Industrial Electronic Temperature Controllers Losing Ground

5/7/2003 - New implementations of industrial temperature control loops by electronic temperature controllers are expected to decline through 2005, according to a new study by Venture Development Corporation (VDC) entitled "The Global Market For Industrial Electronic Temperature Controllers, Eighth Edition". A survey conducted with users (end users, OEMs, and systems integrators) found they are looking increasingly toward implementing temperature control loops in PLCs, DCSs, and PCs.

The evolutionary trend in temperature controls has been from manual control, to mechanical and electromechanical thermostats, to electronic controllers, to implementation in higher-level multi-functional machine and process controllers using PLCs, PCs, and DCSs. This trend continues today. More business becomes available to electronic temperature controller suppliers as more users automate processes and seek more features and performance than is available from the use of thermostats. Likewise as users seek to obtain more features and functions, and better overall integration of controls, there is electronic temperature controller business lost to suppliers of PLCs, PCs, and DCSs.

VDC found among the users in its survey:

Expectations that PLCs will gain the most share of new temperature control loops implementations through 2005. However, this was not found to be true for all industries and applications. For some, the larger gains are expected in implementations with PCs, and DCSs.

New implementations with electronic temperature controllers in all the industry and application segments are expected to decline. Among the end users, the largest decline is expected among those in the pulp & paper industry, with the least decline expected among those in the food & beverage industry. Among the OEMs and systems integrators, the largest decline is expected among those supplying HVAC equipment, and the lowest decline expected among those supplying heat-treating equipment.

Despite the expected decline of temperature controller shares of new control loop implementations, these are expected to still account for the largest share of shipments in most all the industries and applications covered in the study through 2005.

These findings and other investigations led VDC to forecast slow positive growth for the overall global temperature controller market through 2005. Helping to sustain this growth is the large installed base, resulting in many purchases as spares and replacements.

Looking beyond the overall market, growth expectations are varied by product types and applications. For each application and user, different levels of control are needed. It is important for vendors to understand the level of control desired for the applications they hope to serve. In each case, the threat of alternative means of control is different. VDC points out in the study that:

There are many applications where use of alternative temperature control means will not be considered because use of PLCs, PCs, and DCSs for other control functions are not warranted. Vendors of electronic temperature controllers should certainly concentrate on these applications.

Competing for the temperature control loop business in systems where there are PLCs, PCs, and DCSs will become increasingly difficult. Price, performance, and ease of use appear key to capturing this business by electronic temperature controller suppliers. Thus, electronic temperature controller vendors must strive to reduce prices, provide better performance, with more options for users, and which are easy to install, configure/program, use and maintain. Ease of interfacing the temperature controllers with popular PLCs, PCs, and DCSs over appropriate communication bus/networks will aid in this effort.

Some users prefer or require back-up temperature controls, even where the primary implementation may be in PCSs, PCs, and DCs. Vendors should also seek out these applications.

“Although PLCs, DCSs, and PCs are becoming used more in the implementation of temperature control loops,” says VDC analyst Jake Millette, “they are far from overtaking temperature controllers as the preferred type of hardware in most applications. Opportunities for growth remain for suppliers with the correct mix of product, technology and application.”

About VDC
Founded in 1971, VDC is a technology market research and consulting firm that specializes in industrial and commercial electronics, computing, communications, software and power systems markets.

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