Adopting Power over Ethernet

Ethernet has become a comfortable technology for users around the world. It will inevitably dominate the manufacturing plant floor. However one aspect of Ethernet – Power over Ethernet (PoE) – is a less understood aspect of this popular networking technology whose role on the plant floor is still uncertain.

03/01/2009


Ethernet has become a comfortable technology for users around the world. It will inevitably dominate the manufacturing plant floor. However one aspect of Ethernet %%MDASSML%% Power over Ethernet (PoE) %%MDASSML%% is a less understood aspect of this popular networking technology whose role on the plant floor is still uncertain.

PoE is a method of transmitting electrical power and data to remote devices over a network. Telephones, IP cameras or desktop will have only one cable to supply both data and power. The convenience and cost savings of PoE are already generating tremendous growth in consumer and office products. Many of those same advantages could be realized in factory floor installations as well. As Ethernet comes to the plant floor, will PoE come with it?

Some early adopters in manufacturing are experimenting with PoE to achieve these benefits. Since there are no industry standards or certification for powered industrial Ethernet, many companies are experimenting with competing hybrid approaches. One is often described as Ethernet over Power (EoP): a method of multiplexing data over existing power lines. Another is coined Power and Ethernet (P&E): a method using separate conductors and hybrid connectors to carry both signal and power through one wire %%MDASSML%% albeit isolated from each other on separate conductors. Each is establishing an early niche in manufacturing. Eventually one must emerge as the standard. If a company is interested in improving installation and maintenance of communications networks on the plant floor in the future, which powered Ethernet solution should they choose?

Economic impact of adoption

Economic conditions are probably impacting the adoption of Ethernet generally on the plant floor by three to five years due to reaction to this downturn. With many projects and investment in the future largely on hold, we are seeing a temporary return to legacy technology. This means that companies are reverting to an “ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mode to optimize use of scarce resources. In many cases, engineers assigned to future designs have been let go or reassigned. Out of necessity, many are sticking with what is generating revenue now and not investing in technologies that will reap benefits down the road. As a result, the commercial world will have some additional time to further innovate and for users to get more comfortable with powered networking before plant floors need to adopt this hybrid technology.

Users are already getting very comfortable plugging in power data devices because it’s simple and easy. Soon, automation engineers experiencing this convenience at home and in the office will require industrial manufacturers to create similar powered sensors, instrumentation and devices to make their factory lives easier. It makes sense that simple sensors, devices and instrumentation will be using powered networking in the future.

Cost effective

One of the main drivers in the adoption of PoE is cost savings. It’s more cost-effective to run one cable to a device. The install time is greatly reduced. Device manufacturers can save by removing a connector from their device. Replacement time is reduced by being able to unplug a device when it malfunctions and plug a new one back in.

A good example is vision systems, where virtually all cameras in the commercial and business world are PoE-enabled due to their typically simple remote installation requirements. As commercial manufacturers modify their offerings for the factory floor, they are leaving in place the PoE interface.

Process industries are also starting to adopt PoE %%MDASSML%% along with a healthy growth in wireless %%MDASSML%% because of the expense of long data and power cable runs. The technology is available for these applications; the ease of use and cost savings are clear.

But what about high-powered devices and more process-critical components such as motion systems? This set of applications is the largest part of industrial automation and makes everything move. It also typically requires greater power levels than simple instrumentation. For greater power usage devices (more than 60 W), there is no viable PoE technology available today. Other approaches such as EoP or P&E may ultimately be more suitable and are being experimented with in European automotive consortiums.

As consumers, we understand very clearly the benefits of having power and data united in one point of connection. With more people using the technology in the consumer world, adoption will be faster on the plant floor %%MDASSML%% extending the application of technology. Device manufacturers and network planners should be considering their powered architecture as they move to Ethernet for the future.


Author Information

Ed Nabrotzky is a group product manager for Industrial Communication at Molex Inc. (




No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Strategic outsourcing delivers efficiency; Sleeve bearing clearance; Causes of water hammer; Improve air quality; Maintenance safety; GAMS preview
World-class maintenance: The three keys to success - Deploy people, process and technology; 2016 Lubrication Guide; Why hydraulic systems get hot
Your leaks start here: Take a disciplined approach with your hydraulic system; U.S. presence at Hannover Messe a rousing success
Flexible offshore fire protection; Big Data's impact on operations; Bridging the skills gap; Identifying security risks
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Getting to the bottom of subsea repairs: Older pipelines need more attention, and operators need a repair strategy; OTC preview; Offshore production difficult - and crucial
Applying network redundancy; Overcoming loop tuning challenges; PID control and networks
Putting COPS into context; Designing medium-voltage electrical systems; Planning and designing resilient, efficient data centers; The nine steps of designing generator fuel systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me