Researchers examine the market for PLCs

Paul Boughton
Differences in performance and appearance between PLC hardware from different suppliers are becoming fewer. According to IMS Research, major PLC suppliers are therefore focusing more on being a 'solution provider' to expand both their PLC and other automation business.

Although this trend started several years ago, the growing importance of sharing information and software developments have made integrated automation systems more important today. Customers increasingly need to make good business decisions based on information obtained from the plant floor. The PLC plays an important role in integrated automation. The integration of a PLC into the whole system makes it not just a single controller, but an extension of the whole enterprise computer system. In addition, an integrated automation system with PLCs can also perform tasks in process control, motion control, drive control, PID control, maintenance, vision systems, HMI design, and integration with higher device layers, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

This integrated automation market for PLCs is growing faster than the traditional PLC market, in which PLCs are sold as a single hardware component. Although it currently accounts for only a small proportion of the total PLC market, and is more related to the high-end PLC market, the use of PLCs in integrated systems is enabling suppliers to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Furthermore, it is helping the major PLC suppliers to win more 'industry automation business' to augment their 'traditional PLC business'.

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