturers to invest in developing economies to create new capacity in electric power generation and transmission, to expand chemical and pharmaceutical industries, and to exploit natural resources, he said.
"From a global perspective, the drive behind investment in PLCs is coming more from the desire to enhance machine productivity and, at the same time, to become more energy-efficient. OEMs have to take into consideration machine operating variables for a wide spectrum of their clients' plant use, as well as the integration of equipment that will interface with them. End users are increasingly demanding a more efficient automation process," said Zhang . "Once the economic situation recovers, more upgrades of existing facilities or more process optimization will take place. Improving PLC compatibility and function flexibility is therefore extremely critical for PLC manufacturers, to be prepared for when market growth resumes."
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