Author's Note: Contributing blog author this week is Paul Just, Global Product Line Manager I/O Systems (ICOS), Belden Inc.

Machine builders today have to meet the needs and demands of many diverse customers across the globe. And, since these customers usually prefer to use one specific industrial protocol, machine builders’ machines have to adapt accordingly.

In order to make machine building easier, Belden’s Lumberg Automation brand developed the first multiprotocol I/O solution with M12 power (L-coded) connectors.

In this blog post, I share my answers to a few questions about how Belden assisted one of its customers to easily meet global standards.

When you use a multiprotocol solution, building standardized and modular machine parts – or complete machines – for different protocols is possible.

1. What is the biggest issue machine builders are facing today in terms of global use?

Machine builders are facing many challenges today. The two greatest, in my mind, are:

  • Meeting global requirements. Machine builders servicing end-customers who have global footprints need devices that can adapt to various region- and country-specific requirements.
  • Meeting end customers’ requirements. These machine builders also have different customer demands. They often provide specification lists and usually prefer to use one specific industrial protocol, meaning machine builders’ machines have to adapt accordingly.

2. Can you give us an example from the customers Belden has supported?

Yes. We had a machine builder who wanted to design a standard machine in order to sell it to customers with operations in both Europe and in South America. But, the end customers in Europe preferred PROFINET PLCs, while the end customers in South America preferred EtherNet/IP.

This presents a major issue. What was once a “standard” machine had turned into in a time-consuming, customized solution (due to the I/O modules) – and in some cases the connectors too – need to be replaced in order to meet the country-specific standards. This wasn’t a realistic solution for the machine builder or the end customer.

We see this constantly. Customers need a solution that meets both the needs of end-customers, while also satisfying global standards without requiring time-consuming manual customization.

Machine builders today have to meet the needs and demands of many diverse end-customers across the globe.

3. In your experience, what mistakes or missteps do machine builders make when trying to design for global use?

Some of the common mistakes we see machine builders making include:

  • Using different products to satisfy different protocols. When you use different types of products for different protocols it becomes time consuming and introduces complexity. You also might have to pay more than necessary because you can’t take advantage of the discounts for ordering in bulk.
  • Trying to satisfy both global standards and end-customers without appropriate products. Meeting both global standards and end customer requests requires a wide and complex supply chain. This results in stocking countless product variants, taking up storage and impacting budget. It also requires time to source the right products from multiple suppliers in order to build out extremely specific automation systems.
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4. What can machine builders do to make sure their machines are built for global use? And what will the benefits be?

The best solution is to use standardized components that fulfill different types of protocols. That’s what our single, multiprotocol device did for this packaging industry machine builder.
When you use a solution like this, building standardized and modular machine parts – or complete machines – for different protocols becomes possible. This does not only help you to meet both global protocols and end customer needs, but also simplifies the machine building process in many ways, including:

  • Simplifying supplier orders. You’ll have fewer orders overall and fewer product ID numbers to track for purchasing and procurement departments. This means you’ll also get a discount for ordering in bulk.
  • Reducing storage space. When you have one device that meets multiple protocols, you have fewer devices to stock, requiring less storage space.
  • Simplifying machine maintenance. It becomes simpler to exchange standardized, modular parts during failures. This means less downtime and less money lost.
  • Future proofing your machines. Even if you currently don’t have customized demands from end customers and only use one specific protocol, switching to a single, multiprotocol device is advantageous for your business. You will be able to meet end customers’ needs now and in the future at no additional costs or at even a better price than your competition that waits to make the change.

Belden offers the latest multiprotocol standardized technology specifically made for global use. Belden’s solution meet all the needs of the customer mentioned above, with capabilities including:

  • Multiprotocol modules for PROFINET, EtherNet/IP and EtherCAT (coming in late 2016)
  • Fulfills new M12 Power L-coded market standards
  • Different types of housing options, including metal housing with welding-resistant coding
  • Various power connection options within the same family
  • A universal mounting clip for seamless upgrades for connecting old devices

To learn more about Belden’s solutions for global machine design, view our full application note, Adapt Machines to Meet Global Protocols with One I/O Module.

You can also learn more about how to face up to challenges of increased global competition with plug-and-produce machine design by downloading our white paper “The Road to Plug and Produce,” below.

Have you struggled to design your machines to meet global standards? What have you done to resolve this issue? I look forward to hearing from you.

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