February 2008

Industrial infrastructure gets low grade

North America's manufacturers need to replace and retrofit their hard assets and control systems soon to preclude breakdowns in service and environmental damage.

The ARC Advisory Group, in its first Insight of 2008, sees particular peril threatening the power, oil & gas, and water & wastewater industries. 

ARC reported you do not have to look very far to see examples of crumbling industrial infrastructure in North America and the impact it has on the economy and even human life. 

From the national power grid to the Alaska pipeline, an outdated infrastructure of equipment, control systems, applications, and work practices have resulted in severe consequences not only for industry but also for the public. 

In the process automation system market alone, ARC estimates there is $65 billion worth of process automation systems nearing the end of their useful life.  While this decaying infrastructure certainly includes problems with equipment, such as pipelines, generators, and water mains, that is only part of the equation. Control systems, instrumentation, and automation are at the heart of industrial processes and can be the deciding factor in predicting and preventing incidents, impending breakdown of plant equipment, corrosion, and other factors. 

Safety systems take plants into a safe state in the event of an abnormal situation, while cyber security schemes protect automation systems from intrusion, cyber attacks, and exposure to viruses, botnets, worms and other hazards.

The question: How many systems installed today meet the requirements for today's emergent threats? ARC sees the need for significant investment by industrial end users to get systems and plants up to date.

This, of course, translates to a huge business opportunity for automation suppliers.