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UNCERTAINTY bites. So, we’re primed when a greenhorn asks a card-dealing W.C. Fields: “Is this a game of chance?” And, we chuckle automatically when the great comedian replies: “Not the way I play it, no.” Process control engineers might not agree with Fields’ ethics in My Little Chickadee, but they would definitely appreciate his certainty. This is because there’s nothing most engineers like less than gambling with their applications and facilities. However, routine operations, maintenance, repairs, and upgrades all demand responsive changes and some accompanying degrees of doubt, if not risk.
It’s fortunate, then, that recent revenue gains by most of CONTROL’s Top 50 process instrumentation and controls suppliers are reflecting increasingly crowded and competitive markets in North America and worldwide, which means better, more reliable products and services for end users and other customers. So, if the air is thin at the top, it’s only because the Top 50 are breathing it all up, and sometimes huffing and puffing pretty hard too!
Seriously, many of the biggest players in the process control and automation universe are making financial improvements in 2004-05 that they haven’t achieved since the turn of the century (five years ago, remember?) The Top 50’s aggregate revenues in 2004 were $14.5 billion in North America, which was a 4.7% decrease from the $15.2 billion they chalked up in 2003. Worldwide, these same 50 firms collectively earned $52.2 billion in 2004, which was a 13.9% increase over the $45.9 billion they earned in 2003. Correcting for a few new firms that joined the Top 50 in 2004, such as Yamatake and Horiba, revenues for North America declined 5% and worldwide revenues increased about 9%.
Similarly, North America’s revenues made up 27.8% of the worldwide total in 2004, while the continent contributed 33.2% of the global total in 2003. This can be traced partly to the fact that 16 companies increased revenue and nine lost revenue in North America during 2003-04, while 20 firms gained and just seven declined worldwide during the same period. Globalization and greenfield construction in developing regions are undeniably powerful forces.
Individually, Emerson Process Management gained 8.6% in North America (NA) and 7.2% worldwide in 2004; Honeywell Process Solutions gained 7.9% in NA and 11% globally; ABB lost 7.3% in NA but gained 11.4% worldwide; and Invensys declined 25.5% in NA and 17.9% globally. Meanwhile, Schneider Electric gained 7.4% in NA and 16.4% worldwide; Siemens Energy & Automation declined 10.5 % in NA but gained 26.4% globally; and GE Infrastructure dropped 17.5% in NA and slightly more worldwide.
Narrowly defined as traditional process control instruments [North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) 334513] and automatic control valves, U.S. process control demand was about $8.2 billion in 2004. Combined with totals for Canada and Mexico, this demand increases to about $9.8 billion for North America. Worldwide, this type of process control demand was about $35.0 billion in 2004.
By adding essential product categories not in “process control instrument” categories, such as PLCs and process control software, and their many related services, you can easily parallel the Top 50’s total revenues. Consequently, in North America and worldwide, estimated “process control demand” made up 67% of the Top 50’s revenues, which helps validate those results. By bringing Yamatake and Horiba into the Top 50, as well as by sharply upgrading Omron's numbers, the Top 50 is more reflective of the worldwide process control industry.
Despite their near-term financial gains and relatively rosy outlooks, however, there remain profound technological, organizational, and market shifts on the near and far horizons that have the potential to radically affect the focus, products and performance of even the leanest and meanest companies.
For example, process control and automaton is continuing to migrate to PC-, embedded- Ethernet-, Internet- or whatever-based formats, and this will likely alter the solutions offered by most suppliers in the next few years, especially as these products become increasingly less expensive, more thoroughly tested, and more widely accepted. Likewise, control and automation networking is evolving, and trends n this realm include swelling fieldbus adoption, increased cooperation on electronic device description language (EDDL), OPC’s ongoing emergence, more commonsense security measures, intrinsic safety improvements, and multiplying wireless methods and their inevitable shakeout.
Another market-shaking force is implicit in the growing hybridization of applications and continuing melding of formerly separate process and discrete technologies. Consequently, while accelerating demand for oil, gas, petrochemicals and related product expand the sheer volume of process control products needed, the types and variety of products also will swell as process controls are increasingly mandated and adopted in pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, and other as yet unanticipated applications.
Process control suppliers and end users alike will no doubt do their best to keep pace with these shifting forces, avoiding uncertainties, and hopefully keeping any unwelcome surprises to a minimum.
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