Trends 2012: Energy Efficiency, Usability and Integration

April 9, 2012
2012 promises to become a very exciting year in all sectors—economic, technical and political—in Germany and around the world.

But one thing seems to be clear: Competitive pressure on companies will increase.

In its role as global market leader in automation, Siemens AG (www.siemens.com) is something like a bellwether for the economic development of the industry. At its annual press conference at the end of January, the company called itself “reserved” concerning the economic development for 2012. They spoke of a “difficult economical environment.” On the other hand, there was still good news regarding incoming orders. China, for example, is increasing automation because of financial reasons, which offers more potential for German machine builders and automation providers (see “Chinese Automation Investment on the Rise").

From the technical point of view, there are three basic developments that will be determining factors in the next months and years: energy efficiency, usability and integration. All three are closely related to cost, even if this isn’t always obvious.

These issues aren’t new, but what is new, is their increasing meaning. Concerning energy efficiency, cost factors and environmental protection stands in the foreground, especially in view of increasing energy costs. Usability and integration are driven by the growing complexity of automation. To make these issues more controllable and affordable,  both must be simplified.

In the matter of integration, marketing buzzwords aren’t enough anymore. Usability experts have to be called in and existing interfaces have to be omitted in favor of continuous transparency. No one can convince me credibly why it should be impossible today to treat all automation functions in engineering in a simple way right from the beginning. After 40 years of control engineering, it’s good if there is real competition. Monopoly-like positions are always bad for customers.

It’s time for users of control engineering to demand real integration and tools that are easy to handle where they aren’t available yet. Customers have power and competition stimulates business. We are excited to see what markets, trends and techniques this year will bring.

Martin Buchwitz, [email protected], is Editor in Chief of SPS-Magazin in Germany.

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