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Motion control market is on the rebound

01 August, 2001

The worldwide market for General Motion Control (GMC) hardware, unbundled software and services, was worth almost $4.7bn last year and will reach $6.8bn by the end of 2005 - a compound annual growth rate of 7.7% - according to a new report.

The study*, from the ARC Advisory Group, says that 2000 provided a surge in growth following several years during which the Asian financial crisis had taken its toll. Also, a relatively high exchange rate between the dollar and European currencies drove up the cost of machinery to manufacturers. The rebound is a response to forces in the economy as well as to specific industries.

However, the continuing process of mergers and consolidations has had a considerable impact, with traditional market-leaders being challenged, and new leaders emerging. The market now contains many newly combined businesses but for many of them, it will be a long time before there is a cohesive brand and product strategy, ARC warns.

"Developing momentum in this business requires a considerable amount of effort in streamlining of sales channels, application expertise, and product development expenditures," says the report`s principal author, ARC senior analyst Sal Spada. "A small motion control company that could, at one time, justify a low-volume niche product, is not easily justified in a parent organisation that has just acquired numerous overlapping products."

Companies with sustainable strategies will emerge as leaders, ARC predicts. It foresees component suppliers forging relationships with automation suppliers by offering brand-labelled products, customised software, and specialised network interfaces to automation companies with strengths in particular areas. The market wants turnkey systems, but the source does not have to be the motion control supplier, ARC says.

The continued adoption of precision motion controls across the automation sector is fuelling the growth of the GMC market. Factories that have adopted motion controls are experiencing improved flexibility and performance, and are finding it easier to configure their production lines.

In the semiconductor industry, for example, the shift to 300mm wafers has created a tremendous demand for machinery. It has provided an opportunity to improve machinery performance while re-engineering the handling lines and wafer production equipment.

In addition, many semiconductor plants are using more automation between islands of equipment. They are replacing the manual movement of work in progress with automated materials-handling systems inserted into their production lines.

In other sectors of the market, the need to automate warehouses, inventory control systems, and materials-handling systems, continues to drive a new wave of adoption. Warehousing systems and production systems are using motion controls to improve conveyor systems, augmenting packers with robotics, and replacing manual setups with precision motion controls.

* GMC worldwide outlook, market analysis and forecast through 2005.

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