PLC I/Os led the way in 2011, DCS I/Os lagged

The latest report on the world market for I/O modules shows the market, especially for PLC I/O modules, recovered quite strongly after the recession with double-digit growth in both 2010 and 2011.


IMS Research (recently acquired by IHS Inc.) has released its latest report on the world market for I/O modules. It shows that the market, especially for programmable logic controllers (PLCs) I/O modules, recovered quite strongly after the recession with double-digit growth in both 2010 and 2011. However, recovery of the distributed control system (DCS) I/O market was somewhat slower.

I/O modules, which are mostly used with controllers, are essential components in complex industrial automation systems. By adding more I/O modules, the scope and flexibility of an entire automation system can be enhanced. PLCs, for example, can move towards their control capability to the field level by adding remote I/O modules. There are many active vendors in this market, including as suppliers of a complete range of automation products and specialists which mainly provide I/O modules.

Broadly, I/O modules can be segmented into three categories by controller type (PLCs, DCS, and industrial PCs), the most commonly used products in industrial automation. The world recession hurt the industrial automation market, with the market for each controller type falling more than 20% from 2008 to 2009. The I/O market also decreased due to the lower demand for controller products.

“The recovery since 2010 was quite exciting,” commented IMS Research market analyst Alex Hong. “As the entire I/O module market has benefited from the recovery of the controller market, especially that for PLCs.” The entire I/O module market grew more than 20% in 2010, and more than 10% further in 2011. The main contribution to growth came from PLC I/O modules because of blooming machine-builder markets.

Machine builder markets, especially in Europe and Asia, hold a strong position. Because they use PLCs widely, the demand for the I/O modules, which are attached to the PLCs, also enjoyed strong growth. On the other hand, demand for process automation has lagged somewhat. Cash flows for those projects were cut off because of the recession and this situation continued even into 2011. Thus, the market for DCS I/O modules, which is closely associated with the process industries, grew slower than that for PLC I/O modules. However, worldwide PLC I/O module revenues make up more than half of the total I/O module target, which thus had quite strong growth.

“Overall, the I/O module market will still benefit from a growing PLC market in the foreseeable future,” added Hong. "However, growth in the PLC and DCS I/O module demand will differ, mirroring the differing performance of the discrete and process automation markets.”

Additional topics covered in the 2012 edition report include:

  • Detailed revenue and unit shipment information for local and remote I/O modules.
  • The market for each product type segmented by region, control system type and functionality.
  • Further detail on the PLC I/O module market, with statistics on protection level and product types.
  • Detailed industry breakdowns for PLCs and DCS, segmented by machine builder and end-user sector.
  • Top-level data on industrial ethernet and fieldbus use with I/O modules.
  • Market share estimates for 2010 and 2011 for the leading providers of each I/O module product type.
  • Commentary and analysis discussing key market drivers.

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