PLC and PAC Product Research (September 2008)

Research was undertaken to gain a better understanding of Control Engineering subscribers’ applications and needs regarding Programmable Logic Controllers (PACs) and Programmable Automation Controllers (PACs). See full PDF report. Link to related article.


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Programmable Logic Controllers, Programmable Automation Controllers - Even in a tight economy, PLCs and PACs are hot commodities, a true testament to their control adaptability, flexibility, and multi-feature capabilities, as this product research shows.


Research was undertaken to gain a better understanding of Control Engineering subscribers’ applications and needs regarding Programmable Logic Controllers (PACs) and Programmable Automation Controllers (PACs). Scroll to the bottom of the page for a link to the full research report (PDF).

Executive Summary

• Among those specifying, recommending, and/or buying Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) and/or Programmable Automation Controllers (PACs), 83% do so for in-plant requirements, and 33% buy for OEM needs.

• Almost 40% of the average respondent’s installed PLCs / PACs are Micro (15 to 128 I/O points). Medium PLCs / PACs (128 to 512 I/O) are installed by about one-third of respondents. In addition, 49% of PLC / PAC type devices installed are used as an embedded controller with 23% mentioning they are used as a data logger or SCADA application connected to a PC.

• Serial RS-232/RS-485, 4-20 mA/0-10 V dc, and Ethernet protocol are currently the most widely used means of communications with PLCs / PACs.

• Among those who use an Ethernet protocol, 70% use it for supervisory network, 67% use it for controller to controller networking, with about half (54%) using it to control I/O connections. Among those who use Ethernet, 66% use TCP/IP as their protocol. EtherNet/IP is the second most popular protocol among this segment.

• Virtually all respondents use ladder diagrams to program PLCs / PACs. This is almost double the usage of any other programming language.

• Built-in communication support is the most important feature to survey participants when buying a programmable logic controller / programmable automation controller. Product features less important in selecting PLCs / PACs include cellular remote connectivity, hand-held setup tools, and nano controllers.

• Digital, analog, and communications are the most widely used I/O modules among those surveyed.

• Currently, the term PAC represents different things to different people. However, 37% of respondents say they are supplementing or replacing their PLC usage with PACs.

• Rockwell Automation tops the list of PLC manufacturers purchased from in the past 12 months. Virtually all of those surveyed are satisfied with their suppliers, with over half being very satisfied.

• Forty-two percent of respondents mention they have purchased 1– 5 PLCs / PACs during the past 12 months. 18% have purchased more than 20 units. 38% of respondents spent more than $50,000 in the past year on PLC / PAC purchases. The highest concentration of spending was $20,001 - $50,000.

• Sixty-one percent of respondents say that 100% of their recent purchases were PLCs as compared to only 6% PACs. Sixty-five percent of respondents mention they have not purchased any PACs in the past 12 months. 25% of respondents report their purchases of PLCs will grow in the next 12 months, while 23% expect their purchase of PACs to increase.

• Sixty-seven percent of Control Engineering subscribers responding do not receive Control Design magazine. Seventy-one percent do not receive Control.

PLC and PAC Product Research 2008

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