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Will industrial PCs take over the plant floor? Is the PLC era over?

Mississauga, ON -- April 9, 2001 -- The growth of the industrial PC market -- at 20 per cent annually -- is part of...


Mississauga, ON — April 9, 2001 — The growth of the industrial PC market — at 20 per cent annually — is part of a larger “mega-trend,” the integration of factory and plant automation systems with front-office management information technology systems to form what is being called “e-manufacturing,” said Guenter Brecheis, senior vice-president, marketing, for Siemens Canada’s Industry and Construction Group. He was speaking last week at the introduction of a new line of Siemens industrial PCs.

“I pose an interesting question to you,” said Brecheis. “Is e-manufacturing creating the market, or is it the industrial PC that is creating the e-manufacturing capability? I suggest that without the advancing technology of the industrial PC, we could not have e-manufacturing.

“Presently e-manufacturing is nothing more than the creation of links between the control equipment on the plant floor and the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) level.” When this happens, the plant is no longer separated from the rest of the company, he noted.

“The greater population of PCs on the plant floor signals a major shift in operational technology. What scarcely seemed possible a few years ago has now become reality: PCs are taking over control tasks in manufacturing. The are no longer used solely for visualization and data processing.”

The combination of multiple functions into one resource will reduce the costs and complexity of factory automation, said Brecheis. “And of equal importance, having such a resource on the plant floor will give us the capabilities to simultaneously communicate what is happening in the plant to the front office.”

Brecheis also commented that the growth of industrial PCs has not been at the expense of PLCs. PC-based control is an alternative automation platform, not entirely a competing one. PLCs will continue to meet user’s needs. “We see continued growth of the PLC market at least until the year 2003,” he confirmed. “They will continue to be well-suited for a number of applications on the factory floor.”

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