Monday, February 4, 2013

A Look at Future Trends in the Automation & Control Systems

The Automation & Control Systems (ACS) industry faces a time of great opportunity, as well as some upheaval.  Changes in the marketplace and in industry as a whole mean that automation systems and personnel must adapt not so much to survive, but to take full advantage of the chance to define manufacturing in the 21st century. Let’s take a look at some of the major trends that we’ve seen and that we predict.
Open-Source Interoperability. With the possibilities of automation integration growing almost exponentially, it is now possible for an entire plant to basically be an automation system. Far less likely is the chance that all the equipment in that plant will be from one vendor, on one control system, with one reporting system, and so on. For this reason, end users are placing increasing emphasis on open-source compatibility and standardization.

It’s the Application. . . Frost & Sullivan asserts that there is an increasing convergence in the technology and products offered by different automation and control suppliers. Thus, as is very well summarized here, the main differentiator and selection criteria lies in a vendor’s ability to match technology with application, and to do that better than anyone else can. The benchmark for success there will be results driven, in areas ranging far beyond automated manufacturing. Plant integration, process efficiency, and big-picture results on and off the manufacturing floor are now the critical components of a system.

Cloud-Wireless-Smart Automation. Buzzwords that seem to be multiplying across all industries are no stranger to manufacturing and automation. The plant of the future could very well be controlled, or at least accessed and managed, through a smartphone. How well a system can integrate with cloud systems, wireless controls, and, probably most importantly, the next developments coming down the way, all will play a big role in how its success is measured.

Some built-in benefits of automation, like efficiency, sustainability, and quality measurability, are also seeing increased attention after some time as “secondary benefits” of ACS. We thought we’d try and provide a look at the future, and look forward to whatever that may hold in store.

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