The Office and the Factory Are Exactly… Different

The office and the factory are especially different when it comes to networking. For IT folks who are used to the office environment, the factory is a shock. They have to leave the comfort of carpet for the factory’s comfort of concrete. The office provides a conditioned atmosphere; the factory – not so much: temperature extremes, high humidity, oily vapor, vibration, possibility of physical damage, electromagnetic interference, hungry rodents, and who knows what else. Components used in the factory have to be much more robust. PROFINET will work just fine with an inexpensive Ethernet switch and inexpensive wireless access point from your neighborhood Best Buy, but how long will they last in the factory environment?

We definitely recommend industrial switches and access points. Pick a product suitable for the environment it will be installed in. You can start with the online product guide you will find at And watch for new products by following press releases on the website. You can use RSS to follow these and more: New RSS Feeds.

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In my system integration days, I occasionally was called upon (forced, actually) to use a commercial device instead of an industrial one. It never ended well. The thin plastic base plate would break in its jury-rigged mount. The connections were not designed for vibration-prone machine mounting. If you’ve been in this industry long, you’ve probably had a similar experience. (Feel free to share those in the comments.)

And don’t get me started on using telephone cable for PROFIBUS DP and unshielded twisted pair (UTP) for PROFINET! The industrial environment has electrical noise. It’s just there. Nothing we can do about it. Except protect against it. With shielded cable. With a grounded shield. With a multipoint grounded shield. Really.

I didn’t mean to bring up the multipoint grounding – it just slipped out. I’ve already covered this topic… but let’s revisit it next week.

–Carl Henning