Automation helps combat labor shortages

Think Again: Are automation and controls helping to fill the growing manufacturing skills gap? Control Engineering research, “Purchasing Considerations for Automation Systems & Control Systems” shows an increase in spending for the next 12 months in most categories.

By Mark T. Hoske June 28, 2022
Courtesy: Control Engineering 2022 research, “Purchasing Considerations for Automation Systems & Control Systems”

Research suggests many are filling the growing manufacturing skills gap with automation and controls. Control Engineering research, “Purchasing Considerations for Automation Systems & Control Systems” shows an increase in spending for the next 12 months in most categories. Survey respondents were given a list of 15 product categories in automation processes; of those, respondents expected to increase in spending in 14 categories in the next 12 months. Among a list of 39 control system categories, respondents expect spending increases for all 39 in the next 12 months.

Click here to download the survey.

Other ways to fill the skills gap include salary, benefits, training, retention and workforce amenities. These are among the suggestions from the Control Engineering Career and Salary Survey, 2022, other Control Engineering research, related articles on the following pages and news on the prior pages. Find more advice in a May 25 webcast, “Automation experts wanted: Hire, retain the best.”

Survey methods for purchasing study

The purchasing study was conducted by Control Engineering to obtain insights from automation engineering professionals on purchasing automation systems and control systems across process, discrete and hybrid industries. Study sample was selected from qualified subscribers of Control Engineering media with valid email addresses and involved in the purchase or specification of control systems, including human-machine interfaces (HMIs), programmable logic controllers (PLCs), programmable automation controllers (PACs), distributed control systems (DCSs), single-loop controllers or PC-based controllers. The email included a URL linked to the questionnaire and data collected March 3 through March 11, 2022. With 158 respondents, the margin of error was +/-7.8% at a 95% confidence level.

Courtesy: Control Engineering 2022 research, “Purchasing Considerations for Automation Systems & Control Systems”

Factory automation, process optimization and robotics were the leading three automated technologies and services survey respondents expect to see in the next 12 months.
Courtesy: Control Engineering 2022 research, “Purchasing Considerations for Automation Systems & Control Systems”

New automation, replacements, upgrades, system integration

Among respondents, average automation system, control system budget breakdown spreads around investments with 28% for new automation systems and/or control systems,

25% for replacement equipment for automation systems and/or control systems, 22% upgrading automation systems and/or control systems and 18% for system integration and services (including programming) related to automation systems and/or control systems and 7% to other areas.

Controllers (dedicated control system, PCS, PAC, PLC, etc.), control design, control panels; and human-machine interface (HMI), including flat panel computer, operator interface, etc., are the leading control system technologies increasing in the next 12 months. Courtesy: Control Engineering 2022 research, “Purchasing Considerations for Automation Systems & Control Systems”

Controllers (dedicated control system, PCS, PAC, PLC, etc.), control design, control panels; and human-machine interface (HMI), including flat panel computer, operator interface, etc., are the leading control system technologies increasing in the next 12 months. Courtesy: Control Engineering 2022 research, “Purchasing Considerations for Automation Systems & Control Systems”

Top 10 automated process technologies in demand

Respondents were asked for which automated technologies and services do you expect to see an increase in projects in the next 12 months? The top 10 are:

  • 51% Factory automation
  • 37% Process optimization
  • 36% Robotics
  • 29% Advanced process controls (APC)
  • 21% DCS migration
  • 19% Automatic test equipment
  • 19% Model predictive controls (MPC)
  • 19% Warehouse automation
  • 19% Automated guided vehicles (AGV)
  • 17% Automated assembly.

Top 10 control system technologies in demand

The top 10 control system technologies increasing in the next 12 months are:

  • 46% Controllers (dedicated control system, PCS, PAC, PLC, etc.)
  • 42% Control design
  • 41% Control panels
  • 40% HMI, including flat panel computer, operator interface, etc.
  • 31% Industrial PCs (IPC)
  • 27% Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA)
  • 26% Temperature control
  • 24% Power control
  • 23% Motion controllers
  • 21% Flow control system.

Automation and controls help improve throughput, improve quality, lower costs, reduce waste, and make companies more competitive in their markets. Automation and controls also help fewer available workers do their jobs better.

Other areas covered in the purchasing study include:

  • Top 10 ways a vendor can win new business
  • Implementing and maintaining systems
  • Time spent researching and purchasing systems
  • Length of research and evaluation process for new products
  • Recent changes to research and evaluation process
  • Committee involvement for purchases
  • Sourcing automation systems, control systems
  • Top 10 ways a vendor can retain customers
  • Willingness to consider other purchasing options
  • Automation system and control system technologies in demand.

Getting ahead with automation, helping to fill the skills gap

Think again about how investments in automation and controls can help optimize, fill the skills gap, and improve offerings for customers.

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology at mhoske@cfemedia.com. Amanda Pelliccione, director of research and awards programs for CFE Media and Technology, conducted the research and assembled the related report. 

CONSIDER THIS

How are you expanding automation and controls?


Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.