The PC-based automation market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.66% over the forecast period (2021-2026). Automation systems that are being deployed need to be networked, require more data storage, and should have the capability of communicating with each other through an open standard. PCs are suitable for this kind of deployment, as they are designed to undertake tasks like data storage, communication, and number crunching. This factor is leading to a trend where industrial PCs are being used as automation controllers, integrate the functioning of PLC-Control and open PC-Architecture on a single industrial device.
- PC-based automation systems have significant applications in open-loop and closed-loop control in mechanical engineering, visualization in the food and beverage industry, measuring and testing in the automotive industry, and data processing and communication in the semiconductor and electronics industries.
- Moreover, the introduction of sensor gateways that enable the high-speed transfer of sensor status, parameter, and diagnostics data, accompanied by enterprise-level or cloud-based systems, is enabling the introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT) in the manufacturing setups. In February 2020, SICKunveiled its SIG200 ProfiNet Sensor Integration Gateway that is designed to integrate sensor data transparently into higher level systems.
- However, restraining factors, like growing cybersecurity risks, may affect the growth of the market over the forecast period. The use of common technologies, like Ethernet/TCP/IP, Microsoft Windows, and Intel PC-based computers, in industries means that vital process and production control systems can be exposed to security threats and spams that corporate IT departments have been exposed to earlier.
Key Market Trends
Evolution of Industrial Internet of Things and Increase in Demand for Smart Automation Solutions
- The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is an industrial framework that utilizes a large number of devices or machines connected and synchronized through software tools and third-party platform technologies. Many local IoT applications on factory floors and in complex machines have started linking multiple proximal networks using cloud-based data aggregation and supervisory control systems.
- Additionally, as the IoT technology becomes more widespread across the consumer and industrial sectors, IoT applications are expected to employ distributed architectures. Large-scale deployments and the need for interoperability (e.g., cross-vendor, cross-silo, cross-organizational) may lead to solution architectures becoming increasingly dependent on new and standardized enablers that ensure interlinking of multiple sub-systems to peers and central cloud systems.
- This need for supporting IoT environments in manufacturing setups is leading to the up-gradation of PLCs. The PC-based automation market is expected to be fueled by the fusion of PLC and PAC (programmable automation controller) functions.
- The introduction of PC-based automation is expected to reduce costs and increase the competitiveness of manufacturing setups. According to GE estimates, a 1% improvement in its productivity across its manufacturing base, established globally, translates into USD 500 million in annual savings.
- Furthermore, government initiatives are expected to fuel market growth. For instance, the French government introduced 'La Nouvelle France Industrielle,' a 10-year plan that was launched to assist companies operating in the country to competitively position themselves in the future markets. This program is expected to be completed by 2023.
North America to Hold the Largest Market Share
- The North American region has an ecosystem where multiple vendors that are capable of supplying sensors, robotics, digitalization, industrial IoT, and in-depth data analysis operate. Hence, the rate of switching from legacy systems to automated pc-based systems is much higher. Additionally, smart manufacturing techniques ensure increased productivity, leading to a competitive advantage compared to low wage countries.
- This has led to the governments in the region undertaking initiatives to ensure increased automation of manufacturing facilities. In October 2018, the White House Office of Science and Technology announced a "Strategy for American Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing", to facilitate the digital transformation of the manufacturing sector by using Big Data analytics and advanced sensing and control technologies.
- Furthermore, the Canadian government has been focusing on industrial R&D collaboration opportunities with German organizations, to introduce AI in the Canadian manufacturing set-up within the next 3-5 years. Global Affairs Canada, through the Embassy of Canada in Berlin and the National Research Council Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), has been undertaking the Industry 4.0 initiatives for the government.
The PC-based automation market is highly competitive, with the presence of many big and small players. The market appears to be moderately concentrated, and the key strategies adopted by the major players include product innovation and mergers and acquisitions. The PC-based automation market's ecosystem comprises raw material suppliers, component manufacturers, system integrators, and distributors. The key players of the market are ABB, Siemens, Omron, and General Electric, among others.
- February 2020 - Beckhoff Automation introduced automation technologies for material handling and intralogistics applications. The proposed smart distribution center solutions are EP7402 controller for motor-driven roller (MDR) conveyors, and TwinCAT/BSD alternative operating system PC-based controllers and C6025 ultra-compact Industrial PC.
- May 2019 - Haltian launched a 5G-ready smart factory solution, with AWS IoT Greengrass edge computing capabilities. According to the organization, this end-to-end smart factory service can reduce smart factory costs by up to 90%.
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