The industrial revolution all started with James Watt’s steam engine patent in 1769. The breakthrough was in 1913 with Henry Ford’s assembly line. The revolution we know today began 40 years ago when the programmable logic control (PLC) was born. This enabled machines and robots to work much more rapidly than before. Productivity sky rocketed. 

To be able to handle this new productivity, parallel wiring of sensors and actuators to the controls was no longer time or cost-effective. Electrical engineers needed to find a quicker and more efficient way to control and communicate with devices in the field. That’s when fieldbus modules were developed for industrial applications. This standardized digital data transfer and has transformed machines and plants by simplifying application and commissioning.

Today fieldbus modules transfer data between remote devices like sensors and actuators to the controls. This data provides current status updates and better diagnostics of what’s happening on the production floor. Fieldbus modules also simplify wiring. By combining standardised industrial cordsets like M8 and M12 with remote modules, electrical engineers no longer need to individually wire the sensors or actuators back to the controls. Depending on the size of the machine, pre-wired cordsets combined with fieldbus modules help reduce wiring errors by making installation easier.        

According to the Results Report of the Industry 4.0 Platform, the goal of the fourth industrial revolution is “to connect people, objects and systems to create a dynamic and self-organised value add network that runs in real time across the entire company and can be continually updated based on various criteria like costs, run time and consumption of resources.” Industry 4.0 puts the focus on being able to fulfill customised product requirements by having a flexible production facility. In their report on Industry Country: Germany in Focus, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie) says the future customer wants a one-stop-shop that offers individual, custom-made solutions. A flexible production facility is needed to achieve this type of customisation and could be based on a de-central organisation of machines and components.

As a global provider of industrial installation solutions, Murrelektronik’s goal is to increase the competitive advantage of their customers through intelligent installation solutions. By focusing on decentralised concepts, their systems connect all input and output points (I/Os) in a system or a machine flexibly. Now factories are able to produce according to their customers’ product requirements in a cost-effective way that increases their competitive advantage.

Among other leadership circles, Murrelektronik is a part of the Industry 4.0 Leadership Circle. Jörg Krautter, Vice President of Automation at Murrelektronik, knows the value of being part of something from the beginning. He has been an active member in the Industry 4.0 Leadership Circle since 2014 and has helped define what the next industrial revolution will look like. “As an innovator in the automation industry, not only do we want to be at the forefront of the latest innovations, we want to shape them. Our significant contributions to Industry 4.0 have brought us as company further, ensuring that our customers get the newest and most innovative products and solutions.”    

As a market leader in compact fieldbus modules, Murrelektronik has a clear vision for the fieldbus module of the future. Today, their modules make passive or active decentralised installation concepts a reality and their continuous engineering requirements include high IP protection (IP67) so the components can operate outside of the cabinet freeing up valuable cabinet space. In the future, Murrelektronik’s compact fieldbus modules will be cross-linked online providing an overview of system statuses, have energy saving benefits which is an effective step against rising energy costs, and condition monitoring features that increase the run-time of the plant.  

Bernd Waser, head of research and development at Murrelektronik, is on the Industry 4.0 team that creates the reference architecture, standards and norms. According to Waser, “We’re proud to be part of the team that helps define the next industrial revolution. Being a leader and innovator in the market is something Murrelektronik is known for and it’s no different with Industry 4.0.”

Murrelektronik’s Industry 4.0 strategy has three clear advantages. In line with Industry 4.0’s goals, Murrelektronik’s fieldbus modules would also help customers design flexible machine networks that add value by continually monitoring statuses, are more energy efficient, and condition monitoring features.

In Industry 4.0 all fieldbus data are cross-linked online. All product data needed to design a system will be available online. In the future, all planning and engineering data created by the customer will provide the foundation for commissioning. By working together with one of their expert consultants, customer’s benefit from a customized planning and engineering phase when designing machines and systems. That includes making sure inputs and outputs are reliably monitored with their compact fieldbus modules.

Commissioning features automatic set-up and parameterization. The module automatically identifies and integrates I/Os. These innovations are based on the production planning phase. Once the system is up and running, the modules provide decentralized intelligence. The modules communicate intelligently, which means they are event-triggered. They pre-process all data and signal information and are cross-linked online to provide better access to data.

Cross-linking technology provides many new advantages, including energy management and maintenance. Energy management is demand-oriented including the measurement, regulation and distribution of energy. Improved maintenance and module usage is another clear advantage. Reliability can be measured to determine the life-span of module. Condition-based diagnostics also play a large role in fieldbus modules. Preventative diagnostics of the attached systems will also be included. This enables engineers to schedule regular maintenance appointments and switch out modules at the right time. It also helps prevent a system from going down unexpectedly.

This is a peek into Murrelektronik’s future into Industry 4.0 and the factors that are important in their products and solutions.