Farnell expands test and measurement range through global agreement with NI

Farnell has been appointed as an NI Authorised Distributor, expanding its product portfolio to include NI software-connected test and measurement solutions for customers of all sizes.

NI is a leading manufacturer of automated test systems used in production and validation testing. The addition of NI’s suite of products to Farnell’s leading Test portfolio will enable engineers to test faster, more accurately and with greater efficiency, leaving more time to focus on tests that require manual input. Farnell is NI’s first distribution partner to offer direct sales and technical support globally and now offers the largest and most complete Test portfolio in the High Service Distribution market.

James McGregor, Global Head of Test & Tools, Farnell says: “We are delighted that NI has chosen Farnell as a global distribution partner and look forward to a long and successful relationship. Farnell’s global reach and long history of expertise in distributing test and measurement equipment, as well as our broad customer base and on-hand technical support staff ensure that our customers will be fully supported in all their test needs. This new agreement, with one of the world’s foremost Test product manufacturers, will equip our customers with the very best custom tools and systems. The addition of NI to our portfolio expands and improves an already leading test and measurement range. Farnell is committed to delivering the very best in test systems and equipment to our customers around the world, and access to NI’s suite of products will enable engineers to carry out their testing with safety, precision and efficiency.”

Engineers and enterprises continue to face the challenge of bringing high performing and efficient products to market within more compressed timelines. To keep pace, customers need faster, more efficient ways to obtain critical automated test and measurement equipment based on their unique technical, financial, service, and regional requirements. Together, NI and Farnell are providing engineers and enterprises with the flexibility, speed, and support they need to help them meet the demands of their business and customers.

“Connecting our customers to the right technologies and services helps them accelerate their pace of innovation and better serve their organisations and end customers,” said Jim Ramsey, vice president of the Global Partner program at NI. “Our relationship with Farnell will help us expand our reach into new markets and equip more engineers with the tools and technologies they need to take on their next big opportunity.”

Future thoughts about pharmaceutical manufacturing: Shifting from systems to a service-oriented architecture

When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 as a pandemic in March 2020, the pharmaceutical sector burst into action. By May, there were over 1,000 clinical trials ongoing and by August, 167 vaccine projects were underway. By nature, the pharmaceutical industry is driven by development. Yet, pharmaceutical engineering has not always kept pace. Here, Giuseppe Menin, Industry Manager for Pharmaceuticals at COPA-DATA, along with his colleagues from the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) 4.0 Plug & Produce working group, explains why digital integration in pharmaceutical manufacturing must evolve.

Despite its advances in medicine, pharmaceutical’s plant architecture has remained relatively unchanged in the last few decades. These sites typically operate with legacy equipment and often use traditional automation architectures.

This architecture uses separate levels of automation for different types of system. For instance, business applications like enterprise resource planning (ERP) and product lifecycle management (PLM) will operate in one silo, while MES or processing monitoring applications, like SCADA software, will remain in another.

However, as connectivity and integration become ubiquitous in other manufacturing environments, there is an opportunity for pharmaceutical to follow suit. So, why, in an industry so heavily associated with advancement, is there hesitation?

Traditional architectures

With its complex regulatory requirements and heavy reputational consequences should something go wrong, the pharmaceutical industry is certainly more risk-adverse than other sectors.

While traditional automation architecture may be tried-and-tested, it does not provide an optimal way to use data in modern facilities. Let’s say a plant operative wants to remove inefficiencies from the manufacturing process. To determine areas for improvement, the operative would need to extract subsets of data from different systems, such as the manufacturing execution system (MES), Laboratory Instruments Management System (LIMS), ERP and SCADA.

In this example, an operator would need to take multiple steps between laboratories, production and enterprise space to gather all of this information – that’s not to mention the difficulties they may face when attempting to collect data from unfamiliar systems.

In an ideal world this data would be integrated into a harmonized, easy-to-understand interface, providing the operative with a ready-made method to spot inefficiencies. There are already technologies that enable some integration for pharmaceutical manufacturers, but this software integration by dedicated interfaces tends to come at a high cost and doesn’t provide the full data harmonisation required to meet today’s needs.

In truth, the industry needs a complete shift from this architecture type and a move to a services-oriented structure where integration is the rule, not the exception.

Service-oriented structures

A service-oriented architecture will operate as a grid of modular micro services. As opposed to a collection of hard-wired systems, this architecture model will allow more flexibility and agility by giving users easy access to a wider pool of data.

