Why do you pay for PLC programming software?


Thread Starter


My question is simple, but the answer escapes me. To all you devoted Allen Bradley people and to everyone else who uses PLCs, why do you pay for their programming software?

For AB to charge $1100 - $1200 for programming software, then on top of that, some people have told me that they charge a yearly upgrade/license fee blows my mind at how many people pay these fees. Then there is Automation Direct that charges for OEM licenses and little things like manuals. They are starting to remind me of banks...charging for every little thing.

A question that has been on my mind for some time. Curious to see what some of your answers are.

James Ingraham

I agree completely, but I have no choice.

My company would never use PLCs, but for marketing reasons we have to. I find it particularly gauling that A-B charges so much for its software.

Consider a company using all Modicon PLCs. A-B comes in and says "our PLCs are better!" The idea of switching hardware is appealing and the company wants to do it and has the money for it. But they can't! Because they can't afford the software cost in addition to the hardward costs. If A-B gave them the software when they bought A-B PLCs, the company has an incentive to switch to A-B. Instead, A-B creates a DISINCENTIVE to move to their hardware.

On the flip side, I have an incentive now to STAY with A-B now that I've got so much invested in the software. Perhaps they feel that locking people in once they get them is more beneficial to the bottom line than attractive people in the first place.

The software shouldn't be a revenue stream. I'm certainly okay paying for technical support and some nominal fee for the software (a hundred bucks, maybe?). But paying thousands per copy per year is quite painful.

This is true of every other manufacturer as well. We would be much more willing to look at other PLC vendors if their software were free (or priced reasonably.) I actually like AutomationDirect.com's pricing, and I'm okay paying for manuals (it's nominal).

-James Ingraham
Sage Automation, Inc.
Your question implies that you feel there is an alternative, which may be the purpose of the question.

As for me, I pay it for the same reason I pay for a building, electricity, taxes, etc. I am out to make money. Their software allows me to do so. They charge me for the software (and to maintain it), and I pass it on when charging my customers for my services.

Why do they charge what they do? I don't know, but I suppose they have to pay employees and overhead costs just like I do. If they charge more than the market will bear, the market will move on to someone else (just like they would do to me).

In short, I don't mind the cost, so perhaps I am the reason the cost is what it is.
A-B is now a part of rockwell international. they don't care much about soaking the customer for every dime they get.

the problem is thet the A-B products are so good. they are made to work in the harsh enviroments for a good long time. if the aplication is critical, the extra $10,000.00 spent to go with the good stuff is paid back with no lost production, low maintenance, coustermer service, ect.

the software is easy to use and very powerful. also very expencive. there is an update fee or subscription fee evry year or so.

rockwell software probably makes as much money or more than A-B makes selling hardware.

the automationdirect.com stuff is cheep. and it does work most of the time. I have recieved new processors that were defective out of the box! they promptly sent me a new one hassel free. my customer, however, had to endure another 24 hours of down time.

you get what you pay for. even in plc land.
Well, I suppose I pay because I feel it is worth it for that software and for the tech help and upgrades that I receive in return for the yearly support fee. I can't imagine using 6200 or some other acii-interface, dos-level software.

I guess PLC hardware and software manufacturers could roll those software development and support costs into the price of the hardware, but then the hardware would look too expensive. Furthermore, the hardware sales would not cover a lifetime of tech help calls so I see a yearly support fee as still being necessary.

It all seems like a no-brainer to me. I mean, why pay for a car and continue to pay for gas when you can walk to where you are going?
They'd be a little hard to use without programming software. And those companies have made HUGE investments in the programmers and debuggers to develop those tools. They have to recover the costs somewhere. You prefer they mark up the hardware? Then nobody is competetive and the more hardware you buy the more you've paid above and beyond for the software.

Some people don't realize the amount of hard work and time that goes into the software packages. I used to be a computer programmer, and I know that a project the size of RSLogix or Modicon's Concept and Proworx would be absolutely huge. That's a major investment, and you've got to pay those salaries somehow.

You probably don't pay for shareware either, do you?

George Robertson

Because we have no choice. There were third parties selling programming software, but they were swallowed up.

As a customer, I feel very much like a hostage to Rockwell, Schneider, AutoDesk, and most of all, Microsoft.

The fact is, it costs a lot to develop and SUPPORT the software that is used to configure PLCs. The continuous "upgrades" and license fees, as well as the exhorbitant up front charges are how they pay for it. Since all of the major PLC suppliers use the same tactic these days, they
don't really have any pressure to change it. Make no mistake, we'd still pay for it somehow, it just wouldn't be a line item on the invoice.

George G. Robertson, P.E.
Manager of Engineering
Saulsbury E & C
[email protected]
(915) 366-4252
Simple, programmers gotta eat too. Why does an integrator charge the customer for the for the ladder code in the PLC in the control panel he just sold him? Extend that line of thinking and you would think that the ladder code would come free with the PLC and controls thats all hooked up to the machine. Sorry, but my kids need shoes too. Free enterprise at its finest, take it or leave it.
Well, I develop some of those packages and the money is not really in the development in as much as it is in testing it. There are many details in each and every firmware revision and processor family. I know for a fact no third party now will compete with us and cover all the details in making a programming package correctly. We could give the software away for free but people would still need support. The hardware prices would go up to compensate. The other benefit is if your an OEM is you can share licenses and program as much hardware as you want.

