Market Growth

According to market research firm ARC (www.arcweb. com), the worldwide market for distributed control systems (DCSs) will grow at a CAGR of close to 4% through 2008 to reach almost $12 billion. "The DCS market has returned to recovery," says research director Larry O'Brien, principal author of the DCS Worldwide Outlook Study. While the 4% represents a scaled-up growth estimate for ARC, the company points out that this is conservative projection and that the factors contributing to future growth far outweigh negative influences. "These positive factors also appear to be global and far-reaching trends that will continue throughout the next several years," says O'Brien.

This growth is projected despite recent changes in the market for process control systems. Previously, DCSs were sold primarily for new installations in heavy process industries such as refining, petrochemicals, power, and pulp and paper, says ARC. Today, reduced capital spending, a depressed economy, and increased focus on getting more from existing assets means that most systems sold are replacements.

Meanwhile, ARC notes that control system replacement is hard to justify, saying that lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and better ease of use don't typically tip the scales. "At best, you get a 25% cut in annual TCO, which is less than 2% of replacement cost," says ARC. While threat of downtime can be a major factor in the decision, the migration process itself can also cause interruption in process operations. ARC advocates migration when the old system keeps you from taking advantage of a new business opportunity or presents the imminent threat of unscheduled downtime.

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