While the global market for industrial PCs has experienced ups and downs in recent years, it is forecast to pick up in 2016 and will start to stabilize in 2018.
The key reason for the increase in short-term growth is an expected improvement in the outlook for process industry investment and the continued use of industrial PCs in applications outside the established areas of industrial automation. Global revenue from industrial PCs is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6% from 2014 to 2019, reaching $4,3-billion, according to IHS.
“While the world market for industrial PCs has enjoyed relatively strong growth since 2013, recovery is projected to be slower through 2016,” says Rita Liu, manufacturing technology analyst, IHS Technology. “This slowed recovery is based on poor performance of downstream process-industry sectors in the current economic environment, with very low oil prices, a global downturn in mining, and the like.”
Europe, Middle-East and Africa (EMEA) was still the largest market for industrial PCs in 2014, at $1,2-billion, or 38% of the global total, according to the IHS Industrial PCs Intelligence Service. Asia-Pacific was the second-largest market, with estimated revenues of $1,1-billion. “It is worth noting that due to the slowing Chinese economy, the Asia-Pacific market for industrial PCs is projected to grow more slowly,” Liu says. “In fact, the Asia-Pacific market is expected to fall behind the American market this year.”
Of course the performance of the industrial PC market depends largely on the underlying growth in the sectors that use them, including discrete and process manufacturing sectors, as well as building automation, medical, transportation and infrastructure and other non-industrial sectors.
Industrial sectors accounted for over half of the world market in 2014 and 2015, and they are expected to grow much more slowly than non-industrial sectors. Generally, transportation and infrastructure, medical, and gaming sectors will grow more quickly than the general market through 2019.
Robotics is the fastest growing industrial sector for PCs; followed by materials-handling equipment; food, beverage and tobacco machinery; and packaging machinery. “Tobacco and packaging machinery are closely connected with consumer markets and enjoy relatively stable performance, no matter what the overall economic situation might be,” Liu says.