Point of View: The Revolution of the Interconnected Factory
In the past, industrial connectors have evolved over time rather than at a revolutionary pace. Now, with the anticipation of the Internet of Things, Keith Kufahl of TTI discusses the revolution of the interconnected factory and how design engineers can stay on the cutting edge.
The fact that the world of industrial connectors changes at an evolutionary pace rather than a revolutionary one is an accepted maxim. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some wide-ranging advances coming to the factory floor and the world of maintenance, repair, and operations. We are just beginning to see the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) in industry. The connectivity of device-to-device communication is bringing real insight into the way industry measures and responds to data. More and more sensors are plugging into infrastructure and providing the information to reveal new ways to optimize manufacturing production lines.
With respect to the theories of Charles Darwin, this may actually be a revolution in the types and availability of data. However, getting that data where it needs to go will require a corresponding revolution in the cabling and connectors that provide the pathway from the panel to the production line. That hardware will need to be durable and reliable, as well as affordable, to implement and maintain.
There are those who believe that some of this is overkill – that the speeds and reliability of standards like Cat 6 or other super-fast, high-throughput protocols could be more than a manufacturing operation really needs. Perhaps. But industry has always found the means to utilize more and better information when it can get access to it. As the saying goes – if you build it, they will come; hence, smaller connectors with better throughput moving more information at higher speeds are being brought to market every month.
For distributors, it is imperative that they stock those smaller, faster, durable connectors as well as the most broad and deep inventory of passives and electromechanical components. They should be specialists in the areas of IP&E, unlike some broadline or catalog distributors who may have 500 suppliers and carry only the fastest-turning parts from each in stock.
To make the interconnected factory a reality, buyers should look for distributors that partner with premier suppliers to work together to develop markets for advanced product lines.
Changes are slowly coming to the factory floor and eventually it will bring about a new era in communications and useable data, but only if that information has a solid connection between the places it’s generated and the people who can put it to use.
Keith Kufahl is the industrial marketing manager at TTI.