Integrated Automation Solutions become more important to PLC Suppliers
14 January 2009
Differences in performance and appearance between PLC hardware from different suppliers are becoming less. Accordingly, major PLC suppliers are 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 solutions 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 solutions. The integration of a PLC into the whole system solution makes it not just a single controller, but a true extension of the whole enterprise computer system.
In addition, an integrated automation solution 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 solution 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 solutions is enabling suppliers to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Further it is helping the major PLC suppliers to win more ‘industry automation business’ to augment their ‘traditional PLC business’.