Linux is free but I prefer Microsoft for many reasons which I feel are worth the money. I have met the top developers at Microsoft and they are some of the most brilliant people around. I don't think smarter people are dumb enough to work for free. Even Linus has a real job now. Yes, programming packages are not as cheap as windows but we dont have the volume either. I dont like the support contracts and think that upgrades should be sold instead but it does not look likely ...


Let me answer that in a few different ways:

1: Please go to mat.sf.net and sign up to help develop an alternative.

2. Lock in. When your entire plant runs on Allen Bradley, and their "open" systems are just a bunch of marketing BS, you are stuck paying
whatever they charge. Management at most companies would rather keep getting nailed on the support contracts than move over to something else.

3. Most system integrators won't build anything else. We recently (6 months ago) spec'd a machine using the new Omron processor instead of a
controllogix. We have SLC's in plant, but no CL's, and the omron was a better system at a lower price. The integrators we spoke to would not build the omron system for us without charging us a premium for their software and training expenses. By the time they were done, the CL was cheaper than the Omron. (disgusting, btw)

4. Alternatives. Who doesn't charge for software?

5. Why do you pay for Visual Studio? That is programming software as well. and can run over a thousand USD for Visual Studio enterprise edition.

I think that covers it here.....

--Joe Jansen
You don't have to use PLC and their software. Just write your applications in VB and see what it cost you to support your customers.

It's like paying for the extra toppings on a pizza. The analogy is not quite perfect and perhaps someone has a better analogy.

Best Regards
I can only agree with 50% of this point. I do not have a problem with paying for the initial software investment. What drives me to drink is the continual updates made to the software and the associated cost. Many of the companies mentioned in this thread will create a new hardware product and only make it accessible through an update in their software. Of course, Mr. Customer, you must pay for the upgrade as well. When does it end?

Jesper M. Pedersen

Of course you have to pay for the functionality that you get.

For me, the aggrevating thing is the support licenses that we have to pay for. It is OK to pay for online/telephone support and for new software versions that have new functionality that we need.
But is is NOT OK that we have to pay for software updates to get bug-fixes for software that we have allready paid for.

Cleverly, AB and Siemens etc. packs the updates with the new functionality and the updates with the bug-fixes together. In that way we cannot argue that we should recieve the bug-fixes free of charge.
My simple answer to you is would you rather pay for the programming software once and a fee to keep it current, or would you rather pay an extra percentage for all the hardware you purchase, even spare parts when the software is already existing? The manufacurers of plc must support the cost of their developement and support personnel in some way, and I believe the way they are doing it is probably the best and fairest for all those involved.
Ditto the "because we have no choice" sentiment.

PLCs work, and they work well. Allen-Bradley - while not producing the best product - has the lion's share. They know it, and they are not shy about raping us because... THEY CAN.

I am particularly distressed when circumstances force me to purchase OLD programming software for an outdated PLC or PanelView. As usual, A-B wants the same price they would've charged 8 or 10 years ago, when today's antique was "cutting edge".

What do we do, form a "Systems Integrators Local" and strike?

Jeff Cook
Cook Controls, Inc.
Dagsboro, DE
(302) 732-1157

Bill Szuminski

I'm curious as to what industry or job function you do? I sell and support PLC's and have done that for years. It doesn't get any easier as the PLC's and the software become more difficult and all inclusive as the manufacturers develop new features to entice users.

Are you aware of how much engineering time goes into developing these devices? Right now I have to know about (7) different programming
packages and when a customer calls me, I don't ask him for his credit card number or his service account number to offer him my "expertise". We help as much as we can and when something is beyond us, that is when we call Tech Support. Oh, and those people aren't free either...

Maybe, this will explain why PLC manufacturers charge for the software.

Donald Pittendrigh

Hi All

Perhaps the real issue here is not whether or not one should be paying for the software, the alternatives are obvious and generally
unattractive, but whether or not the PLC suppliers are being ethical when we get financially "molested" purchasing the stuff. I for one am convinced the programming software which I am using is at least 1000% overpriced, this encourages loose morals with software piracy
issues and worsens the manufacturers position, causing an increase in cost of the software causing ..............

I see numerous references to, especially Siemens programming software, which people are "just looking for a copy of" which is demonstrative of the problem.

Donald Pittendrigh

Steve Myres, PE

I'm not convinced there is much of a quality difference between AB and PLC Direct. I once had an AB processor out-of-box failure and have never had one with a Automation Direct. I would say the quality of the two brands is about equal. My one complaint about A-B quality is that the RTD modules data seems noisy.

My preference for one over the other on a particular project usually has more to do with how the instruction set fits the job.

I've even done jobs with a SLC as the processor using PLC direct DL 205 I/O, because I thought the PLC Direct I/O fit the project better.

Steve Myres, PE

> My one complaint about A-B quality is that the > RTD modules data seems noisy.

Oops, meant to say "A-D" (Automation Direct) RTD modules.