Interview with John Jackson
John Jackson, sales and product application manager for communication electronics at Weidmuller, talks to Justin Cunningham
JC: What do you see as the top innovations coming out of Weidmuller in 2009?
JJ: We see a need for traceability and availability of information from the machine end that is compatible with monitoring systems on the network side. This will enable better diagnostics and better transparency right up to the top level within the business.
Ethernet connectivity and remote monitoring technology like HNDPA and 3G are able to give faster and more reliable network access. An innovation on the cabling side is a technology called poly optical fibres, which is basically white light communications to make it faster and easier to terminate so it leads to more reliable communications around the machine. That has been taken out of the automotive world.
JC: Is the driver for this cost saving?
JJ: Remote monitoring is saving companies money through quicker and more reliable diagnostic control. That equates to less time - and cost - to service.
With regards to Ethernet networking of the machine itself, the cost saving comes through greater transparency of the process which feeds back better information from the machine. This makes it much easier to work out productivity levels and see how they can be improved.
JC: Do you see still see energy efficiency as a primary driver, or has low unit and purchase cost become the priority?
JJ: Obviously cost is the major factor for any company. However, when we deal with customer's capital expenditure and budgets, when it gets down to energy efficiency and energy consumption, the monitoring of that and improving that, they see that as a driver for freeing up cash.
We are about quality and showing the true cost of the components within a machine, not just the component cost at the time but the lifetime. You might save a few pence on an electric terminal down the bottom end, but we try to sit down with customers and look at what they make, how they build it, what the labour cost is, and where they could save money elsewhere by simplifying the build process.
JC: Similarly, have you seen a shift in thinking, or in priority, from long term planning to short term survivability?
JJ: We will see certain industries in certain quarters where short term measures are taken - a freeze or reduction in capital expenditure for example. But, from our perspective, we are trying to influence those businesses and show the benefit of what we are trying to do and show there are going to be significant cost benefits down the line.
Our figures are showing a bit of a knee jerk reaction in capital expenditure. But, in certain industries we are seeing more demand, such as energy and process industries where they operate on long term strategies.
JC: Looking forward, what are your predictions for advanced manufacturing solutions?
JJ: If you look at the last five years, the manufacturing sector has seen challenging conditions. However, it has still managed to bring in advanced technologies, which have improved quality and reliability, while reducing cost. That is what has kept it successful. Those companies that invest in a time of economic downturn will be the ones that will get the greatest growth when we come out the other side.
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