Survey says: Users want more powerful control systems

Aug. 18, 2005
A recent, anonymous survey of active users of temperature and power-control systems reveals some interesting and surprising trends.

Barbara Lee
Chromalox Inc.
Pittsburgh, Pa.


Respondents expect to add predictive-maintenance and equipmentdiagnostic functions to their control systems that help manage their processes and applications. Only 5% of those surveyed currently have temperature-control systems that include diagnostic or predictivemaintenance capabilities. Yet, a full 75% said they expect to have these capabilities in two years, representing a strong demand for more intelligent temperature-control systems.

Nearly 30% of those surveyed currently have some form of remote equipment-monitoring technology, and another 20% expect to add remotecontrol technology in 2005. Seventy-five percent of respondents said they expect to have remote-control systems in place within two years. That number is up from 50% in last year's survey. While wireless technology is being used in only 17% of the manufacturing facilities surveyed, that number is expected to double in two years.

When asked, "What is the biggest challenge you face in your job for 2005," 35% of respondents claimed budget constraints and 33% claimed increased productivity goals. While only 20% expect a decreased budget in 2005 (compared to 27% last year), 45% have an increased budget for 2005 and 35% have the same budget as last year. Staffing levels are expected to remain flat or increase this year, with 50% claiming no change, and 40% planning to increase staff.

Seventy-six percent of those surveyed said they expect production volumes to rise in 2005, with 28% forecasting a significant increase. Production increases are being driven by an increased demand for products (48%) and an expanded product line (28%).

In order to accommodate growth in productivity while conservatively managing budgets, 55% of respondents said their plants would install improved production technology in 2005. Forty percent will invest in supply-chain improvements and lean-manufacturing techniques.

Software integration continues to be the number-one problem managers have when installing new technology at a facility, as identified by 45% of participants. Following closely are insufficient budget (45%), insufficient time (40%), and hardware-integration issues (40%). These numbers are consistent with last year's results. Plant security has become a newsworthy issue since the government introduced its Public Health Security & Bioterrorism Preparedness & Response Act, but 50% of survey respondents claim there has been no impact on their operations, and 35% claim minimal impact. Forty percent said they have not changed any of their security systems related to plant operations and control. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, participants rated the overall security of their own plant operations as 7.5.

The survey was anonymous and distributed to 6,000 users in a wide range of process and manufacturing industries in February of this year. Respondents were most commonly in engineeringmanagement or engineeringtechnicalstaff positions, although there were a small number of manufacturing managers, corporate managers, purchasing managers, and production staff included. The 150 responses represent a 2.5% response rate.

Chromalox is a maker of industrial heating and control systems. View the full survey results at newsletters/nmw05survey.pdf

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