Industrial Automation

Built to Last: Industrial-Grade Products

Artjom Bil

In the last several years, the financial success of many industrial-based businesses, including food and beverage, oil and gas, power utilities, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, cosmetics and others, has hinged on maximized productivity and streamlined production.


To optimize operations, these industries have invested in automated, sensor-heavy systems to keep plants running at top capacity. These automated systems are critical to a plant’s performance and as a result, the tolerance for downtime is at an all-time low. However, the hazardous settings in these industries, like extreme pressure, temperatures, vibrations or other environmental conditions, increase the risk of system failure and downtime.

"82% of companies have experienced unplanned downtime which can cost nearly $260,000/hour."1

With hundreds of thousands of dollars, as well as the safety of employees and equipment at stake, businesses operating outside of a typical office setting require cabling and components that are built to last.

3 Ways the Physical Environment Can Damage Your Equipment

For many businesses, the cordsets and cables used to connect their machinery and systems are not suited for the conditions where they are physically located.

Choosing components that are specifically made for that type of activity will benefit your company long-term. When looking at new products, think about your facility from this perspective:

  1. Physical Stress: Vibration, contact with people, machinery, bacteria, food and micro-organisms or use of high-pressure water cleaners can damage or weaken cables and connectors.
  2. Chemical Stress: Caustic materials used to clean and sanitize can corrode cables and connectors.
  3. Extreme or Varying Temperatures: Many industrial settings are exposed to high or low temperatures that can wear down cables and connectors, causing them to crack or compromise protective covering.

At What Cost?

Since highly automated systems are essential for many industries, failing equipment presents several challenges.

  • Increased Maintenance Costs: The conditions of certain industrial settings can require businesses to replace their components as often as every three months, if they do not fail beforehand. Traditionally companies hardwire these systems, an expensive process that requires the work of a specialized electrician and can take several hours to complete. In some cases, this downtime can cost businesses several hundred thousand dollars in a single day.
  • Unplanned Downtime: Even with regular replacements, traditional hardwired systems are still at risk of failing unexpectedly – like at the height of production or when electricians are not readily available to replace the damaged parts. The productivity and material losses caused by this downtime can lead to even higher costs than planned downtime.
  • Compromised Safety: As cables and connectors wear down, safety risks increase. For example, many cables do not have the fire-retardant properties needed to minimize damage, before being extinguished.


Protecting Cordsets and Cabling Components

Applications, like in food and beverage, chemical or pharmaceutical manufacturing, have specific processes for wash-down or splash zones — locations where equipment is frequently and rigorously cleaned to kill bacteria and other micro-organisms.

These wash-downs help ensure product quality and customer satisfaction, while complying with government regulation. However, without the correct products, wash-down processes can wreak havoc on the mission-critical systems tasked with conveying signals between measuring instruments and control devices.

To ensure these systems aren’t subjected to unplanned downtime, the industry has introduced wash-down connectors – an effective alternative to typical hardwired cordsets. Wash-down connectors — like the M12 and M8 connectors from Lumberg Automation — are designed and built to withstand extreme temperatures, shock, vibrations and pressure, as well as the wide range of caustic cleaning agents frequently used in many industries.

This dramatically lowers the risk of unplanned downtime, as well as the maintenance costs of having to continually replace damaged or worn cabling. At the same time, the fast and easy nature of removing and installing wash-down connectors allows businesses to efficiently perform preventative maintenance and replacements at whichever intervals fit their specific needs.

When selecting a wash-down connector, it is important to consider specific industry standards to ensure long-term reliability. For example, look for an IP69K rating to protect against high pressure wash-down or an ECOLAB certification to guarantee protection against caustic chemicals and disinfectants used during cleaning processes. These industry standards allow international applicability with global compliance to fulfill the most stringent requirements.


Protecting Cables

Food & beverage facilities use motors and variable frequency drives (VFD) for motion control in applications including valves, conveyors, robots and moving platforms. It is necessary to use a cable designed for the motor-to-VFD connection to contain common-mode current and prevent radiated noise that can disrupt peripheral communication and instrumentation.

VFD cable is also engineered to prevent capacitive coupling and reduce the energy of reflected wave voltage, preventing false drive trips and motor failure.

In addition, as automation in food & beverage becomes increasingly sophisticated and prolific, devices demand higher-bandwidth solutions that can be integrated with existing networks. Ethernet enables easier plug-and-play connectivity, provides diagnostics and allows for easier upgrades in accordance with users’ data infrastructure. Belden’s Industrial Ethernet cable portfolio stands out in performance and reliability with a breadth of options.

Protecting Networking

For the most critical missions, networking switches are an evolutionary step in meeting real-time data demands with high-speed connections in industrial spaces. Because of this, it is essential that switches are designed to endure even the harshest of applications.

The OCTOPUS family of managed and unmanaged switches provide IP69K waterproof and dust-tight protection as well as housing that is built to last for mechanical stress, humidity, dirt, dust, shock and vibration. These switches also meet regulations for railway vehicles, along railway linesout for fire protection in trains and in road vehicles.

Key Takeaway: Make sure the products you choose have the proper protection and ratings to withstand the environment where they will be used.

In today’s financial landscape, unplanned downtime is a risk many businesses simply cannot bear. As systems evolve to increase productivity and automation, the cabling and cabling components sets used to connect those systems need to evolve as well, to withstand the severe industrial settings.

With Belden’s industrial-grade products, businesses are assured that their factory floor can endure the most extreme pressures, temperatures, chemicals and vibrations – while making installation and replacements faster and easier than ever.