Changing physical infrastructure supports manufacturing flexibility

The growth of industrial networking technologies and smart-building systems is creating both challenges and opportunities. Panduit is putting forth a vision for addressing these in a unified way.


Tinley Park , IL A half-day presentation for facilities, engineering and manufacturing IT professionals brought together a message too-often scattered in manufacturing plants: the growth of industrial networking technologies and smart-building systems is creating both challenges and opportunities. Companies that can meet the challenges and leverage the opportunities in a unified way can succeed in increasingly volatile times.

Panduit , a company known for its physical infrastructure products, brought the three groups together to discuss implementation of a unified physical infrastructure (UPI), and Panduit’s vision for how a UPI can work to everyone’s benefit. The Chicago area gathering in Sept. 29, 2008 was one of a half dozen roadshows being presented around the U.S.

Panduit’s main message was the need for a unified physical infrastructure. The physical systems should be well-planned, integrated and scalable, because today’s manufacturing facility needs them to be that way. The key drivers of this trend, according to Doug Raymond, executive vice president of consulting for Frost & Sullivan, a presenter at the event, are:

  • increased demand for Lean manufacturing;

  • interdependence among systems, driven by the increasingly use of Internet Protocol (IP) networking; and

  • increased need for communications and, thus, the technology that enables it.

A UPI reduces operational and reconfiguration costs, and minimizes risk by increasing manufacturing flexibility. But it’s not just a greenfield-plant phenomenon. Daleep Sarenjin, a Frost & Sullivan analyst who gathered research on the topic from more than 1,500 contract manufacturers in 2007, said that such companies could take up to two weeks to transition to a new manufacturing line. That’s two weeks of unproductive time—something a unified physical infrastructure can greatly reduce.

For Panduit, the physical infrastructure is not the servers, but all else that connects to them: copper and fiber cabling; cabinets, racks and cable management structures; underfloor and overhead cable routing and air flow; and supplemental building systems such as security and fire safety. Unifying these systems makes modifying them decidedly easier.

Intelligent infrastructure design helps manufacturing IT departments meet changing power, cooling, uptime and availability requirements. Panduit’s UPI-based solutions take a holistic approach to data center design and risk management, and encourage more frequent interaction between IT and facilities management personnel, so manufacturing uptime and flexibility requirements can be met.

UPI-connected building designs link facilities and network systems directly into a common building network. Some systems converge electronically, through a common IP network architecture, while others converge physically through shared conduit, cable trays and building pathways.

From Panduit’s perspective, the unified physical architecture represents a change in focus, but not a radical departure from what has made the company successful. “We’ve been known for high-quality products, but we’re enhancing it to become solutions-oriented,” said Vineeth Ram, Panduit vice president of global marketing.

To get there, Ram says, Panduit is “investing more than 10% of revenue in R&D, as well as working closely with Rockwell Automation, Cisco, and other industry leaders.” Panduit is also walking the walk: In June 2008, the company broke ground on a new corporate headquarters building that will employ state-of-the-art connected building technology , and be LEED Gold certified .

In general, getting facilities, engineering, and IT departments to work together may not be easy, said Ram, but it is possible. “Start talking early, educate all three groups, and bring in consultants if you need to. Sometimes information is easier to digest when delivered by a third party,” he said.

“Right now the time is ripe for conversation, because of virtualization, 10 gigabit Ethernet, server consolidation, and other disruptive technologies. These are pushing the conversation,” Ram added.

A Panduit whitepaper entitled, “ Implementing a 10 Gb/s physical infrastructure to achieve I/O consolidation ” provides further information. Find it in the Control Engineering Resource Center .

For other whitepapers and application briefs, as well as information on the next stop of the free half-day seminar, visit .

– Edited by Renee Robbins , senior editor
Control Engineering News Desk
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