Vol.5 Special Interview
Molex: New member of the CLPA board of directors
Molex joins the CLPA board of directors to help shape the future of CC-Link/CC-Link IE
Molex, a US owned company with global manufacturing and sales operations, has been appointed a board member of the CLPA. Here we learn a little more about the organization and the reasons why the company sees great value in helping to shape the future of communications within automation systems.
The spokesperson for Molex is Mr. Damien Leterrier, Director, Industrial Communication.
—I would like you to tell us a little more about Molex
A higher level overview of the business tells us that Molex employs close to 36,000 people worldwide and had an annual turnover of approximately $3bn, prior to September 2013 when it was acquired by a private US Company, Koch Industries. Molex is known as a manufacturer of electronic interconnectors, and sells over 100,000 different products, including everything from electrical and fibre optic interconnect solutions, to switches and PC cards.
—What is your involvement with CC-Link/CC-Link IE?
The company is divided into three product divisions, plus a Global Sales and Marketing division. The product divisions are defined as the ‘Commercial Products’, ‘Micro Products’ and ‘Integrated Products’ Divisions. Within this third division is the ‘Industrial Products’ group, which is where CC-Link/CC-Link IE enabled products are positioned.
The specific products that already include CC-Link/CC-Link IE compatibility are the company’s range of I/O blocks and network interface cards for integration into larger automation system products and devices. It also includes products designed to support CC-Link/CC-Link/IE connectivity. The remote I/O products include higher ingress protection IP67 versions for use on machine applications.
The best selling products with CC-Link on board are aimed at the Asian market – we are selling product with embedded CC-Link to a wide range of customers where the end user is in the automotive industry or another high volume manufacturing platform. Typically we are supplying to device manufacturers, assembly line builders and system integrators providing robotics and higher level automation solutions.
Collaboration is a key to success
—What do you expect to gain from being a CLPA director?
Molex’s company description states that ‘Collaboration is key to our success’. The company firmly believes that partnership with the CLPA and its members is a good representation of that policy. Collaboration is seen as essential for us as a high technology company that develops products based on customer demand.
We live in a fast moving world and reacting quickly to customer demand is an important part of our success. This is harder to do when working in isolation, so, if we are to stay ahead of the curve in terms of technology, we have to pre-empt the questions and challenges our customers will ask in the immediate future. To do this, we have to be involved in the development of important technologies such as communication protocols, especially market leading ones such as CC-Link.
Collaboration is valuable not just from a technology perspective, but also from a market perspective. We have a lot of market knowledge. True collaboration is a two way process, so we expect to learn from our business partners, as well as to pass knowledge and experiences back. Many large organisations rely on buying up smaller innovation-led companies in order to keep their technology advancing. However, because CC-Link/CC-Link IE is open source, this is something we can play a part in and contribute towards the general good, as well as helping us to achieve our own commercial objectives.
A decentralised company meets a decentralised network
—How do you contribute to CLPA from a technology perspective?
Molex is rightfully proud of its many innovations and the technologies they've enabled. The company invests roughly 5 percent of its net revenue into research and development. Staying ahead of the game is seen as essential and this includes working with industrial communication technologies that are growing worldwide, such as CC-Link/CC-Link IE.
The company operates several of its functions via a decentralised structure; this includes research and development where R&D centres are spread around the globe, focussing on different product groups and applications. To be as efficient as possible and quickly react to customer demands, common processes and tools have to be shared between R&D centres. Using an integrated IT structure for R&D means that high speed communications can be achieved over large distances.
This displays a remarkable parallel to the control networks themselves, mirroring the development direction of automation systems towards more localised processing and intelligence with higher speed, higher data rate communications. As control moves closer and closer to the sensor or the machine it uses a common infrastructure to make communication more efficient. —What is the significance of joining the CLPA board? Being elected to the board of the CLPA is regarded by the company as a great opportunity for Molex not only in the way CC-Link/CC-Link IE is applied to products, but also in how the future technical direction of this important automation communication and control protocol is developed.
We see this as a key enabling technology for our product sales worldwide and particularly in Asia where CC-Link is often a default automation networking option.
Molex is also involved in the development of ODVA and PI. We do not join to have our name on the box - we want to bring improvements to the standard we are managing, and there is no better way into the market than to be part of the evolution of the standard. The new technology we are developing today will reach the market faster than ever before, so being involved in the development of enabling technologies is becoming more important. —What are the immediate customer benefits and what are your future aims? Compatibility is a key requisite for access into any automation market. Hence the more options we can supply, the easier our products are for customers to buy and integrate.
It was a natural decision for us to continue pushing for growth in automation networking solutions, and we couldn’t expect to do that without being part of CC-Link and CC-Link IE technology.
When we develop products, the increase in technology we put into a simple device is growing exponentially. This means we have to bring simplicity back to a device to make it just as easy for customers to use. Whether they are OEMs, end users or systems developers and integrators, if we can make a complex device plug-and-play and make sure that it can be fast to install and commission, then we have achieved an important goal.
Improved machine and device level communication means production operations are far less likely to break down. Big data is made possible and our vision of managing automation - to react quickly to demands, to enable more on-device memory and processing power, and to increase the speed and robustness of communication for example, is helped by the speed CC-Link IE brings.
Customer demands from a network protocol do vary. In order to develop the best network solution, it depends on their goal, be it speed, reaction time, redundancy or system resilience. Being part of the standard helps us deliver.
Mr. Damien LeterrierMolex
- CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA)