Author: Mark Lydon, Content Marketing Specialist at ABI Research
As manufacturers continue to embrace digital transformation, Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) become ever more crucial in improving productivity. If your plant aims to deploy a new PLC, there are a number of brands providing effective hardware and software solutions to support industrial automation. ABI Research’s recent Industrial Automation: PLC Hardware and Software competitive ranking assessed 11 PLC companies on their solution capabilities. To refine your search for a new PLC partner, I’ll share five of the most promising brands from the report.
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As the chart below depicts, PLC hardware revenue is expected to be more than US$30 billion annually by the end of the decade.
Munich-based Siemens is a top PLC brand due to its strong innovation and implementation abilities. The company has a large customer base and extensive experience in deploying industrial automation solutions for manufacturers. Customers can expect support for holistic functionality in its software offering, low/no code and simulation capabilities, and strong PLC customization options.
Perhaps the most attractive perk of partnering with Siemens is that customers are offered a PLC solution that is tailored to their individual manufacturing vertical, including Out-of-the-Box (OOTB) function libraries. The magic behind the industry-specific PLC solutions is Siemens’ proprietary processors, designed to work seamlessly with the controller.
Rockwell Automation, headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is another impressive PLC solution provider, with customers in more than 100 countries. Like Siemens, Rockwell Automation has steep experience in deploying PLCs for manufacturers and serves the automation and control technologies needed in specific industries (automotive, oil & gas, and pharmaceuticals). Moreover, the company supports many communication protocols, such as Ethernet/IP, Modbus, PROFIBUS, ControlNet, and others.
Hybrid and process manufacturing constitute 75% of Rockwell Automation’s sales, and discrete manufacturing makes up the remaining 25%. Regionally, 61% of its business is done in North America, 18% in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), 14% in Asia-Pacific, and 7% in Latin America.
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Bosch Rexroth, a German PLC brand, calls itself “the smartphone of automation,” and for good reason. Users of Bosch Rexroth’s ctrlX Core controller and ctrlX PLC app are given tremendous flexibility due to widespread app support. This allows manufacturers to quickly design and deploy automation solutions in their plants.
Engineers will feel comfortable with Bosch Rexroth’s PLC solution as it’s based on the commonly used CODESYS design. As a result, the transition process to the new PLC will be less complex. Ease of use is a big selling point of the company’s PLC software, supporting low/no-code tools like the ctrlX Store. The ctrlX Store provides a plethora of pre-made applications that manufacturers can use to rapidly deploy PLCs.
Swiss company ABB offers manufacturers automation solutions for Levels 1, 2, and 3 with its AC500 controller range and ABB Automation Builder PLC software combination. ABI Research reports that ABB is the fifth-largest automation hardware brand in the market, highlighting the firm’s proven track record. Since ABB’s acquisition of B&R Industrial Automation in 2017, the former is in charge of the process manufacturing customer base, while the latter typically supports discrete manufacturers.
Pheonix Contact is a Blomberg, Germany-based brand supplying PLC solutions through PLCnext controllers and PLCnext Engineer software. Manufacturers can be sure that they can handle diverse requirements as the PLCnext controllers include three scales of power: AXC F 1152, 2152, and 3152. The company’s PLC supports a wide range of common protocols like HTTP, SNTP, and Ipsec—in tandem with OPC UA and MQTT for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and cloud connections.
Future-proofing is an underlying concept for the company’s PLC solutions. Phoenix Contact’s controllers can integrate with OPC UA, time-sensitive networking, 5G, and other technologies thanks to its open Linux core. On top of that, PLCnext Engineer software has a modular design, which allows manufacturers to deploy add-ins and software apps down the line. The PLCnext Store is Phoenix Contact’s digital software marketplace where engineers can download pre-made applications that facilitate an accelerated programming process. This is most suitable for simpler PLC programming use cases.
Learn More about These Companies
This blog post only touches the surface of the best PLC companies on the market, listing just 5 of the 11 brands ABI Research analyzed. While these company overviews provide a good starting point for evaluating your options, the next step is to take a more in-depth look at their solutions and market positioning. To learn more about the biggest innovators and top implementers of PLC hardware and software, read our CA Highlight Selecting the Right Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) Supplier for Your Manufacturing Plant.