A Cable is a Cable – Right?
Why you can’t count on the Ethernet cable in your plant like you used to for ControlNet, DeviceNet and Blue Hose
After spending 10+ years on all aspects of the active network technology in a plant, the last few years I have been exposed to the cabling and infrastructure aspects and what I found shocked me. Bold words right? Yes, but oh so true.
Over the last few years you may have noticed that our dedicated industrial networks are starting to go by the wayside. In fact, I would put money on the fact that you are an Ethernet adopter too. As we all go this route and struggle to learn the dichotomy of hierarchical, managed networks I have found one critically important thing has gone by the wayside – selecting and specifying an appropriate cable to run these networks on.
Quite frankly, this has happened because you and I never needed to worry about it. See, with ControlNet, DH+, DeviceNet, you name it – they were only ever used on the plant floor.
So, every single Blue Hose, DeviceNet, ControlNet, Profibus, etc. cable ever designed for them was designed for the plant floor.
You never had to worry about what you were buying.
Ethernet has been around for 30+ years, just not in the industrial world. It has been in the corporate and office environment though, and so we have the opposite phenomenon. Every cable was designed for a nice, 68oF, no humidity, easy data room or ceiling install. In fact, there are hundreds of brands and types of cables you can buy – all designed for an office environment.
Interestingly enough, in this corporate or enterprise or office environment they go one step further too. They even have such things as “minimum compliant cables” and “system grade cables”. System grade cables are certified and warrantied to a certain performance level once installed with the matching connectors and components. Our price and contractor friendly cable, the min. compliant commercial cable, meets the “spec” for Cat5e or Cat6 when it is in the box but after the install and in due time – the gamble is yours.
As the new Rumsey networking team has traveled around the last few months we have seen countless installs of commercial, office grade cables on the plant floor, often including the min. compliant ones. We understand why that has happened and we may have even sold them to you without either of us realizing.
BUT, similar to the care and thought you put into all of your automation purchases, we know you want to put the same into your infrastructure investment. Therefore, it would be in your best interest to not consider, not even for a minute, letting someone pull his or her choice of cable – nine times out of 10 it will be min. compliant or even an office “system” cable – in your factory. It is easy to protect your automation and network investment, and most importantly, your plant performance, by specifying and require an Ethernet cable specifically designed for manufacturing. We can help.
Your cabling infrastructure is an investment. Over time commercial, off the shelf cables can introduce significant intermittent problems as they begin failing. You can replace a switch, even a connector, but the cable is typically the hardest to replace. The time to choose wisely is now.
Check out “A Cable is a Cable is a Cable – Right? Part 2” for the technicalities of how this affects your network and the options for Industrial Solutions.