Mike Berg is senior business development manager at Panduit.
What have been the biggest improvements to industrial-networking technology in the past five years?
Mike Berg, senior business development manager, Panduit: One of the biggest improvements I see is the industry adopting network installations across IT and OT or operations teams. This collaboration has benefited organizations across security, site support and maintenance. From a functional standpoint the adoption of structured cabling—patch panels—even down to the control panel/machine level has improved the ability to test and validate the physical network.
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This adoption has set the stage to improve edge connectivity to devices. We are now seeing emerging single-pair Ethernet (SPE) technology extend into fieldbus in process-automation and building-automation applications. The SPE cabling will provide power and greater bandwidth, communication and testable links to new sensors and I/O devices soon.
What’s the most innovative or efficient industrial-networking technology application you’ve ever seen or been involved with?
Mike Berg, senior business development manager, Panduit: I am involved with warehouse-automation applications, and the degree of smart-building technologies and wireless devices, as well as robotics and material-handling automation, in these spaces is incredible. From the controls perspective, the mobile automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS), automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and light-detection-and-ranging (LiDAR)/camera-based vehicles and trucks are very innovative and leverage wireless-network technologies and traditional controls. From the facility standpoint, power-over-Ethernet (PoE) technologies and small diameter Ethernet cabling are supporting many devices, including the access points for wireless and cameras within the facilities; there can be as many as 3,500 cameras in these facilities.
How has industrial-networking technology benefitted from remote monitoring and connectivity?
Mike Berg, senior business development manager, Panduit: The trend to use technology for remote monitoring was there before COVID-19 but accelerated during the pandemic. Those who had existing network infrastructure were able to leverage remote connections into the control system and also to add cameras and Industrial-Internet-of-Things (IIoT) devices fairly simply and improve the ability to see and know what was happening on the production floor. As the pandemic subsides, many manufacturers are looking at risk mitigation and lessons learned. Industrial networks and IIoT will play a stronger role in automation and operations to ensure continuity of production and to address labor shortages.
Can you explain how software development has changed industrial-networking technology design and production?
Mike Berg, senior business development manager, Panduit: There are many areas where computer-aided design (CAD) assists engineers creating the products. One area I will point to is the use of computational fluid dynamics and heat-dissipation modeling used for networking enclosures and cabinets. This analysis simulates and/or uses actual installations to analyze use scenarios, device placement and enclosure size and design to provide optimal performance and reliability of the network electronics to the manufacturer’s specification. As industrial enclosures are typically of the sealed, NEMA variety, the ability to deploy enclosures into more ambient environments without the need for environmental control is a key benefit.
How do industrial-networking technologies figure into digital-twin platform models being used by manufacturers?
Mike Berg, senior business development manager, Panduit: Digital twin uses the real-time data of the production process in its concept. Industrial networks provide connectivity to gather data from more elements in the manufacturing process to enable features such as predictive- and prescriptive-maintenance programs and aid process optimization both short and long term (Figure 1). Even the network itself can be monitored and compared for its level of performance vs. the past for maintenance and troubleshooting problems that arise.
When will industrial-networking technology become IT-friendly enough that engineers are no longer required for installation and operation?
Mike Berg, senior business development manager, Panduit: From the installation standpoint especially distributed controls systems are at that point where low-voltage technicians working for contractors can install the physical industrial-network connections, as well as the IoT connectivity to access points (Aps), cameras and other IIoT devices. The testing and validation of these system connections gives assurance to the installation for the engineers involved. Those installers must still have the experience and training working in manufacturing facilities to ensure safety.
What future innovations will impact the use of industrial-networking technology in discrete-manufacturing operations?
Mike Berg, senior business development manager, Panduit: We expect to see a greater use of PoE IoT devices and future looking power-over-device-line (PoDL) devices connected via single-pair Ethernet in controls. The use of PoE technologies simplifies design and installation for both power and communications.
We will see architectures changing to accommodate more devices operating via Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi 6 and 5G technology. There is potential for these technologies to simplify the infrastructure required to support facilities and to give greater access of manufacturers to utilize cloud and edge computing.
Tell us about your company’s state-of-the-art industrial-networking technology.
Mike Berg, senior business development manager, Panduit: At Panduit we are physical network experts that develop infrastructure solutions for industrial protocols and information-and-communication-technology (ICT) standards with assured physical performance, consistency and scalability in industrial applications. Systems integrators, controls engineers and network engineers choose Panduit solutions in supporting new service deployments such as cloud and edge computing, system modernization and process improvements and adoption of new technologies for digital transformation and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Panduit products include network enclosures, Ethernet copper and fiber cabling and industrial connectivity and cordsets and network monitoring software. Our dielectric double-jacketed (DDJ) fiber, for example, is an innovative alternative to metal-armored fiber that provides installation savings and superior fiber protection in plant environments.
Our solution breadth addresses applications ranging from light industrial warehouses to harsh manufacturing environments.