Editor’s Note: PI aggressively supports the ‘best of breed’ approach that Jeff highlights below. It is the underlying success factor for PI’s technologies; and on the other side, standardized interfaces are the success factor for many vendor’s products. It makes sense. Vendors compete based on the offerings of their products, and standardized communication solutions exist to ensure broad access and interoperability for end-users.
Jeff Besola is a member of the PI North America Board of Directors since 2017.
Here he shares some perspective on the diverse array of products used in manufacturing plants.
One supplier? Or best-of-breed?
Can you choose, or are you stuck?
It is not surprising that automation control suppliers develop an ecosystem of solutions hoping to keep you returning to their platform for all their core products and even adjacent needs. The message? One vendor, one ecosystem, built, designed, and tested as one complete system. Sometimes this works, other times not.
Look around your plant. What do you see? Typically, you see lots of different automation control suppliers all over your plant. Why? Because you make business decisions and select best-in-class solutions to meet each need.
Sometimes this approach is perfect. Sometimes, however, you find in the future, your needs change, perhaps at a higher level where suddenly these disparate systems need to be integrated together, for example, for higher-level business analytics, quality metrics, or efficiency metrics. So, now what? The answer is: find a way to create the ‘glue’ that can pull these systems together.
You might not realize that there are independent tech companies that have developed communications solutions that fill the gap between industrial systems that were never designed to communicate with each other. The trick is to being able to implement industrial communications such as OPC UA, PROFIBUS, PROFINET, FDI, edge-based computing, etc., in an agile fashion. Disclaimer: Softing is one of such independent communications providers. Our international team of engineers enjoys tackling new challenges, especially when a technology crossover is involved!
Nonetheless: Keep on innovating, and do not hesitate to contact independent technological leaders with your ideas and rely on their experience!
PI North America Board of Director Member since 2017