Celebrating its 25th year in business, Taipei-based industrial communications vendor Moxa gathered nearly 100 chief engineers, managers and government representatives from China’s four key industrial sectors for a day of education and interaction in a resort town on the South China Sea.
In early November, attendees representing Chinese smart grid, smart rail, mining and intelligent transportation sectors came together to discuss state-of-the-art industrial Ethernet and wireless communications solutions specific to their needs. Represented organizations included the State Grid Electric Power Research Institute (a key part of China’s national power automation research and technology center), China Railway Signaling & Communication Institution, China Southern Rail Corp. Ltd., and Inner Mongolia Coal Inc.
The theme of the conference was “Enable a Converged Automation World,” and it included a keynote presentation by Automation World Managing Editor Renee Robbins Bassett on recent research conducted by the magazine on opinions and plans for the use of Ethernet and wireless communications across industries.
“Survey results show a marked shift in engineers’ willingness to use Ethernet in industrial settings,” said Bassett, "with a clear 74 percent saying yes they are considering it. Only 7 percent reported that they would not consider it.” Moxa, a global maker of industrial Ethernet switches and other networking hardware, sponsored the survey of more than 1,000 respondents, whose results are published in the December 2012 issue of Automation World.
Pursuing ‘railway grade’ quality
In the morning sessions, Moxa executives described the company’s product design and quality management initiatives, which include taking the company’s switches, routers and other devices from their current rugged “industrial grade” to “railway grade,” which is likened to “aerospace grade” in the U.S., according to Moxa. Moxa is pursuing IRIS certification, which is based on European high-speed rail standards.
According to Andy YH Cheng, Moxa general manager for Industrial Ethernet, IRIS certification is a rigorous program of product design documentation and quality assurance. Processes are meant to ensure that every component in a system and change in a software program is traceable.
“As an ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 14001 company, we adhere to strict quality control and environmental standards for design, production and delivery process,” said Cheng. IRIS certification “requires a completely different mindset regarding how we design and produce products to ensure quality. It takes the process to the next level in terms of software change management and other traceability issues," he said. The pursuit of certification is a three-year process that Moxa expects to complete in 2013.
Another presentation highlighted Moxa’s alternative energy knowledge, which has been applied first-hand on a new project at the Moxa USA headquarters in Brea, Calif. (near Los Angeles). Banks of 4 ft. x 2 ft. solar panels form the roof of a parking lot that generate more than 311 kW, an amount expected to cover all of the electrical needs of the facility, as well as power four charging stations for electric vehicles.
Afternoon breakout sessions focused on specific industry solutions and innovations. In the smart grid section, Dennis Lin, product director for Moxa’s power and transportation division, demonstrated how new Moxa switches could be remotely monitored by PowerSCADA, an Ethernet profile specific to the power industry.
Lin’s session also include a presentation by Timo Kuskiahde, chief technology officer for Flexibilis, a Finnish company with expertise in the IEEE 1588 standard for automating power substations “for a smarter grid.” Moxa has invested in a “power team” focused on this and other standards for substation automation, and currently has switches successfully automating 300 substations around the world, said Lin.