Industrial automation products distributor Anixter this month is opening a new Industrial communications and control lab at its headquarters in Glenview, Ill. The 4,000-square-foot facility integrates industrial communications, data center and network security solutions from a multitude of vendors so customers can simulate and test the latest industrial network technology.
“On the factory floor you might have one machine you purchased in Germany and another system provided from an OEM in Michigan,” says Rob Cotner, director of marketing for Anixter. “In the ICC lab, we verify that they can talk to each other.” Anixter's Infrastructure Solutions Lab is the only distributor-operated lab in the world to be UL-certified, he added.
The new ICC lab will specify the right cable for a project, taking bandwidth and environmental performance into consideration. The lab then walks the customer through the benefits of a structured cable environment, IP video surveillance and end-to-end industrial Ethernet solutions. Then Anixter technicians will set up the network the user plans to deploy and test proof of concept.
“Simulations can check interoperability between two manufacturers and provide a hands-on experience to see how the system performs prior to installation,” says Cotner. “And you might be specifying a global solution, so we make sure that the part number will be recognized, carries the appropriate approvals and is available in Australia, for example.”
“We help them evaluate cable performance, to verify that they have enough bandwidth and have selected the right solution for their environment. Or we may determine if future growth plans will require more bandwidth, so we help specify a system where video surveillance could be incorporated into the industrial network,” notes Cotner.
In the late 1980s, Anixter discovered that twisted-pair cabling performance varied widely. As a result, Anixter developed performance requirements for twisted-pair networking infrastructure based on customers’ applications. These performance requirements were adopted by the ANSI/TIA standards bodies and renamed “Categories” in the 1990s, explains Cotner.
The lab answers customers’ concerns when starting a new project. “Customers come to us asking, ‘What am I getting, what are my options?’” explains Cotner. “Customers want us to actually help them evaluate how their industrial network will work to see if there is a better way.”
Applications expected to pass through the new lab include water and wastewater pump stations, plant equipment, tank farms, oil and gas and harsh environments. Anixter works closely with pharmaceutical manufacturing on serialization and track and trace solutions as well.
Anixter focuses on three merging technologies and looks ahead to their convergence:
- Data center technologies—data cabling compliance and performance testing, power, heating and cooling, intelligent lighting as well as storage
- Security solutions—video surveillance camera performance, IP video migration, access control and employee tracking
- Industrial communications and control—redundancy for mission-critical applications, cyber security, network topology, remote access, interoperability, industrial wireless (cellular and Wi-Fi)
Lab technicians explain how systems can operate at optimal performance and without unintended consequences.
Before users even get into the lab, Anixter also helps its end users and system integrators by providing information on industry standards and best practices. It supports its customers with whitepapers, case studies, educational videos, and other technical education materials.
Take a virtual tour of the Anixter lab, below.