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Pulp and paper automation needs new approach

02 May 2007

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A new report from Frost & Sullivan highlights the way the European automation and control solutions (ACS) market in the pulp and paper sector is nearing saturation. The maturity of the European ACS market in pulp and paper suggests that manufacturers of automation and control products and systems should rethink their growth strategies in this sector in order to maintain profitability.

Frost & Sullivan reports that the European ACS Market in Pulp and Paper earned revenues of $1.22billion in 2006 and estimates this to reach $1.39billion in 2013.

Pulp and paper makers' conservatism towards adopting rapid technological advances has begun to fade. However, manufacturers of automation and control products and systems need to be aware of the changing needs of end users and the diverse criteria on which they will evaluate their suppliers in the future.

Pulp and paper makers in Europe are under pressure to cut costs by removing process bottlenecks and to improve overall process efficiency. Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Ambika Kolangarakath states: "The primary driver for growth in the European ACS market in the pulp and paper sector will be the growing need to improve the efficiency of existing pulp- and paper-making processes for better profitability. The need for the effective use of raw materials such as fibre and energy will lead to continued investments by pulp and paper makers in automation architecture and control systems to streamline their operations."

Modernisation required

Meanwhile, ageing control systems and technology obsolescence in automation architecture in most of the older mills will drive replacement demand in a large number of western European mills.

Most of the control systems in the older mills are about 15 to 20 years old and have to be gradually replaced, since it will become increasingly difficult for end users to obtain hardware, software or manpower support for this antiquated technology. This is a positive development for automation suppliers, since very limited replacements have been made in their large installed bases in Europe to date.

Given the high levels of competition in this market, there is a growing need to add value to products, with an emphasis on comprehensive and integrated control solutions. Kolangarakath explains: "Currently there are several ACS product offerings with minimal differences in features and benefits. These need to become less commoditised if drastic price reductions, intensifying competition and general business decline are to be addressed."

Value-added features

A key restraint to revenue growth in this market is the negative price pressure arising from increasing commoditisation and declining differentiation in the vast range of products offered by suppliers. With intense competition contributing to low growth in the market, the major participants will need to focus on product differentiation through value-added features and functionality, along with differentiated services.

Meanwhile, small- to medium-sized suppliers that focus on single or niche solutions will have to expand their product portfolio or resort to mergers with other companies to supplement their offerings. This aspect will assume greater importance since most end users are increasingly looking to meet all or the majority of their control system needs from the lowest possible number of suppliers.

European ACS Market in Pulp and Paper (reference M0C0-10) is part of the Industrial Automation & Process Control Subscription from Frost & Sullivan, which also includes research in the following markets: European ACS market in Oil & Gas, European ACS market in Power Generation, European ACS market in Food & Beverages, European ACS market in Chemicals. All research included in subscriptions provides detailed market opportunities and industry trends that have been evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.

 
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