What Drives Choices of Industrial Heat Control Systems?

Design Engineers and Engineering Managers Say that Core Heating and Control Technologies They Use will Change in the Next Two Years

Fifty percent of the 750 design engineers and engineering managers surveyed by industrial heat and control systems manufacturer, Chromalox, agree. For those who foresee changes, three main factors—cost, energy source, and functionality—will significantly influence those changes. Respondents frequently noted that increasing energy costs have pushed the demand for energy-saving controls, as well as overall cost control in operations, which ties to the need for controls with more functionality and features.

The survey also shows a growth in the number of plants using diagnostic or predictive maintenance capability in their temperature control systems, but this advance is coming slowly. Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed say that 20% or less of their systems have such capability. Only 4% say 80% to 100% of their systems have it. But the number of those who expect 80% or more of their systems to have it in two years is double at 8%, and the number in the 20%-or-less category drops to 40%.

The same trend appears in the area of remote control and monitoring. Currently 62% of those surveyed say that 20% or less of their temperature control systems use remote PC access for control and monitoring, but in two years that number is expected to drop to 42%. Four percent say that 80% or more of their systems use it now, but 9% expect to be in that category in two years.

As in 2006, respondents again forecast plant production volumes to increase this year. The top three named competitive strategies were the installation of improved production technology (47%), supply chain improvements (32%) and the implementation of lean manufacturing techniques (32%). In comparison, in 2006 19% planned to install improved production technology and implement lean manufacturing techniques. Department budget and staff levels have remained flat and are expected to remain unchanged.

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