PLC use to increase; collaborative systems effective for discrete Manufacturers

More people are expected to use programmable logic controllers, and collaborative systems are useful for more effective discrete manufacturing environments, according to separate studies by ARC Advisory Group. (For more PLC research, see the December 2005 Product Research article, at www.


Machine Control

Dedham, MA —More people are expected to use programmable logic controllers, and collaborative systems are useful for more effective discrete manufacturing environments, according to separate studies by ARC Advisory Group. (For more PLC research, see the December 2005 Product Research article, at

Greater demand from various emerging markets created robust growth for programmable logic controllers (PLCs), ARC reported, with compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.9% globally over the next five years. In 2004, the PLC market was nearly $7 billion with more than $9 billion expected by 2009, according to "Programmable Logic Controller Worldwide Outlook." PLCs have become more attractive by including many elements of modern information technology (IT), the study says. "Global manufacturers are challenged to seek automation equipment that supports their business objectives such as improving return on assets, enhancing overall equipment effectiveness, and providing real-time performance management," says the study's principal author, Himanshu Shah, senior ARC analyst. IT-minded PLCs support these objectives, he adds.

Greater global competitiveness is increasingly turning manufacturers toward automation to drive down costs and raise manufacturing quality, Shah suggests. Growth in overall capital spending through 2005 and beyond is expected as manufacturers gear up production to meet rising global demand, in turn increasing demand for PLCs. Other growth applications for PLCs include energy savings, condition monitoring, safety, collaborative manufacturing, and real-time optimization strategies.

PLC trends include increased communication capability, smaller sizes, better software and implementation tools, and diagnostics. These address customer demands for open standards, multi-control disciplines, modular architecture, and comprehensive automation solutions software. High-end PLCs "will shift towards the PAC (programmable automation controller) for plant and factory automation," Shah says. [PACs are industrial PC-based controllers in rugged PLC-like form factors.] Expanding regional opportunities for PLC sales include many developing countries in Asia, as well as in Japan and much of Latin America.

PLCs are likely to be part of the technology mix in more collaborative discrete control systems, the topic of a separate ARC study. Greater manufacturing challenges, according to ARC's "Collaborative Discrete Automation Systems (CDAS) Study," include a globally distributed design/build process and supply chain, a demand-driven market, and the need for real-time collaboration and response across the manufacturing enterprise. Enterprise architectures map current and future company operations but need "collaborative methods and processes enabled by standards-based interoperability."

Among CDAS functions is to define the vision for the factory of the future, and provide an architectural roadmap based on prevailing business drivers and emerging technologies for manufacturing, ARC says. Because information from all domains is becoming the engine that runs the production line, it must be shared across the product lifecycle and the manufacturing enterprise.

Dick Slansky, ARC senior analyst and principal author of the CDAS study, says an event-driven manufacturing approach allows optimization of production processes by providing access to real-time events; an effective production-to-business strategy captures event-driven information as it occurs and moves it vertically to power production management, visibility, and supply chain applications. That exposes the heart of manufacturing operations, the production processes, to the rest of the manufacturing enterprise, he suggests.

CDAS unifies and flattens the tiered hierarchical discrete manufacturing environment by defining the relationship between domains and a service-based architecture, Slansky adds.

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