System Integration & Control Systems Design

Four ways the global parts shortage has led to innovation and openness

March 2024 System Integration & Control Systems Design

For those who use automation parts, the unpredictable nature of the supply chain is one of the biggest problems faced today. The manufacturing and delivery of vital parts, including semiconductors, capacitors and resistors, was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, trade disputes, natural catastrophes, and other circumstances. The shortfall has impacted every industry, but automation components have been especially affected since they depend on semiconductors.

These supply chain disruptions will extend far into next year, if not beyond. Companies will still have to deal with problems like delivery delays, rising costs, declining quality, and possibly lost clients. How can system integrators (SIs), original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and end users overcome these challenges and maintain their position as market leaders? Here are some possibilities.

Open standard design for industrial automation systems

Industrial automation systems benefit from using open standards such as ODVA. These provide scalability, compatibility and interoperability between various systems and devices. In addition, they eliminate vendor lock-in, proprietary protocols, risks and complexity.

In industrial automation, interoperability and compatibility between various devices and systems are made possible via ODVA communication protocols. Users can streamline the integration of a variable frequency drive communication using ODVA standards for EtherNet/IP, DeviceNet or CIP Motion. Numerous drive manufacturers support ODVA communication standards, making it easy to switch between drive manufacturers.

Platform-independent PLCs

Several platform-independent programming languages are available. The two most prominent are CODESYS and OpenPLC, which comply with IEC 61131-3. This allows users to design ladder logic, structured text, instruction list, function block diagrams or sequential function charts. Users can switch to the available hardware manufacturer by using one of these programming languages.

Sharing resources and expertise with a partner

Some companies have partnered with suppliers to share resources, information and expertise. This includes:

• Ordering in advance, based on projections for the customer, and holding the stock in reserve for them. This requires constant monitoring and adaptation to respond to the changing customer needs.

• Sourcing replacement parts from other manufacturers for scarce components. Multiple manufacturers can have a very similar product, allowing users to switch with little effort.

• Researching who the contract manufacturer is for a part. Sometimes a contract manufacturer makes a part for multiple vendors. Users can then buy the same part in a different plastic colour, for example, and see no difference. This can often be a different distributor.

• Partnering two customers together. In a recent example, a manufacturer stopped making an enclosed transformer with a unique voltage. The distributor paired the customer with a panel builder to create a product very similar to what the customer had been getting. In another example, a customer had a project cancelled, and the distributor paired this customer with another one needing parts to hit a timeline on a different job. This allowed one to recoup its costs, and the other to meet its customer timelines.

Acquiring refurbished parts from an OEM

Several businesses have turned to the secondary market to obtain parts from original manufacturers with a long lead time. Refurbished or recycled components may be more affordable, have quicker lead times and be better for the environment. However, there are also dangers such as incompatibilities, voiding of warranties, and counterfeit products.

Today, everyone is facing problems and opportunities due to worldwide parts scarcity. However, businesses are discovering new methods to meet client demand and take the lead in the market by looking at options they have not considered in the past. System integrators need to be aware of the dangers and trade-offs associated with these solutions to make appropriate judgments for their particular circumstances.

Original content courtesy of Control Engineering,

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