Process Wireless to Reach $1.1 Billion

April 25, 2008
Wireless in Process Manufacturing Worldwide Outlook

The market for wireless devices and equipment in process manufacturing will grow 32% per year and reach $1.1 billion by 2012, according to “Wireless in Process Manufacturing Worldwide Outlook,” an ARC Advisory Group study created from data collected in 2007.

The study predicts the market will change its character during the period, as new standardized wireless sensing products and hardened wireless local area networks (LANs) penetrate the process market. Deployment of wireless in continuous process manufacturing industries, such as chemicals, oil & gas, oil refining, electric power or mining and metals, has lagged manufacturing industries such as automotive and aerospace, because process plants are often larger and located mainly outdoors and because the presence of dangerous and potentially explosive materials mandates use of equipment carrying special certifications.

Wireless process sensing is expected to be the fastest growing market segment. Today it accounts for only a small portion of the total market, but ARC says it will become the largest segment during the next five years, as new wireless sensing products that comply with wireless versions of industrial standards emerge.
Both WirelessHART and ISA100 use the same sensor radio hardware as the ZigBee standard, but with their own software. The driving force for wireless process sensing is installation cost, which ARC believes will cause the process industries to use it wherever they can.

Wireless LAN use also will grow rapidly, spurred by the introduction of new access point products that can be installed in hazardous environments. The longer range and clearer signals of future IEEE 802.11n wireless will also make them attractive to process industry customers, says ARC.

“Manufacturers in the process industries know that they need better visibility into operations that occur inside their own fence,” says Harry Forbes, senior analyst at ARC. “ARC’s end-user research indicates that manufacturers believe better visibility has huge potential value in the form of more consistent use of best practices, higher plant utilization and improved operational safety.”

Another area of operations where improved and wireless-enabled practices have high potential is major equipment turnarounds, according to ARC. These are pre-planned major maintenance activities that are becoming increasingly complex and involve huge numbers of coordinated tasks, contractors, suppliers and materials over ever-shorter outage periods.