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Top 20 automated data capture suppliers in 2010

After a challenging 2009, the ADC market bounced back in 2010 and looks strong moving forward.
By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
October 01, 2011

Mobile computing
The market for ruggedized mobile computers reached $2.655 billion in 2010, a 14.5% increase over 2009, says David Krebs, vice president of VDC’s mobile and wireless computing practice.

Those figures include handheld/PDA devices, wearable mobile computers, and lift truck-mounted devices used on the plant or DC shop floor or in port and yard applications.

Krebs estimates the overall market for mobile computing devices will grow by a compound annual growth rate of 9.4%, reaching 4.16 billion by 2015.

The primary driver in 2010 was pent up demand. Warehousing, transportation and logistics projects were an important part of that story. “There was some growth from new facilities and investments and the retail sector saw a big rebound,” says Krebs. “But the most important factor was projects that had been postponed and got the green light.”

Trends Krebs is watching include:

  • The extension of the warehouse into the transportation management space and the retail store as companies focus on a closer tie between inventory levels in the store and the warehouse.

  • The emergence of new form factors, especially outside the four walls of the plant and warehouse. “The classic brick is still the preferred device for the plant and warehouse,” Krebs says. When you look at the transportation space, there is a desire to be more portable, ergonomic and lighter weight.”

  • While enterprises are extending mobile solutions to more workers, Krebs is not seeing a big migration to smart phones or tablets or operating systems from Android, at least in industrial settings. “At the end of the day, these are slow-moving markets,” Krebs says.

As for acquisitions, Honeywell’s purchase of EMS gives it more access to the warehousing and distribution market, an area where it lagged the competition, according to Krebs. “Honeywell is strongest in retail, transportation and health care,” he points out. “LXE is a long-standing provider of wireless computing with a strong customer base and partner channel.”

Scanning and printing
Bar code-related hardware, including printers and scanners, is possibly the most mature of the ADC technology segments. After a disappointing 2009, those markets posted impressive gains last year. Handheld scanners jumped 18.1% to $770.3 million, while the market for industrial fixed scanners increased by 18.3% to $809.1 million, according to Wimmer.

Meanwhile, the market for industrial printers, which includes bar code printers and the RFID printer/encoder market, improved by 13.8% to $1.863 billion.

Wimmer sees growth continuing, with five-year compound annual growth rates of between 6.7% (printers) to 9.1% (handheld scanners).

Similar to last year, the brightest spot is in the 2D and camera-based imaging space, which Wimmer sees nearly doubling by 2015. “The demand for 2D imaging is expected to outpace all other bar code technologies through 2015,” Wimmer says. It’s being driven by a number of factors including:

  • increased requirements to encode more information,

  • rising demand to embed scanning functionality into other devices, such as smart phones, tablet PCs, lottery and gaming systems, kiosks and even electronic voting machines,

  • the desire to extend data capture platforms and their value propositions, and

  • a need to support linear and 2D codes as a means to have a more robust solution and a future-proofed system.

As for mergers in the space, Wimmer says the acquisition of Vocollect should reinforce Intermec’s go-to-market strategy. “Intermec’s value proposition has always been that they are the one-stop-shop for your ADC needs, covering everything from printers to networking gear. The one technology they did not have was voice,” says Wimmer.

RFID remains the fastest growing of the ADC segments, expanding by 19.6% to $4.523 billion in 2010. The market is expected to post compound annual growth rates of 25%, topping out at $13.838 billion by 2015, according to Nathanson.

The most important RFID story may not be the growth in numbers, but where and how RFID is now being used in an industrial setting. Instead of tagging cartons and pallets to track goods through the warehouse, the action has shifted in several key ways.

“In the retail market, about 80% of the activity is in the retail store,” says Nathanson.

Major retailers, he adds, are tagging items in the store to get a more precise handle on inventory on the shelves than they get tracking point of sale information. That may explain why Wal-Mart ordered nearly 19,000 handheld RFID units. In the future, Nathanson expects to see tagging moved to the point of manufacture, similar to bar code labeling.

In addition, RFID is being used to authenticate products. In Korea, for instance, there is a mandate to have 50% of pharmaceuticals tagged with RFID by the end of 2012. But RFID is also being used to authenticate Chilean sea bass, liquor and cigarettes in some countries. “Talk to customers, and authentication and anti-counterfeiting are two of the most desired applications for RFID,” says Nathanson.

Finally, RFID technology is being embedded into other scanning engines as well as tools, parts and components for tracking purposes. That includes products as diverse as a scalpel or other medical device in a surgical kit to work in process on the manufacturing floor to the 3,000+ tags Boeing expects to put on a commercial aircraft. “RFID is becoming part of a broader overall solution package and not just tracking cartons and pallets,” says Nathanson. “The supplier community is doing a great job of providing solutions to help them get there.”

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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