An expansive U.S. economy, six months of overall growth in manufacturing, and thumbs-up responses from organization members in a recent survey have officials at the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) feeling “bullish” about the continuously-expanding automation industry in 2014.

“The automation industry has benefited from a strong showing in manufacturing production and capacity utilization in 2013,” says Piercarlo “PC” Romano, CSIA board chairman.

“On-shoring of high-tech manufacturing and inexpensive natural gas are two tailwinds that should help to extend the momentum for CSIA members into next year and beyond,” he adds.

The sunny forecast for 2014 also stems from a semiannual survey distributed to organization members back in the fall, according to CSIA Executive Director Robert Lowe.

The study, he says, details developing trends throughout manufacturing, particularly automation equipment.

In the survey, 80 percent of the respondents, surveyed by JPMorgan and CSIA, reportedly said they expected revenue to grow in the next 12 months, Lowe says.

That’s following news that those same respondents reported growth in the 12 months prior, Lowe adds.

“In terms of revenue growth, we asked the question: How’s growth been for you over the last 12 months versus the year-ago period?” Lowe tells Leo Rommel of Industry Today. “Looking at the answers, I’d say the majority fall in the 5 percent to 15 percent growth range.”

The majority of respondents, he says, also reported improved demand and fewer project delays.

“Backlogs are typical to slightly stronger. We’re slightly stronger than what is typical for our industry,” Lowe adds. “The markets that are showing the most activity and new orders right now are in food and beverage, oil and gas, and OEMs. We are certainly seeing an uptick in industrial equipment.”

The reported growth and substantial confidence gain in oil and gas, he adds, is no doubt attributed to the U.S. energy boom of recent years.

“We also ask our members, where are you expanding?” Lowe says. “Maybe you’re not making money doing it yet, but if you’re expanding into markets, what would those markets be?”

The top two answers, he says, were power and energy, and oil and gas.

“Those are just absolutely booming industries here in the U.S.,” Lowe adds.

CSIA officials say automation is driving increased productivity as industry clients – from CEOs to plant engineers – have improved manufacturing within their existing facilities.

Headquartered in Madison, Wis., the organization has more than 400 company members in over two dozen countries.

Romano, in a statement, says that CSIA integrator members expect the course of rebuilding and replacing older control systems to continue.

“CSIA member companies provide the project management skills and execution systems required by industry clients and are exclusively focused on delivering successful projects for them,” Romano says.

He adds: “Today, more plant managers, directors of operations, and others are engaging our integrators in larger and more diverse solutions to fit their automation needs.”

Lowe says automation grew in popularity in 2013.

“Technology-wise, the hot items that we hear most about are cyber security, Big Data, mobility, and bring your own device,” Lowe says.

To better illustrate how vital and instrumental automation has become throughout U.S. manufacturing, Lowe provided a few firsthand examples.

Here’s one: Lowe recalls surveying and asking a CSIA member for some substantial examples of how automation has helped their clients grow and prosper.

“This example, in particular, has to do with tank and fender production and what used to be done until very recently, quite manually,” Lowe says.

Now, he says, the entire process has been fully automated, “meaning that the flat steel comes in, gets pressed, shaped, welded, ground, and so forth, and then polished.”

There are very few human interactions that are required, he adds.

“The number of workers it takes to produce these has gone from literally hundreds down to maybe 50,” Lowe says. “So, basically, you get to make more with fewer people and quality goes up.”

In essence, there is not “any arguing” about the vast benefits of automation in today’s high-tech industrial world, Lowe says.

“We read about on-shoring. Manufacturing is coming back to the U.S., work that had left some years ago, and automation is a big reason,” Lowe adds. “It’s surely the best way to reduce operating costs to be competitive. Let’s face it: Anything in manufacturing is of a competitive nature. I don’t think anyone has a full niche on any market. That’s why we’re so bullish about automation in 2014.”

About the Control Systems Integrators Association
Founded in 1994, the Control Systems Integrators Association (CSIA) is a not-for-profit, global professional association that seeks to advance the industry of control system integration.

Control system integrators use their engineering, technical, and business skills to help manufacturers and other automate their industrial equipment and systems.

CSIA members provide a range of services in dozens of industries.

Headquartered in Madison, Wis., CSIA is the “go-to” resource for control system integration. CSIA helps members improve their business skills, provides a forum to share industry expertise, and promotes the benefits of hiring a certified control system integrator. CSIA has more than 400 members in 27 countries.



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