Automation market at cross roads

Factories of the future to meld high technology with evolving market demands

The field of industrial automation (IA) is at a cross roads. All major IA vendors acknowledge that the automation and control solutions (ACS) product portfolio is nearing saturation, either directly or indirectly. A major trend underlining this development is the narrowing product definition between individual ACS products, in particular the programmable logic controllers (PLC) and distributed control system (DCS) product line.

Automation at crossroads!

A new analyst insight from Frost & Sullivan on the Automation & Control Systems (ACS) Market examines the current market scenario and future landscape, as well as details on game changers in factories of the future. On optimistic estimates, the European distributed control systems market and programmable logic controllers market are expected to reach €6.45 billion in 2017.

“Vendors have currently emerged with hybrid products that combine PLC and DCS functionality as a means to counter high competition and gain end-user recognition,” according to Frost & Sullivan Senior Research Analyst Karthik Sundaram. “Despite economic advantages, the emergence of such products has clouded end-user perception to a large extent, and it remains to be seen if this technical strategy yields expected results.”

Clearly noticeable is a significant shift from the traditional parameters determining the ACS market. Currently, it is a company’s product portfolio that yields the maximum influence in the ACS market space, followed closely by service support and cost considerations. This, however, is set to change.

“In the coming years, the emphasis on the IA product portfolio is likely to diminish,” he continued. “In contrast, the need for globalised service support, coupled with cost factors, is expected to gain significant momentum.”

As the ACS market steadily graduates towards the next level, it will offer IA vendors challenging opportunities for growth and excellence. Vendor participants will need to be in tune with on-going developments and enhance their ability to compete and succeed in the future of factories.

Our vision of the factory of the future is catalysed by five mega trends – cyber security, mobile and wireless technology, enterprise ecosystem, cloud computing and sustainability. These mega trends will influence all aspects of an industrial enterprise.”

For instance, operating personnel in future factories will not be confined to work stations inside control rooms. The advent of tablets and mobile platforms will enable them to track production lines, perform maintenance operations and monitor process issues from their tablets – all while on the move.

The adoption of secure cloud computing technology will enable factories access to relevant strategic data from the Internet to execute real-time decisions and enhance operational efficiency.

“In essence, future factories will have secure wireless networks supporting a highly automated production process, seamlessly interlinked with enterprise software working through the clouds,” he concluded. “A high-end factory will also involve collaborative manufacturing promoting operational excellence and aiding sustainability.”

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