Consider it like making a meal in a kitchen. While you may know exactly where to find your ingredients and equipment, the process of collecting these items from separate areas of the kitchen is far more longwinded than having access to a pre-laid buffet. That’s not to mention the painstaking task of cooking — or in this case, analysing the data — when you’ve retrieved your items.

By choosing a buffet of data, as enabled by the service-oriented approach, pharmaceutical manufacturers can reap considerable benefits. The model allows for more flexibility, by enabling the quick assembly and disassembly of systems in the architecture. It also enables better scalability than previous models by ensuring that the data can be reorganised and presented in a way that’s beneficial to whoever is looking at it.

Returning to our earlier example, an operator will no longer need to investigate what system each dataset resides on. Instead, the data can be distributed in various services and accessed from a single interface, regardless of where it is located.

Most importantly for the pharmaceutical industry though, this architecture model can also be achieved while maintaining necessary cybersecurity and Data Integrity compliance requirements by automating configuration and validation processes.

Time to switch pace

At the time of writing this article, more than 170 teams of researchers are in the process of developing a COVID-19 vaccine — twelve of which are already in phase three efficacy trials. As the pandemic has demonstrated, the pharmaceutical industry moves fast, and the technologies used in pharmaceutical manufacturing should be advancing too.

The ISPE Pharma 4.0 initiative is working to ensure this happens. The group is designing new architectures to accompany the pharmaceutical sector towards more flexible, interoperable and sustainable production. Pharmaceutical manufacturers must embrace a paradigm shift in how automation architectures are traditionally constructed to keep pace with the industry’s product development, moving away from a system-oriented world into a services-oriented architecture.

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Laser Components receives “Innovative through Research” seal

The Stifterverband (the Donors’ Association) has awarded Laser Components with the “Innovative through Research” seal. Every two years, companies that strengthen Germany as a location for innovation are honoured through their research and development work. The cross-disciplinary team of developers is an important success factor for the medium-sized family business from Olching near Munich. In addition to working on new products and custom solutions in laser optics, fibre optics, and electronics, the physicists and engineers are also involved in numerous research projects.

In the development of new products and technologies, Laser Components deliberately pursues a cross-disciplinary approach in which the individual team members contribute their own expert knowledge and at the same time inspire each other by exchanging ideas with other departments. In this way, the company succeeds in turning new ideas into products ready for series production in a short time.

Furthermore, this medium-sized company maintains constant contact with universities and research institutes. Students working on the practical part of their bachelor’s or master’s degree are almost an everyday sight at Laser Components. It is not uncommon for this activity to lead to a permanent position at the company further down the road.

“This seal is the recognition of years of successful research and development work,” says Dr. Lars Mechold, technical director at Laser Components. “Without the commitment and innovative spirit of our R&D team, many of our custom product solutions would not be possible.”

Level and pressure specialist VEGA invests in training centre and UK HQ

After a year-long build, VEGA Controls have opened their own purpose-built training and seminar centre and UK head office at ‘Metior House’, Maresfield, in the heart of Sussex.

Figure 1 New customer training centre and offices for VEGA UK in Sussex

The facility benefits from almost 10,000 square feet of training and meeting facilities for VEGA customers and stakeholders to use. These include: over 15 working, hands-on equipment and application models of level and pressure technologies, sited in their own networked demonstration area; state of the art Av amenities; full sets of operational training equipment and interconnected desks to help train people to the highest standards. It also boasts a spacious cafe/dining room, with access to an outdoor seating and breakout area adjacent to  woodland.

Managing Director Ray Tregale said “Along with our exciting new product portfolio, this is our vision and investment for the long term. Purchasing the land and carefully designing the building we need, was not just for now, but for decades to come.” He added “It’s a statement of intent and shows our commitment to support product users and engineers across all industries, as well as our staff of course, and to demonstrate our confidence in the future of UK business”

Figure 2 Just one of the flexible training rooms with state of the art AV and equipment available for customers to use

The location is around a 40 minute drive from Gatwick airport and 20 minutes from mainline railway stations connecting to London. Ample parking with EV charging is also available. The carbon-neutral building also houses offices and service workshops to provide staff with generous space to work in, to provide support and service for customers.

Ray concluded “When the situation allows, our doors will be open and we will look to encourage  visitors for in-person product education and application training, and even for them to use just as a meeting place.  It’s available to all our customers and stakeholders with an interest in the UK instrumentation and process automation sectors, as well as others beyond. We can’t wait to see you!”

