The IO module market is driven by fierce competition, which lead to a rapid price drop across all segments of the market, and the economic recovery, which is at full speed.
The market for IO modules is a mature market that is nevertheless not consolidated, compared to other automation markets. There are numerous different players, which all found their USP either through a dedicated IO module strategy or through the overall offering. In many cases, IO modules can provide a benefit and a strategic advantage that enables a company to differentiate itself. “The strategies that differentiate IO module suppliers include in depth industry and application knowledge, migration, and price. While features like speed or ruggedness can bring significant benefit to the user, price is always an issue and the prices will further develop downwards,” according to Analyst Florian Güldner, the principal author of ARC’s “IO Module Worldwide Outlook”.
Demand for automated measurement has been increasing in recent years, resulting in above average growth in the units of IO devices. ARC expects this trend to continue for the foreseeable future for several reasons. The primary driver behind this trend is the increase in demand for more information coming directly from manufacturing processes, which allows a more resource efficient production and a better quality measurement. Both issues will positively affect the demand for IO modules in the long run. While stricter regulations have forced investments in measurement technology, falling hardware prices for IO and measurement devices have helped to offset the additional costs.
The reaction time of input or output signals is sometimes referred to as the “IO update cycle time”. If an industrial network is used, then this time is the sum of several delays, including the reaction time of each IO signal. Traditionally, the bottleneck in the IO update has been the network, but the deployment of high-speed, Ethernet-based networks in the last decade has improved network response time so much that the bottleneck is often in the IO module itself. This trend, together with the demand for faster response times in some machine applications, has motivated some suppliers to develop high-speed IO systems capable of updating individual IO modules in microseconds.
Western Europe hosts not only many automation suppliers but also a large number of machine builders and system integrators. The long crisis has severely affected the automation/machine building clusters that focus on discrete industries. However, several factors have cushioned the current downturn: 1) the European Union is a diversified region, 2) the housing crisis was less severe than in the US, 3) European states have well-developed social systems that sponsor private consumption, 4) not every country’s banks invested in subprime markets, and, 5) financing of companies is comparably independent of capital markets. Now in the upswing, exporters benefit from the emerging Asian markets. In 2009, Chinese automation equipment imports from Germany rose by 20% to satisfy the Chinese demand for automation.