DCS Market Sees Effects of Key Industry Trends

Sept. 9, 2016
Process automation end users have long asked for more open, interoperable systems. Distributed control systems are moving in that direction, impacted by the Industrial Internet of Things, IT/OT convergence and more, according to an ARC report.

Some key trends disrupting industrial manufacturing right now are having a significant effect on an aging workhorse as well. In its latest market analysis of the distributed control system (DCS), ARC Advisory Group details the qualitative trends impacting the evolution of the DCS, including the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), convergence of information and operational technologies (IT/OT), and a move to more open and interoperable process automation platforms.

“ARC has been following the DCS market closely for 30 years, and we believe the technology and the market are both on the verge of significant disruptions,” said Larry O’Brien, vice president of research for ARC and principal author of the study. “This is due to a combination of the intense cost pressures that owner-operators now face in major end user industries and the rapid convergence of IT and OT.”

Although the DCS market is in the midst of a major downswing, brought on in large part by low oil prices, the technology is finally moving in a direction that users have long requested, seeking open, interoperable and long-lived systems, according to Paul Miller, ARC’s senior editor and content director. Commercial IT technologies have been making their way into the DCS world for the past few decades—Ethernet-based control networks, UNIX- and Windows-based graphical user interfaces, and an OPC standard interface, to name a few. “However, while promising,” Miller wrote in a blog about the report, “most major DCSs still retained enough proprietary components to limit multi-vendor interoperability and effectively ‘lock’ end users into the individual DCS suppliers’ offerings and associated solutions.”

ExxonMobil’s downstream business has made a considerable push for more open DCS architectures, notably awarding a contract to Lockheed Martin earlier this year to serve as system integrator in the early-stage development of a next-generation open and secure automation system for process industries. ExxonMobil detailed that relationship at the ARC Industry Forum in February.

This, plus a parallel initiative from major end users such as Saudi Aramco “are focusing on making the future DCSs they will install in literally hundreds and hundreds of their plants around the world far more open, interoperable, and long lived,” Miller commented. “Clearly, this has significant ramifications for automation suppliers and end users alike.”

Miller, who edited O’Brien’s report, also gave a nod to the impacts of IIoT, referencing “cloud computing and virtualization, plus smart devices, Big Data and advanced analytics.”

This ARC market research explores current and historical market performance and related technology and business trends, identifies leading suppliers, and provides five-year global forecasts for the DCS market. The report is based on ARC’s market research database, primary and secondary research, and economic modeling techniques. It includes competitive analysis, with five-year market forecasts by region, industry, hardware, software and services, sales channels, end customers, and more. This year’s report also includes a new segmentation for new projects vs. modernization and expansion projects.

The research is available in a variety of formats. A Market Intelligence Workbook in an Excel spreadsheet includes up to five years of historical data in addition to the current base year market data and five-year market forecast. The workbook enables licensed users to freely manipulate the data to make it easier to analyze the latest data for business intelligence and generate custom reports. A Comprehensive Market Outlook Study in PDF format provides an executive-level summary of the current market dynamics, market forecasts and competitive analysis, plus an overview of strategic issues. It also includes in-depth quantitative and qualitative research into the current market, future and historical trends, plus competitive analysis.

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