Times are changing in manufacturing. The Internet of Things has made its way to the industry and spawned a new term in the process: Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Smart factories are becoming more popular (and expected) thanks to the ability to connect key technologies. Manufacturers who haven’t followed suit yet are encouraged to get moving.
While there are many benefits to a more connected factory, it also comes with some risk. The IIoT opens the door to a flood of data, which adds strain to network infrastructure. To manage the influx, factories must optimize their cable to have more bandwidth.
But first, what is the IIoT?
The IIoT is ushering in the future of automation. Machines, controllers, sensors and actuators are being connected to improve efficiency and streamline supply chains across the factory floor. Factor that in with enhanced user-machine interaction, and we have what many say is the next Industrial Revolution.
Why does it matter?
The IIoT makes it easier for manufacturers to reduce downtime and save costs. Machines will be able to self-diagnose their own problems and give early warning signs of possible failures. Gone will be the days of machine operators losing time to inspecting equipment errors. Think of the countless hours that will be saved, and the equipment that will be spared, if most (or all) problems are solved at the onset.
Smart machines allow data to be aggregated and analyzed in real time. With more visibility to and control over equipment, workers can better predict maintenance issues and make faster decisions. Before the IIoT, machine operators often had to stop production in order to replace parts or make repairs. More sophisticated technology is eliminating this need. Production can now be slowed instead of stopped when issues need to be addressed.
The IIoT is also making communication as vital among machines as it is between people and equipment. Machine-to-machine networks can streamline production and workflow to further save costs and improve efficiency. Allowing equipment to work in tandem can help get a job done faster and with fewer problems.
What is cable’s role?
If the IIoT was directing a play, cable would be a principle player. Power over Ethernet (PoE) uses twisted-pair copper cabling to connect intelligent devices through a single IP network. This reduces the need for multiple cables to connect and control smart products such as LED lighting, HVAC systems, and IP security cameras.
As more factories move toward the IIoT, demand will grow for more information at faster speeds. More businesses are switching to Category 6A cable to keep up with expanding networks. It offers a larger-gauge diameter that helps lessen resistance and minimize power waste, making it easier to manage onslaughts of data. Traditional Category 5e cable might still work for businesses that are more concerned about Internet speed than cable type. Companies don’t have to worry as much about internal networking if they do most of their business on the cloud. Those who need faster internal speed will benefit from Category 6A’s 10 Gigabit networking.
Preparing for What’s to Come
We’re seeing the stretch run of factories that operate outside of the digital age. Archaic processes are no match for surging data. Smart factories are making workflows faster and more seamless. Advanced cable like Category 6A has been a huge contributor to this change. As we keep improving how data is transferred, received and analyzed, manufacturing could reach a new level of possibility.
In some industries, things are relatively stable from year to year. While manufacturing was done in much the same way for many years, emerging trends promise to change that. An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) must be resourceful and search for opportunities to stay competitive in an increasingly volatile market. While there may be challenges ahead, applying industry best practices will help any manufacturer operate at the top of their game.
Step outside and you’ll notice that the air is brisk and people are bundled up in coats. Winter is upon us. And while that brings festive parties and holiday deals, winter means extra strains on wire and cable. Cold temperatures and atmospheric changes that come with winter weather can impact the effectiveness of some cabling materials. Prepare for cool weather and winter storms to ensure uninterrupted operation that’s reliable every day of the year.
Article originally published Sept. 2, 2016, and updated for accuracy and relevance.
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