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Automation & Control Trends in 2013

Bill Lydon, editor of Automation.com, provides his thoughts on the major automation and control trends for 2013 and beyond in his article, Automation & Control: Trends in 2013. Based on a wide range of inputs from users, suppliers, industry consultants, industry forums, conferences and trade shows, Lydon utilizes his years of hands-on experience as a designer and applier of automation and controls to forecast these trends.

He covers a range of issues germane to the automation and fluid power industry and we recap some of those here:

Panel Free Installation - The goal is to eliminate control cabinets and simplify wiring. The trend will go toward controllers, drives, servos, valves, and HMI devices that do not require mounting in a panel, thus reducing cost, simplifying installation and lowering maintenance labor.

Big Data - Information Leverage - The lower cost of computing power has enabled the use of sophisticated analytical software for operations and productivity improvement. This has opened the door for companies to find more ways to use analytics to improve efficiencies. Predictive maintenance is a good example of analytics that is used to predict problems before they occur, avoiding interruptions in production.

Retrofit & Upgrade - The ARC Advisory Group estimates that $65 billion worth of process automation systems are nearing the end of their useful life. At least $22 billion of these systems are installed in North America, most of which are over 20 years old. This creates big opportunities for retrofit and upgrades.

Remote Monitoring - Remote monitoring capabilities will continue to become more powerful allowing the shrinking pool of automation and control experts to help solve plant problems without the need for travel. Cellular phone technology continues to improve and is being used more often to implement remote monitoring since it is readily available and easy to deploy.

Robotics - The International Federation of Robotics reported 2011 robot sales increased by 38%, the highest level ever recorded for one year. The automotive, food and beverage, metal and machinery industries increased robot orders above average. Robots allow manufacturers to achieve goals of increased productivity, reliability and quality.

Information Security - More advanced methods, software, and hardware will be developed to protect automation, control, and SCADA systems from cyber security attacks.

Enterprise Automation Systems - The trend is to have a software platform to unify operations and information flow to improve decision making, increase agility, reduce risk, and improve production efficiency. However, the reality is the majority of suppliers still have loosely coupled software applications that do not make for a cohesive enterprise control system. Users need to carefully evaluate offerings to select a legitimate integrated enterprise software solution.

Collapsed Architecture & Automation Control Engines - New technology is making it possible and desirable to create streamlined 2-3 layer automation systems to increase performance and lower software maintenance costs. Dual and quad core CPU’s areout on the market that make them extensions of enterprise systems on the plant floor including embedded historians, analytics, alarm management, equipment diagnostics, advanced control optimization, and rules engines.

To read the much more comprehensive article, click here.

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Tribute, Inc. is a provider of ERP business management software for distributors and system integrators in the fluid power, hose, motion control, automation, fluid handling & pump industry who provide value-added services.