What’s in store for the operator terminal and IPC markets?

The sentiment among suppliers is that 2012 will be a strong year because of advance orders and strong overall sales in 2011.


The world markets for industrial PCs (IPCs) and operator terminals were estimated to be worth just under $2.1 billion and $1.9 billion respectively in 2010.  Together, it is estimated that these product types accounted for just less than 8% of all automation equipment revenues in 2010. Since the highs of 2008 and the lows of 2009 the markets for both products have bounced back strongly.  However, given the current economic uncertainties, what’s in store for these markets over the next twelve months?

Currently, the general sentiment of suppliers is that 2012 will be another strong year. They continue to have full order books at least for the first 6-9 months of next year. This is somewhat surprising, when we see endless doom-and-gloom articles in the media about the increasing likelihood of a global double-dip recession. Recent data also shows that both the IPC and operator terminal markets fared well in third quarter this year. World IPC figures for the first three quarters of 2011 were up over 24% on the same period in 2010. Comparably, regional growth figures of 18%, 29% and 23% were estimated for Americas, Asia Pacific and EMEA respectively; although Asia Pacific revenues did drop slightly in the third quarter this year following a very strong result in the second quarter.
The operator-terminal quarterly market tracker of IMS Research recorded similar results. Operator terminal revenues from the Americas, Asia Pacific and EMEA all had estimated strong growth in the first three quarters of 2011. Each region was up by 32%, 19% and 12% respectively compared with the same period in 2010. 

Graph showing Combined IPC and Operator Terminal regional market revenues and growth by quarter. Courtesy: IMS Research

Within each major region, there are countries and vertical sectors driving the adoption of IPCs and operator terminals. In Asia, the market in China is projected to continue to grow very strongly to 2015. China’s IPC revenues are projected to far exceed those generated from the United States and Germany within five years. Chinese IPC revenue growth is largely being driven by the continually increasing manufacturing base, increasing automation of processes as labour costs rise, and high levels of government investment in infrastructure. 

World IPC and operator terminal revenues from machine builder and end-user sectors such as automotive and utilities are projected to grow faster than average to 2015. In the utilities sector, automation adoption is being driven by different factors in developed and developing regions. In countries like China and India, there is a need to expand water/wastewater and power generation/distribution capacity - the infrastructure to cope with ever increasing urban population. In developed countries like Germany and the US, a huge part of the infrastructure that exists is either reaching the end of its life or needs to be more intelligent. Governments will come under huge pressure to replace these facilities to maintain living standards. For IPCs in particular there also remains strong demand from areas other than the traditional industrial automation sectors. They include transportation and infrastructure, and the medical and military sectors.

Profile photo of Mark Watson, Research Manager, Control and Visualization for IMS Research. Courtesy: IMS ResearchOverall, the short- and long-term outlook for both the IPC and operator-terminal markets is very positive. The current economic situation will undoubtedly have an impact; but when this will be felt and how severe it will be is up for debate.  One thing is for sure, IPC and operator terminal suppliers should always be looking to expand their business beyond the familiar factory-automation sectors. Selling into emerging and generally quicker growing sectors should help to limit the impact of further economic downturns.   

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