Single fieldbus standard on the horizon? Not in the short term, end-users concede

Assembly Automation

ISSN: 0144-5154

Article publication date: 1 December 2002




(2002), "Single fieldbus standard on the horizon? Not in the short term, end-users concede", Assembly Automation, Vol. 22 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2002, MCB UP Limited

Single fieldbus standard on the horizon? Not in the short term, end-users concede

Single fieldbus standard on the horizon? Not in the short term, end-users concede

Keywords: Fieldbus, Standards

The dream of a unified fieldbus, coupled with the lack of standards providing openness and interoperability between products from different vendors, and the absence of an industry standard, have prompted manufacturers to increasingly forge strategic alliances to share expertise, increase the level of integration and develop compatible products.

Meanwhile, the trend towards joint ventures, expected to benefit growth in the overall European fieldbus systems market, will be driven by end-user preference for a multi-manufacturer environment with a common specification.

The member groups formed to collaborate on the development of a fieldbus protocol have laid the foundations of the fieldbus systems market and, more importantly, enabled the market to progress and the technology to evolve in the process.

In light of the development of new fieldbus systems, competition is expected to intensify in the future and the prospect of a single fieldbus standard has, in fact, weakened with time. This factor, exacerbated by the general lack of compatibility between fieldbus systems and related equipment, has been the main hindrance to the success of fieldbus.

A new study by Frost & Sullivan, the international marketing consulting company, cites the high initial investment costs for fieldbus as the main stumbling block for the widespread adoption of this latest development in process automation.

The reduction in cabling, along with the long-term cost savings derived from curtailed installation and engineering outlay, will act as key catalysts for growth in the European fieldbus systems market. Sales of fieldbus systems in Europe are projected to rise from their 2001 level of $170.2 million to $420.0 million in 2008.

Frost & Sullivan urges manufacturers to expand initiatives aimed at raising end-user awareness of the cost and productivity benefits associated with fieldbus systems, and to heighten recognition of the advantages offered by Industrial Ethernet and safety applications, to create a sustainable competitive edge.

Customer and service support is the most important criterion for users investing in fieldbus technology. In light of the rising complexity of the fieldbus systems market, the implementation of effective customer service and support practices will enable companies to better respond to customer demands and maintain a high level of repeat business.

To keep up with the fast pace of change in the industry, Frost & Sullivan highlights the rising importance of enhanced technical support, such as providing training to utilise the latest industrial networking solutions. Along with ongoing service support,end-users will increasingly demand assistance for installation and configuration.

In looking at the various fieldbus protocols, PROFIBUS emerges as the clear market leader for fieldbus systems in Europe, being the most established and recognised fieldbus network available and recognised by 85 per cent of European users. However, the share attributed to PROFIBUS is expected to fall over the coming years as competing protocols are making headway in securing a larger slice of the fieldbus pie.

FOUNDATION fieldbus is expected to be the main beneficiary of any revenue share lost by PROFIBUS. This fieldbus protocol is mainly used in the US market but a recent upsurge in interest and activities in Europe is expected to signal a rosy future.

Systems such as Ethernet and Safetybuses represented a miniscule portion of sales in 2001, but are anticipated to account for more significant shares by 2006, as awareness rises and end-users become more convinced of the longer-term benefits.

The leading manufacturers of fieldbus networks are typically the same spearheading manufacturers supplying to the process control industry. These players have developed fieldbus solutions in order to retain their image as total systems suppliers in process automation.

Siemens developed PROFIBUS, and consequently generated the most substantial share of revenues in the European fieldbus systems market in 2001. The influence of Siemens in the European industrial sector is very strong, particularly in Germany, where PROFIBUS is clearly dominant.

Frost & Sullivan confirms that ABB occupies second place. The company is a global process control solutions provider, placing it in a strong position to provide fieldbus solutions, although ABB has never developed its own fieldbus protocol.

Other companies to have gained a significant foothold in the European fieldbus systems market (above the 5 per cent mark) include Endress + Hauser, Emerson Process and Rockwell Automation.

Publication Date: May 2002 Report Code: B054 Price: 6,000

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