When it comes to level sensors, reliability rules

Level sensors must often operate in extreme and hazardous environments.
Level sensors come in many shapes and sizes and must operate reliably in harsh conditions and hazardous environments. (GA Wirth)

The $2B+ global market for level sensors used in process industries is well-established, yet diverse and still evolving. While many of the older, mechanical-style sensors maintain extensive installed bases, newer technologies such as laser and radar have been the target of continued innovation from some of the world’s largest industrial automation suppliers.

Market analyst VDC research tracks more than 60 suppliers in this market. The competitive landscape is relatively top heavy; however, there are dozens of niche competitors making significant contributions within select geographic regions, vertical market segments, and product categories.

Reliability is a key product attribute

Free Newsletter

Like this article? Subscribe to FierceSensors!

The sensors industry is constantly changing as innovation runs the market’s trends. FierceSensors subscribers rely on our suite of newsletters as their must-read source for the latest news, developments and analysis impacting their world. Register today to get sensors news and updates delivered right to your inbox.

Users depend on level sensors to perform in a variety of industrial settings, many of which necessitate deployments in harsh conditions or in environments that make the sensors themselves difficult to physically access.

Moreover, the Internet of Things and other connectivity-driven initiatives among end-user organizations have increased demand for wireless and other advanced communication capabilities of process level sensors.

Many industrial organizations deploy process level sensors across broadly distributed environments (or in places that are either too difficult or too dangerous to easily access or maintain manually), so the ability to communicate with these devices remotely has become increasingly critical.

So, it may come as no surprise that when asked to identify the five most important product selection characteristics for level sensors in a survey conducted in 2019 by VDC Research, “reliability” was cited most frequently by respondents as a key attribute.

VDC Research findings from Global Market for process level measurement study 2019

Requirements vary from industry to industry and even application to application. Users deploying sensors in applications subject to challenging conditions―such as vibrations, dust, harsh chemicals, or extreme temperatures―are likely to prioritize reliability or durability, while those without such extreme requirements are more likely to focus on attributes such as accuracy or cost.

The importance of “overall cost,” the second most-frequently-cited selection criterion, is also an indication of the price sensitivity that has affected not only the market for level measurement instrumentation, but much of the broader market for industrial automation components in general. Commoditization also is a significant factor in this space, particularly among older, mechanical-style measurement technologies.

(Note that in the chart above “overall cost” refers to only the bottom-line cost of the product itself. “Overall value” adds the element of “value,” recognizing that superior functionality or performance can also be a purchase consideration that goes beyond the lowest price.)

Jared Weiner, senior analyst for industrial automation and sensors and one of the research study authors, notes that he was initially surprised by the fact that more respondents did not cite “ease of maintenance” as a top attribute.

“However, ‘reliability’ and ‘durability/ruggedness’ in a way both supersede the need for maintenance in the first place,” he noted. “So, the relative importance given to “ease of maintenance” makes more sense.”

The findings are part of a research program by VDC, titled The Global Market for Process Level Measurement.

This multi-volume program includes detailed analyses of two level measurement sub-markets. The executive brief for each study can be downloaded here:

Suggested Articles

Workers and customers walk through the ThermalPass gateway device and sensors screen for temperature

The largely unseen impact of this pandemic has left working engineers grappling with more responsibilities, schedule slips, parts shortages and more.

North America billings were up by 15%, but Europe declined 23%