Siemens helps combat early careers crisis with recruitment drive for 26 school leavers, university students and graduates

Siemens is bucking the downward trend in early careers opportunities by offering 26 school leavers, university students and graduates a pathway into manufacturing, automation and digitalisation.

The recruitment drive for the Siemens Digital Industries division aims to bolster its intern, apprenticeship and graduate careers programme which accounts for 10% of its 1,000-strong workforce.

Successful candidates will work from Siemens’ UK headquarters in Manchester or its award-winning digital factory in Congleton.

Covid-19 and the resulting economic impact has contributed to a sharp decline in opportunities for school leavers, university students and graduates.

A recent report by Make UK, the manufacturing industry body, found less than half of the UK’s manufacturers (44%) have plans to hire an apprentice in the next year, down from 74 per cent this time last year.

Meanwhile, research by the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) concluded that the number of graduate jobs dropped by 12% in 2020 with further declines predicted next year.

Over the next three months Siemens will be recruiting nine young people for its advanced and higher apprenticeships, two for its International Technical Talent apprenticeships, one graduate scheme position, six interns, and three E3 scholarships. Meanwhile, five university students completing their E3 scholarships will secure places on Siemens DI’s graduate programme.

Since establishing its early careers programme in 2010 Siemens Digital Industries division has launched and enhanced the careers of more than 100 young people.

Jess Reading, 21, joined Siemens’ degree apprenticeship programme in 2018.

“I had a lot of misconceptions about the structure of an apprenticeship, suspecting it would start with lots of study and little manual experience,” Jess said. “From day one I was thrown into projects and encouraged to get involved. That hands-on experience was thrilling and really helped my confidence. I was surrounded by industry leaders and was encouraged to ask questions. That culture of support where everyone wanted you to succeed has helped me thrive.

“As the apprenticeship has progressed I have been given more responsibilities, and encouraged to lead projects and take ownership, a skill I am really grateful for. I was also able to get involved in the Ventilator Challenge UK. To be involved in such a once in a generation project was incredible.

“Siemens is an ever-changing environment, working with leading edge technologies and pushing the limits of innovation in engineering. It’s an exciting place to work and learn.”

Elliot Bloor, 21, is in his third year of a degree apprenticeship and is working towards a BEng (Hons) degree in Control and Automation.

“I have been given so many opportunities to develop skills in a wide range of disciplines and absorb knowledge,” Elliot explained. “I have been given solid grounding in business improvement, capacity planning, lean and industrial engineering, as well as access to cutting edge digital tools like Plant Simulation, Siemens’ discrete event simulation software, and access to technologies such as the Virtual Reality Cave.

“The culture here is that Siemens will give you the landscape to learn – the expertise, the technology and the tools – but you push yourself to take the opportunities available.

Elliot has thrown himself into apprentice life at Siemens DI. Within his first year, although just 18, he was leading visitors on tours of the digital factory in Congleton. In his second year, he was rewarded with the opportunity to join the layout and digitalisation team on a six-month secondment. Elliot was also selected to get involved in the Ventilator Challenge and was recently named Siemens’ Engineering Degree Apprentice of the Year.

“It has been brilliant, a great experience,” Elliot said. “It’s a lot of work and needs focus and commitment, but you will get the support, and with that, you will succeed.”

Brian Holliday, Managing Director for Siemens Digital Industries, said: “Early careers opportunities like apprenticeships and graduate schemes are a critical part of UK manufacturing’s effort to take advantage of the digital transformation to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“Offering school leavers, university students and graduates a fulfilling career pathway is key to solving the skills gap in the technology, manufacturing and engineering industries.

“Over the years Siemens Digital Industries has evolved and enhanced its early careers offering to ensure we have the talent and growth mindset we need for the future.

“We’ve brought a very diverse group of apprentices and graduates into our business. And guess what, when you throw tough stuff at them, they all step up, and they’re brilliant.

“By opening up our doors to 26 more young people we are committing to recruit, train and retain the next generation of innovators, and create high value jobs in the North West.”

There are three kinds of apprenticeships offered by Siemens. Advanced Apprenticeships take between three and four years and combine work and studying for an NVQ Level 3 plus a technical engineering qualification. Higher apprenticeships take between two and four years to complete and combine studying with hands-on training towards an NVQ Level 4 and a relevant HNC. Degree apprenticeships take around five years to complete and earn an NVQ Level 6-7 equivalent to a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.

