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My Flowmeter Odyssey

By Jesse Yoder

As you may know, in 1994 I wrote a study for Find/SVP called The World Market for Flowmeters in the Process Industries.  This study was the second in a series of four reports I did for FIND.  It sold extremely well, and even today I still find in my travels that quite a few people have this book on their bookshelves.

There were several unique features of this study.  First, it is one of very few market studies that include all types of flowmeters.  Secondly, it included an enduser survey.  Third, the market sizes and forecasts have stood the test of time.  Even though I would make some adjustments here and there, I still believe that the numbers presented in this study were basically correct, and that the forecasts, which went through 1998, were fundamentally sound.

Today I have ten years of additional data and experience to add to the information collected for the 1994 study.  I have written 30 more flowmeter studies, including ones on Coriolis, magnetic, ultrasonic, vortex, differential pressure, positive displacement, and turbine.  These reports on individual types of flowmeters have more segmentation than it is possible to do in a broader survey.  However, they lack the benefit of a direct comparison among various flowmeter technologies, and they do not provide a view of the entire flowmeter market.

A Fact-Finding Trip

Several years ago, before undertaking the most recent series of flow studies, I took a trip around the country to ask flowmeter suppliers what types of studies they would like to have done.  I visited many companies, including Rosemount, Honeywell, Southwest Research, FMC, Micro Motion, Sierra Instruments, Fluid Components, Dieterich Standard, DMC, CEESI Colorado, and a number of other companies.  Besides asking people about their market research needs, I also was able to tour some manufacturing facilities and flowlabs.

During my visit to Rosemount, I met with Bill Graber who was working at that time in the DP flowmeter division.  He said that he likes the individual studies, but what he’d really like to see is a single study that includes Coriolis, magnetic, ultrasonic, vortex, and DP flow.  Such a study would make it possible to see how the different flow technologies compare to each other, in terms of market size and growth rate.  It would also provide a more in-depth look at how the larger flow companies that are in multiple flow technologies stack up against each other.  Rosemount also asked for a worldwide survey of flowmeter users.

After meeting with Bill, I discussed this idea with a number of other companies, including Honeywell, DMC, and EMCO.  Everyone seemed to agree that this was a good idea.  After my trip, I approached Ducker Research, my business partner.  Ducker agreed to support a cross-technology flow study, and also to conduct the worldwide survey of flowmeter users.  This survey eventually became Volume VI in our series of worldwide flowmeter studies.

The Idea of an All-Technology Flow Study Emerges

After considering the idea of a cross-technology study, I decided to include all ten flow technologies.  The idea was to give a complete view of the flowmeter market.  After beginning initial work on such a comprehensive study, it became clear that any study involving all flow technologies would be extremely long.  As a result, I decided to split it into two: one to cover the newer technologies, and one to cover the more traditional technologies.  I created the terms “new-technology flowmeter” and “traditional technology flowmeter” as a convenient way to divide the flowmeter family into two groups.

Eventually we decided to publish one study on each technology, instead of two very large studies.  Publishing individual studies makes it possible to provide more detailed segmentation.  However, after completing the Coriolis, magnetic, ultrasonic, and vortex studies, we did consolidate these into the New-Technology Flowmeter study (Volume V).  Volume V also includes the DP flow market.

From New-Tech to Traditional Tech

After completing studies on all the new-technology meters, we began researching the traditional technologies. The biggest projects were the positive displacement and turbine flowmeter studies, due to the large number of suppliers.  We found over 140 suppliers of turbine meters – more than for any other flow technology.  There are 140 company profiles in the turbine study.

After completing these studies, Nick Limb of Ducker Research suggested including the remaining technologies (open channel, thermal, and variable area) into a single study that incorporated all the flow technologies.  So we began research on this project in July 2002.  Belinda Burum and I did the work on this study.

Gathering reliable data for the all-technology flow study was a lot like writing these studies all over again.  We had to ask each company to update their sales information from 2000 to 2002.  In the end, I decided that the most effective way to present this data would be to actually write new studies for Volumes I to V: Coriolis, Magnetic, Ultrasonic, Vortex, and New-Technology.  So now we are publishing these volumes again, with completely up-to-date information.

Getting a Look from 20,000 Feet

One lesson I learned from this experience is that it is very difficult to find reliable data on the entire flowmeter market without studying each individual technology first and then combining the data together.  This is very much like seeing a landscape from 20,000 feet.  You can see the outlines of buildings and roads, but very little detail.  This may be sufficient knowledge for some purposes, but not for in-depth understanding.

What we have done is more like the following.  We looked at the terrain from 20,000 feet and decided we needed a lot more detail.  The ten flow technologies can be compared to ten different towns that are linked together with highways.  So we landed the plane, and did a detailed study of the ten towns individually.  We wrote up this information in a report on each town. 

We then got back in the plane with the reports in hand, and took another look at the ten towns.

From 20,000 feet, we can now see the broad outline of each of the ten towns below.  But because we have studied each town (flow technology) individually, we also have in-depth knowledge of each town.  We can also see the connecting roads between all the towns.  These roads were not readily visible from the ground.  Taking a second look from 20,000 feet gives us the entire picture, all at one time.

The ten flow technologies do not exist in isolation.  Anytime a customer selects one type of flowmeter, he fails to select one of the other nine types.  Not every technology can be growing at a ten percent rate.  By studying every technology, it is possible to identify compare the market penetration of the different technologies, and to understand which technologies are growing and which are being replaced.

The method we have used also avoids another problem.  It takes so long to do individual studies of all the flow technologies that, by the time the project is done, the initial data is out of date.  We have avoided this problem by going back and updating all the information from base year 2000.  So now we have up-to-date data on all ten flow technologies, with year 2002 data.  For details on these studies, please visit

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