Industrial computing needed more and more!


Increasing competitiveness raises the need for industrial computers

Owing to the rapid growth of computer and communication technology, manufacturing areas are becoming more automated, increasingly deploying intelligent devices to monitor and control unmanned facilities.

Industrial Computer Panel

As competition has intensified across all industries, companies need to increase their process efficiency, quality and productivity. Key factors to establishing successful automation systems include faster and more reliable networking solutions, such as industrial computers.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Analysis of the Global Industrial Computers Market, finds that the global industrial computers market earned revenues of $2134.4 million (€1,666.84m) in 2011 and estimates this to reach $3,216.6 million (€2,512.05m) in 2015.

“Currently, competition has intensified across all industries, leading companies to increase their process efficiency, quality and productivity, and thus raising the need for industrial computers,”  notes Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Katarzyna Owczarczyk.  “In each industry, automation systems have progressed beyond programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems to include robotics or machine vision systems.”

While competition is intensifying at a global level, and computer technology is striving forward at an increasing rate, most companies prefer to make immediate and maximum profits by using the latest technologies available. This is creating a need to expedite the decision-making process for investments into the industrial computers market, as companies aim to refresh and update their processes with modern technology to remain competitive.

“Key factors to establishing successful automation systems include faster and more reliable networking solutions such as industrial computers which, when combined with advanced process control software, function as automation supervisors with the ability to connect external machines and plants,” adds Owczarczyk. “Furthermore, recent increases in computational and storage capability and the integration of several tasks on one platform have allowed for the creation of computing platforms capable of recording and analyzing terabytes of raw data, resulting in increased process efficiency, quality and productivity.”

The industrial computers market has been thriving in the Far East – especially in South Korea, Taiwan, and China. These countries have been producing industrial computers, exporting them at extremely low prices. As their quality matches the expectations of the western market, the continued increase in competition from the Far East has put pressure on the established European market players.

“With many end users being price sensitive and importing inexpensive products from Asian countries such as China or Taiwan, it is expected that these countries will penetrate the market as low cost options, especially among the small and medium sized companies, which cannot afford high price, best quality products.”

European and American industrial computers suppliers are therefore forced to keep their prices down in order to compete, which may be difficult to achieve due to higher production costs. This in turn puts pressure on industrial computers manufacturers to drive down prices, as customers will be seeking to reduce their own costs. The impact of this restraint remains strong in the short and medium terms, as many end users – especially in the Asian and Eastern European countries – will prefer low cost industrial computers.

“Once end users recognize the need of having highly effective machines, the adoption is expected to increase,” concludes Owczarczyk.

Technical possibilities of PC fuel market


The market for Industrial PCs is driven by an increasing rate of technological advancements in hardware and software according to a study released recently by ARC.  This includes the Atom processor, increased computing power, increased ruggedness, and also failsafe industrial PCs.

Report author Automation Analyst Florian Güldner

The market had enjoyed high growth rates until the economic crisis. The industrial PC market structure is fragmented, with no dominant player on a regional or global level.  While industrial PC technology itself has matured, new applications and requirements will enable differentiation through hardware and software.

“In 2009, the market dropped by 19 percent.  Even though the recovery will start quickly, the level of the boom year 2008 will not be reached again until 2012.  A major factor dampening the recovery is the constant drop in prices that is driven by user demand and a drop in intermediate good prices,”
according to Analyst Florian Güldner, the principal author of ARC’s “Industrial PCs Worldwide Outlook

Industrial PC Market Will Remain Competitive and Fragmented
The market for industrial PCs remains fragmented, the companies above 2% market share represent only 62% of the market.  In addition to industrial PC product specialists such as Stahl HMI, the market includes focused automation suppliers like Phoenix Contact, full line automation suppliers like Siemens and Rockwell Automation, and PC-based automation suppliers like Beckhoff and B&R.  Furthermore, PC specialists like Advantech and Kontron plus hundreds of Taiwanese companies supply industrial PC products either directly to the market or to other industrial PC suppliers.
One of the most important topics discussed in the market is the build vs. buy decision.  Depth of production varies greatly between suppliers.  Many companies use boards from Taiwan in their industrial PCs or brand label industrial PCs.

The Atom Processer Will Boost Industrial PC Business
Various trends within the industrial PC market will affect future growth but Intel’s Atom processor will have the most influence.  The Atom processor provides up to 2 GHz with low thermal design power.  This offers various possibilities to end users and machine builders.  First, the low-cost, low-power Atom enables low-CPU power industrial PCs at a low price and with low energy consumption and low heat.  Size-independent computing power also makes new form factors possible such as flatter panel PCs that are more easily integrated into machines and small wide screen panel PCs.

Asian Markets Are the Most Vibrant Suppliers and Users
Asia has its own dynamics in investment climate and in industrial PC sup-ply and demand.  In Asia’s emerging markets, Taiwanese industrial PC suppliers dominate this price-driven market, which is slowing sharply along with the global economy.  Taiwan hosts a number of different com-panies, which range from component-driven companies that are moving up the supply chain, to established automation suppliers.  ARC believes that China and India will not only demand more automation equipment as wages rise, but will also shift towards more sophisticated systems with greater capabilities for achieving international quality standards.