Internships are designed to offer first or second year university students an opportunity to experience life at Siemens through a tailored development programme and put their degree to work in a real world environment through either a three-month summer or 12-month placement.

Another pathway to a career at Siemens is through the E3 Academy, which offers university scholarships for those studying IET-accredited courses with Electrical Energy Engineering options, including a £2,500 bursary for each year of study, paid vacation work placements, summer schools, company mentoring, and a job after graduation.

The Graduate Development Programme is open to those with a bachelor’s or master’s degree, in an engineering, tech or business-related subject, and offers two years of paid training designed to enhance core and soft skills.

The International Technical Talent Apprenticeship programme includes one year in Berlin and then a four-year degree apprenticeship.

Dave Thomas started his career with Siemens 13 years ago through the graduate programme and is now training and development manager currently supporting 100 interns, apprentices and graduates.

He said: “Our early careers programme has been designed to combine the needs and ambitions of today’s talented young people with the skills companies like Siemens need to turn them into the experts of tomorrow.

“Opportunities at Siemens DI cover manufacturing, mechatronics, mechanical engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, technical sales, engineering technical support, IT, data analytics, and business administration.

“Each element of the programme offers stimulating challenges, real-world industry experience, first class mentoring, and opportunity to earn while they learn.

“We’re looking for people who want to take on the challenges of tomorrow with an inquisitive mindset, a desire to contribute to and solve problems in a challenging and diverse environment, the ability to react to changing trends and tackle the unexpected with enthusiasm, and a collaborative approach that saves valuable time and energy, and delivers results for everyone.”

For a list of vacancies and to apply visit

Investment in new European warehouse for CMP

Cable gland and cable cleat manufacturer, CMP Products has further strengthened its European distribution network, with the opening of a warehouse facility located in Aachen, Germany.

The 1000m2 site, strategically positioned close to the borders of Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg, will act as a central hub for product distribution throughout Europe, improving accessibility and lead times like never before.

All existing product ranges will be stocked within the facility, including CMP’s new plastic cable gland range TruSeal, cable cleats and accessories.

Kathleen Kearns, Head of European Sales, said: “The investment in our warehouse in Germany cements our support for customers across the continent, and will mean product can be distributed at pace. “With Brexit transitions now in place, the facility will play an important role in ensuring there is no impact on stock reaching our customers from our manufacturing headquarters in the UK.”

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, CMP has temporarily relocated experienced members of our U.K. team to oversee a smooth transition.

The Aachen warehouse is already receiving regular shipments of products through CMP’s own transport container, which has commenced weekly stock journeys to the Continent.
Kathleen added:

“Europe is a key strategic market for CMP and the move to open in Aachen provides customers with the confidence that despite the challenges of Brexit and the Pandemic, we are very much open for business and looking to grow our market share.”

Analog Devices’ Ahmed Ali named IEEE Fellow

Analog Devices’ Technology Fellow Dr. Ahmed Ali has been named an IEEE Fellow for his leadership in high-speed analogue-to-digital converter design and calibration. IEEE Fellow is the highest grade of IEEE membership and is recognised by the technical community as a prestigious honour and an important career achievement. The total number selected in any one year cannot exceed one-tenth of one- percent of the total voting membership.

“I am humbled by this recognition and honoured to be elevated to an IEEE Fellow,” said Dr. Ali. “This is a testament to Analog Devices’ culture of innovation and leadership in the fields of high-speed data converters and digitally-assisted-analogue algorithms. It is also a reflection of the outstanding and diligent teams at ADI that I have been privileged to work with on groundbreaking and successful products.”

Dr. Ali, who joined ADI in 2002, was named an ADI Fellow in 2015.  Based in Greensboro, NC, he has more than 50 patents and is the author of the textbook High Speed Data Converters. Dr. Ali holds a Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.

The IEEE is the world’s leading professional association for advancing technology for humanity. Through its 400,000 plus members in 160 countries, the association is a leading authority on a wide variety of areas ranging from aerospace systems, computers and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power and consumer electronics.

