Growth of PLCs in Poland
Vendor support for and involvement in engineering education can have great positive impact on market growth for high-technology products. Comparison of two Control Engineering Poland surveys, the first conducted in March of 2006 and the second in January 2007, show how true this can be.
The first survey asked approximately 150 Polish PLC users about their selection criteria for PLCs. At that time, users reported being familiar with PLC technologies and programming languages. Many users knew more than three IEC languages, including ladder diagrams (LD). Most applications, however, did not involve technically advanced requirements or large-scale automation. Rather, projects involved only enhancement of already working systems. Consequently, most of the PLCs used were programmed with LD or instruction lists (IL) only.
Some users said they knew what a programmable automation controller (PAC) was and understand its origin. Few, however, planned to use them in future applications because of perceived high prices and uncertainty of benefits over better understood PLC solutions.
PLC vendors in Poland—like their counterparts elsewhere in the world—claimed that the near future belonged to PLCs. They said that they are continuously evaluating and increasing their offerings’ computational power, incorporating new control strategies, algorithms, communication interfaces, and protocols, as well as adding special functionalities, such as redundancy, safety, or integrated visualization.
The more recent survey of 160 Control Engineering Poland subscribers, however, shows the Polish PLC market growing rapidly, with technology acceptance and user-consciousness developing rapidly. Responses indicated that cooperation with the educational and R&D sector is helping drive that growth.
Power of synergy
One of the main problems Polish higher technical education faces is a decreasing student population, which follows a downward trend in general population. This trend is expected to continue for the next three to five years. During the past two to three years, many young engineers (including control engineers) left Poland for higher income jobs elsewhere.
Loss of engineers familiar with the newest control technologies and mechatronic motion control strategies exacerbates the deteriorating PLC market, no matter what PLC vendors do to encourage market growth.
PLC and other automation system vendors in Poland, such as B&R, Beckhoff, GE
Over 40 of Poland’s biggest PLC vendors reported their cooperation with education and R&D sectors:
72% said they were working with one or more technical universities.
29% make evaluation and educational software versions available for students free of charge;
48% prepare topical lectures given by professional trainers;
67% offer constant training of university lecturers;
100% offer free technical support;
48% worked with students preparing engineers’ and masters’ theses;
19% manage joint research projects.
Changes in the Polish PLC market over the almost 11 months between the two surveys have shown how effective vendor support for and involvement in higher education can be.
Poland, U.S. compared
Results obtained during our survey were compared to those from the Control Engineering USA PLC Product Research, November 2006. Main conclusions from our comparison:
Wireless protocols are rarely used by control engineers from Poland, while within the next year in the U.S. almost 50% plan to use it;
The use of PLCs in motion control applications in Poland is half of that in the U.S., but during the last year growth of Polish servo drives and PLC motion control modules was noticeable;
Polish users are reaching for many communication interfaces, while in the U.S., most of the users stated increased usage only in Ethernet and wireless protocols;
System integrators (almost 26% of respondents) from Poland confirmed the use of PACs in one of their next applications; in the U.S. that number was 22%. Knowledge of PAC technology is similar in the two countries — almost 22% of Polish users said that they don’t know what PACs are;
Globalization of production in many industries means applications and solutions to typical problems are similar all over the world.
The strength and proximity of cooperation among vendors, users, and the educational and R&D sector shows that the Polish PLC market is strong. Everyone feels the need for flexibility and scalability of solutions, productivity, and efficient cost management policy. The current PLC market cannot exist without SCADA and HMI systems, without fast, safe, and intelligent secured communication, and without new research and development projects, resulting in accurate, fast control strategies for complex, typically hybrid, industrial processes.
Polish PLC vendors are experts in everything they do, and for that reason their services, combined with expertise from higher education and R&D institutions, are professional. Users gave them a rating of almost 96%, saying they are satisfied or very satisfied with the last year of activity.
|Krzysztof Pietrusewicz is assistant professor at the Institute of Control Engineering, Szczecin University of Technology, Poland. He is also an editor for Control Engineering Poland. In early January 2007 , Control Engineering Poland took a poll among almost 160 subscribers. Of those, 43.9% said they are involved in the selection of the PLC model, PLC application development (19.51%), buying procedures (14.63%), advisory service and recommendation (13.41%), and the final decision about choosing a PLC vendor (14.63%). The total equals more than 100% as users frequently are responsible for the selection of the PLC they later program.|