This afternoon, at Control’s AutomationXchange about 40 of the attendees attended a PAT (Process Analyzer Technology) Roundtable. You can hear the podcast of this roundtable discussion on ControlGlobal.com’s Process Automation Radio Network. One of the things that the end users continued to circle back to was the need to reduce drastically the cost of online analysis tools, and the need to improve the maintainability of even simpler analyzers like pH and conductivity. So why can’t we do that?
Dave Mills of Procter and Gamble just finished writing the Consumer Guide to pH, ORP and Conductivity Transmitters for Spitzer and Boyes LLC. Virtually none of the suppliers would furnish Dave any information about the performance of the actual sensors. So, you pays yer money and you takes yer chances. What’s wrong with this picture?
For years, I’ve been pointing out the fact that most field sensors for process automation are horrendously overpriced, and for years the suppliers have simply said, “No they aren’t.” Well, it’s a fact that they are. Archaic and antiquated production techniques abound, making costs vastly higher than they need to be. And it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, too. If the price is high, fewer sensors will be used in processes where, if the price was significantly lower, many more would be used. Because fewer sensors are used, production runs are smaller, and costs are spread across fewer units, thus raising (artificially) the cost…just because the price point is artificially high. Margins do not correspondingly rise, and there is no apparent incentive to modernize and increase production runs to drive costs down…and so it goes.