Lulls are briefly slowing some controls markets
Like temporarily winded runners, some sectors of the U.S. economy and the controls and automation field seemed to spend late 1997 and early 1998 catching their breath. However, it's likely they'll soon regain their blistering long-term pace.While some research indicates cooling in several controls and automation areas, most also project the overall market will experience even more growth ...
Like temporarily winded runners, some sectors of the U.S. economy and the controls and automation field seemed to spend late 1997 and early 1998 catching their breath. However, it's likely they'll soon regain their blistering long-term pace.
While some research indicates cooling in several controls and automation areas, most also project the overall market will experience even more growth as the new millennium begins. For instance, North American robotics firms experienced a 22% drop in units ordered and a 9% decline in units shipped in 1Q98 compared to 1Q97 (see chart), according to the Robotic Industries Association (RIA, Ann Arbor, Mich.). "We had a terrific surge in the past five years with shipments up 172% and new orders up 131%. So we knew the pace would slow at some point, but we expect growth to resume soon," says Donald Vincent, RIA's executive vice president.
Likewise, orders booked for U.S. industrial valves were down just under 2% during 1997, according to the Valve Manufacturers Association of America (VMA, Washington, D.C.). VMA's survey of 70 companies found that 80% believe April 1998 shipments and orders will meet or exceed the same month a year earlier, and 90% expect 2Q98's orders and shipments to outstrip 2Q97.
Though some future gains may not be as quick as those in recent years, demand for U.S. controls is still expected to increase 6.6% per year through 2002 to $13.7 billion (see chart), according to a report, Industrial Controls , by the Freedonia Group Inc. (Cleveland, O.). The study expects gains to be fueled by a healthy maintenance, repair, and operations after-market, as controls-containing equipment bought in the 1990s is maintained and repaired. However, demand for controls from OEMs will likely decelerate due to cyclical slowing in fixed investments as the recent economic expansion matures, adds the report.
Similarly, a study by Venture Development Corp. (Natick, Mass.) discovered that use of device and sensor buses by end-users and machinery OEMs has increased during the past two years, though the rate of increase appears to be slowing (see chart). The U.S. Market for Industrial Automation Products Incorporating Device/Sensor Buses also revealed that as the share of OEMs of end-users and OEMs using these buses increases, those considering using the buses has decreased. The study further found that more instrumentation/control OEMs are offering devices for the buses.
U.S. Industrial Controls Supply and Demand
(in millions of dollars)
% growth ('92-'97)
% growth ('97-'02)
Source: The Freedonia Group Inc., Cleveland, O., 1998
Industrial control sales
Adjustable speed drives
Jim Montague, news editor email@example.com