The Distributed Control Systems (DCS) market experienced unprecedented growth in 2006, increasing by over 14% compared to 2005, and it is expected to continue growing at a healthy rate through 2011, according to a new ARC Advisory Group (www.arcweb.com) study.

ARC Advisory Group expects the current growth phase of the global market for automation to last through the next several years. While the overall market remains strong and will continue to grow, odds are we will not see the stellar growth in the automation marketplace that we saw between 2005 and 2006, and the demand side economic indicators seem to agree with this assessment, according to ARC. Asia is still a powerhouse and opportunities continue to abound in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Latin America, but ARC says the developed markets, such as North America and Western Europe, are beginning to show signs of sluggishness.

ARC says automation suppliers continue to benefit from strong demand for automation services across the entire spectrum of the plant lifecycle and the scope of nearly all automation products and applications. In an automation market that is already riding the crest of a growth cycle, automation services are at the top of that crest and benefiting from several converging factors that will provide ever-increasing market growth through the next five years.

Fieldbus solutions are also being deployed in greater numbers, says ARC. As the lifecycle benefits of fieldbus solutions become more apparent, fieldbus is becoming more accepted in a wider range of industries and by greater numbers of end users. Fieldbus solutions are being deployed in more large plants and for critical applications and in some instances it is becoming a corporate standard for many manufacturers. This is consistent with a user base that is no longer evaluating fieldbus technology, but actively implementing it on a large scale.

Initially, the primary advantage of fieldbus was thought to be reduced wiring, installation, and commissioning costs. However, the results of ARC’s 2006 Fieldbus User Survey contradict this thinking, with respondents citing little-to-no savings on the capital expenditure side of the equation. Yet, the survey does reveal that users are actually realizing greater benefits on the operational expenditure side in the form of quality improvements because of bi-directional digital communication and improved process efficiency due to linked intelligent devices that are capable of remote diagnostics.

Both China and India are poised for significant long-term growth in the area of DCS, says ARC. Both countries are increasing their focus on manufacturing for export, in addition to developing infrastructure, investing in basic industries, and in training personnel to operate automation plants. China is still the primary catalyst for global growth in the automation industry. ARC expects that China will be the single biggest geographical market for automation products and services in 20 years. China”s value-added industrial output rose 18.1% versus the same period last year, which was faster than expected. The World Bank has raised its growth expectations for the China economy to 10.4% for 2007, versus its previous forecast of 9.6%. The China economy expanded by 11.1% in the first quarter causing the government to view the rapid growth in industry as a potential problem as the fears of overheating increase.

The Indian economy continues to boom as well, and the manufacturing sector is no exception. Industrial production increased by 13.6% in April, primarily driven by significant increases in manufacturing. The index of industrial production grew by 13.6% in April 2007 compared to the same period in 2006, while manufacturing increased 15.1% and electricity generation increased by 8.7%.