Though most of the industrial automation market grew by double-digit percentages in 2011, the global market for general motion control systems faltered. The market grew, but only in the low single digits over the previous year — disrupted by the tsunami in Japan, slowdown in China, and the stall in capital expenditures in the semiconductor market.
The general motion control market grew 45% between 2009 and 2010, but the overall business has abruptly returned to normalcy or simply lost momentum, according to a study from the ARC Advisory Group. This compares with other industrial market segments such as PLCs, ac drives and machine safeguarding, which all continued to sustain double-digit year-on-year growth rates in 2011.
Mixed reports developed as suppliers exposed to the crisis in Japan and semiconductor and solar industries were once again impacted by double-digit declines. As a result, the market share gains in 2011 were disproportionate.
Manufacturers increasingly seek automation solutions that adapt to a less rigidly defined production environment, improve product quality, reduce costs, and shorten time to market. Manufactured products are becoming dimensionally smaller, and the increase in short run production has made it impossible to rely upon human labor to achieve the desired throughputs. "These dynamics on the manufacturing side feed a resurgent demand for motion control solutions in mature economies," said Sal Spada, research director for ARC and principal author of the latest report.
Capital expenditures in the automotive, machinery manufacturing, and printing and publishing industries provided the greatest contributions to the general motion control market growth in 2011. Although they enabled the market to move into positive growth territory, automotive and machinery manufacturing seem to be reaching a saturation point.