But the food industry lags in adoption

The real-time process optimization and training (RPO) market is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9% over the next five years, according to a study from ARC Advisory Group. The study, Real-time Process Optimization and Training Worldwide Outlook, which reports the RPO market at slightly more than $1 billion in 2008, forecasts the market to reach more than $1.5 billion in 2013.

The RPO market grew significantly over the past couple of years because of the robust global economy and the need for safer, more efficient operations. According to the study’s author, Research Analyst Tom Fiske, Ph.D, “The economic slowdown will adversely affect growth over the next year or two, but the market will provide some opportunities as many of the issues facing manufacturers, like reducing costs, are addressed well with RPO solutions.”

The RPO market consists of three types of applications: advanced process control (APC), on-line optimization and training simulation and control validation software. APC includes model-based software to direct and control process operations. On-line optimization continually monitors the state of the process and through a reference model, predicts an optimum operation path. Training simulation and control system validation are real-time dynamic simulators designed to train process operators and verify control system functionality.

According to Fiske, "Currently, the food and beverage industry represents a small portion of the RPO market (well under ten percent)." The food and beverage industry  is looking for ways to cut costs and fine-tune their processes. "Leading companies have embraced some RPO tools, but the industry still lags way behind other industry sectors in terms of adoption," adds Fiske.

The financial crisis and credit crunch, however, are forcing companies to reevaluate their bottom line. Manufacturers looking to reduce costs and improve profitability are focusing greater attention on efficiency improvements and their customers’ needs. APC and optimization solutions play an important role in achieving endeavors that result in higher return on assets, says the study.