Update on omlox, the world’s first positioning standard for industry

omlox is the world’s first open locating standard!

omlox paves the way to Industry 4.0 and supply chain transparency by unifying all locating technologies in one open, interoperable standard. While supporting location technologies like GNSS, 5G/LTE, WIFI, RFID or BLE, omlox has a specific emphasis on ultra-wideband (UWB), as THE rising star in the field. omlox specifies an open ultra-wideband system, that ensures complete hardware interoperability, and which enables multi-purpose infrastructures, e.g., for multi-site asset tracking and AGV navigation. By means of lightweight APIs and flexible operation setups, omlox can be easily integrated into existing software and hardware scenarios. Retrofit and future proof – with omlox there is no conflict.

omlox architecture – a holistic approach for locating systems

The omlox standard is comprised of two main elements:

  1. omlox hub: A lightweight middleware that provides standardized interfaces to location data and location services – across technologies and vendors.
  2. omlox core zone: An open ultra-wideband system, that facilitates a plug-and-play, real-time tracking of hardware from multiple vendors.

Both elements of omlox already provide great value and flexibility while setting up a locating system or using location data for industrial use-cases individually. But the combination is even more powerful – especially in real-time use-cases on a shopfloor or in a warehouse.


Ultra-wideband (UWB) is THE rising star of location technologies, being integrated into smartphones, laptops and cars these days. UWB is a radio technology that uses short impulses on a broad frequency band. This approach is very robust when it comes to reflections on metallic surfaces and allows for very fast and precise computation of location. But in an industrial setup UWB is even today a very fragmented landscape with small vendors that provide proprietary technologies.

This is about to change with omlox!

By specifying the wireless interface, how UWB-enabled devices like tags, tools or AGVs should communicate with an UWB infrastructure, an interoperable setup can be achieved. One omlox core zone can service multiple use-cases and can locate hardware from multiple vendors. This allows for a much lower total cost of ownership and a faster return on investment.

omlox hub
An omlox hub is specified as a lightweight locating middleware with very easy to use APIs. It allows for seamless access to location data and services – no matter which location technologies are been used.

Software vendors and integrators do not have to implement custom interfaces for different vendors anymore. Location-technology providers can benefit from a wide array of existing software.

An omlox hub is built on very powerful software concepts and functionalities:

To find out more about PROFIBUS, PROFINET, IO-Link and omlox in the UK, please visit the PI UK website:

Farnell launches Industry 4.0 ebook featuring views of industry experts

Farnell has today launched a new ebook “The Industry 4.0 Interviews 2020. The ebook features the views of global experts from Festo, Omega, Molex, Panasonic and Schneider Electric on the development of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and related technologies. The ebook provides insights for panel builders, systems integrators and designers, industrial and electronic engineers, including those involved in maintenance and repair.

“Continuing advances in industrial automation and control technology, along with the increase in connectivity of devices through the IIoT, is enabling engineers and makers to use off-the-shelf hardware and software to create complex products faster and more easily than ever before,” says Simon Meadmore, Global Head of Interconnect, Passives and Electromechanical at Farnell. “We interviewed experts from some of the largest industrial systems and equipment manufacturers in the world to reveal how they use knowledge of their customers’ needs to deliver optimal solutions that increase productivity, improve efficiencies and achieve a decrease in maintenance costs. We are delighted that several influential leaders in this industry have given their time to this book and we hope the IIoT community will find their insights helpful and interesting.”

Topics covered within the ebook include an overview of the global IIoT market, insights on key products and tools to support the adoption and advancement of Industry 4.0 technology and predictions for the future of IIoT. The ebook also offers valuable insights for those planning new projects to support the design and maintenance of industrial equipment, robotics, smart buildings and factories, including:

  • How being able to demonstrate the benefits of IIoT is key to overcoming reluctance to implement Industry 4.0 technologies into manufacturing facilities
  • How concerns about security of data stored in the cloud can be resolved by implementing the right comprehensive IoT security solutions
  • How industrial automation can start as simply as predictive maintenance to build a business case whilst increasing productivity and efficiency and reducing downtime.
  • The role Artificial Intelligence plays in the response and reliability of embedded systems
  • The shortage of experience in implementing truly cross-business systems which is hampering the implementation of IIoT.

Responding to the growth of increased automation in manufacturing, smart manufacturing and robotics driven by the IIoT, Farnell has invested significantly over the last 12 months to build a comprehensive industrial automation portfolio which includes the latest solutions from world leading suppliers including Omega, Festo, Omron, Mitsubishi Electric, Control Techniques, Schneider, ABB, and Siemens. Farnell’s in-stock industrial automation range includes 550,000 interconnect products, more than 400,000 passive components and over 100,000 electromechanical products.

To find out more information about Farnell’s enhanced industrial automation offering and to download The Industry 4.0 Interviews 2020 eBook for free, visit Farnell in EMEA, Newark in North America and element14 in APAC.