Five control market trends for 2012

The good news is that despite the economy, there are a number of core trends that will help you be more selective with spending in 2012 and can help you optimize your role in the company.


Imagine you are in a meeting with your company’s chief financial officer, and he says spending must increase at a significantly slower rate than you expected this year. Now what do you do about those process improvements?

The good news is that despite the economy, there are a number of core trends that will help you be more selective with spending in 2012 and can help you optimize your role in the company.

1: Wireless technology

If you haven’t already invested in wireless technology, now is the time to do so to reduce plant costs and to improve business productivity. In the U.S., a number of Fortune 500 manufacturers have embraced wireless technology in material handling, packaging, and filling lines and to operate critical transport systems.

What these companies have discovered is that, if engineered properly, wireless technology will add a higher level of specificity in their control applications. As users and manufacturers get more comfortable with wireless technology’s use in critical systems, they recognize the level of responsibility for the control network, which increases and improves automation systems.

Commenting on increasing the responsibility of wireless connectivity’s contribution to manufacturers, Jim Ralston, strategic product marketing manager for wireless at ProSoft Technology, notes, “We are helping our clients move away from mechanical communications and use wireless to improve automation and productivity by reducing downtime. Manufactures are seeing the benefits of employing wireless networks that are fast and reliable and can handle changes from one master to the next seamlessly over long production lines.”

2: Phased migration

The drive to replace aging equipment and technology continues to be a key trend among manufacturers in the U.S. Many are considering new technology applications but can’t afford the downtime or high initial costs. This issue is pushing manufactures to adopt retrofits and migration solutions that merge new technology with older hardware and technology.

A phased migration offers you the ability to implement the latest in DCS and PAC technology while continuing to interface with some legacy equipment, existing wiring, and I/O systems. This saves downtime and offers significant economic benefits.

3: Upfront engineering

Best-practice organizations in Europe are utilizing database-driven controls hardware and software design solutions to seamlessly move through all stages of the design and manufacturing process, thereby identifying errors up-front where their cost impact is lowest. The U.S. controls manufacturing industry is quickly beginning to embrace such standardization practices.

The method of utilizing software, support, and consultation to standardize engineering to reduce the amount of manual processes and define more information earlier in the process is a growing trend. Applying these engineering solutions will allow you to standardize engineering and automate the manufacturing process, resulting in higher quality, lower labor cost, and reduced lead-time.

Van Miller, owner of Bow Wave Technical Sales, adds, “When you use an up-front standardized process that offers solid data, you realize the benefits of automating the downstream manufacturing processes.”

Technologies such as ePlan electrical engineering and design software, Kiesling CNC control enclosure modification centers, and Komax automated wire processing equipment are solutions that offer exactly this type of automation flow. All will be showcased at the Industrial Automation North American show in Chicago in September.

4: Energy usage management

In today’s manufacturing world, energy consumption is a rising percentage of the overall cost of goods. More and more manufacturers are paying close attention to power generation and distribution. Energy usage management is a critical component for every company and a growing trend.

Many companies now account for power use as they would for other line items in a bill of materials and therefore are building automation applications to reduce energy consumption costs. For instance, advanced lighting, HVAC, and specific real-time power monitoring functions allow you to get better control of your company’s power usage. These applications offer manufacturers the benefit of making real-time decisions about energy usage before exceeding their baseline energy allotment, saving on total energy costs.

Energy efficiency software tools offer accurate information that can show energy consumption for the whole control system from load to controller. This information is critical to improving energy efficiency.

5: Safety

Larry Turner

Risk evaluation is an ongoing trend for all manufacturers. Hazards in automation process will cause damage sooner or later if protective measures are not taken up-front. All hazards must be identified at a very early stage of the design.

Finding and assessing risk early allows you to evaluate safety measures and then make decisions about how to reduce risk to an acceptable minimum to develop safe controls. Additionally, reducing the complexity of the whole control solution will lower risk while speeding up your products’ time to market.

Turner joined Hannover Fairs USA in July 2011 to lead the talented team to help U.S. firms grow international sales by connecting them with their clients worldwide. He served most recently as CEO of Roundhouse Advisors, a business management consulting and coaching company, and has held leadership, sales, and operations positions at such companies as BancTec, Bell and Howell, Canon, and Wybron. Larry has a BS in marketing from DePaul University and an MBA from Northern Illinois University.

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