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Overview
There  are  Original  Equipment   Manufacturers    (OEMs)  across  many  industries  who  build products   that  use  small  control  systems   with  traditional, simple  hardwired   controls  such  as cube relays,  timers  and  counters.    These small  control  systems  are  commonly   found  on  assembly   equipment,   conveyors,   machine   tools,  presses   and   pumping    equipment    used   for  both commercial   and  consumer   applications   such  as industrial   manufacturing, HVAC   equipment,    door/gate controls,   commercial   appliances,    vending machines   and amusement   equipment.  OEMs in all business sectors continue  to struggle  justifying  the use of legacy control  designs  to meet current and future business  objectives.

Today,  many  of these  OEMs are migrating   their  traditional   hardwired   control  designs   toward   alternative   control  systems.    In  fact,  for  most  OEMs, programmable  relays  can serve  as a very  cost effective  controller   for their products   due  to  not  only  their  increased   flexibility  and  reduced physical size, but  also because  they  offer a lower total  cost solution  with  quicker  assembly  and installation  compared   to hardwired   controls.
Background
Programmable    relays  are  microprocessor-based     controllers   that  have  similar  capabilities   to  a  PLC  (Programmable    Logic  Controller)   with   built-in timers,  counters and compare instructions,   but  can  be programmed    more easily  like  wiring   simple   hardwired controls.     In  the  past,   OEMs  were forced  to  choose  between   simple  hardwired    controls   or  internally   developed  and  designed custom  controllers for  their  products.     In  either  case, very  small  systems  often could  not justify the cost of a PLC, or similar  controller,  until  the programmable   relay became  available.
Programmable Relay Market Position

Programmable   relays  are used  in many  industries   and  are now  being  used in new  applications   that  previously   were  cost,  technology   or size  prohibited.    For  example,   programmable    relays  are  replacing   hardwired    timers, counters  and  cube relays  in applications   ranging  from ventilator  controls  in office buildings   to sequential   control  systems  for industrial   manufacturing. Additionally,   programmable    relays  are now  penetrating a wider  variety  of non-manufacturing     or  commercial    OEM  applications    as  OEMs  become more aware  of the importance   of the total cost of their products.

Top 5 Reasons for Programmable Relays instead of Hardwired Controls
1. Number of Components
The basic design of a programmable relay integrates common control functions as built-in features   to  eliminate   the  purchase  of  separate   control devices.  Multiple timers, counters and cube relays can be replaced with a single programmable relay, greatly reducing the number of required components. This helps OEMs control costs and minimize component inventory levels and purchasing overhead.

2. Enclosure Size
The size of an enclosure required for multiple  hardwired devices  is much larger  than  that of a single programmable   relay.  The compact mechanical footprint  of a programmable   relay, with standard   DIN rail or panel mounting clip options,  significantly  reduces  the required  electrical  enclosure  size. The size of an enclosure  not only affects the individual   enclosure  cost, but more importantly   the size of the machine  and location  to mount  the enclosure.

3. Engineering and Configuration Effort
The  programmable    relay,  as  a single  integrated   and  configurable   device, greatly  improves   the  OEM’s process  of design  and  configuration.     Easy to understand    drawings   can be developed quickly  using  provided   CAD tem- plates   from   the   programmable     relay   suppliers.    Simple   programming commands   based  on hardwired   principles  make  configuring a programmable   relay   easy   and    eliminate    the   need    for   an   engineer    or   trained programmer to configure  it.

4. Manufacturing and Installation Cost
Assembly  and testing  of a system  with  hardwired   controls  requires   a significant    amount    of   interconnect     wiring    between    individual     devices, increasing  material  costs such  as wire,  terminal  blocks, wire  duct,  DIN rail, etc.,  and  labor costs.    Installing   and  wiring   a single  programmable    relay with  a built-in  power  supply   and  screw  terminals   greatly  reduces   wiring time  and  testing  with  fewer  connections   and  fewer  possible  points of failure.

5. Maintenance and Modification Support
A control  system  based  on programmable    relays  helps  an OEM reduce  the amount  of time for commissioning   and maintenance.    An integrated   display and  keypad   on  a programmable    relay  provides   alarm  messages   and  I/O status  for easy troubleshooting,   often eliminating  the need  for a multi-meter or logic probe,  which  is used  to maintain  hardwired controls.   Customizing a programmable relay system  to  meet  changing   customer   needs  only    requires  programming   changes  without  additional   devices.
Design Cost Analysis
Design and Cost Value Chain

Total cost in any control  system  has a mix of fixed costs and  variable  costs. Simple  hardwired   controls  such  as start/stop inputs,   run lights,  timers  or counters,  and loads  may have lower  fixed product  costs in a very small sys- tem,  but  in larger  systems  the  fixed  component   costs,  interconnect   wiring costs  and electrical  enclosure   costs  increase   significantly.     Programmable relays  may  have  a slightly  larger  initial  capital  investment for a programming cable etc,  but it greatly  reduces  the cost of wiring  and the enclosure  size when  compared   to simple  hardwired   controls.

Product Unit Cost
The recurring   product   cost for a hardwired-based     simple  controls  system, configured   as  previously   described,   will  actually be  more  in  most  cases than  an equivalent   programmable   relay system.   This is often because  of the increased   required   enclosure   size  for the  hardwired controls,  higher  costs for individual   timer/counter devices,  and  the additional labor  required   for interconnect   wiring.   Material  costs for electrical  enclosures   have  probably experienced   the  largest  price increases  in recent  years  when  compared   to other  control  products,   with  many  enclosure  suppliers raising  their  prices more  than  once  per  year.   Additionally,   the  footprint   size for most  indus- trial  timers  and  digital  counters,  when  combined   with  typical  cube  relays, can  increase   the  enclosure   size  significantly   with  addition   of only  a  few components.    The total hardware   and  manufacturing    costs for this example system  results  in a 30 percent  savings  when  using  a programmable    relay

Design and Development Cost
A simple  hardwired   control  design  requires  a prototype   capital  investment, as well  as some  additional   costs  for design  and  development.     This is be- cause  of the  amount   of schematic   engineering   for  interconnecting    wiring, along  with  additional   design  engineering   to validate  compatibility   between the  individual   devices.    In a comparable   programmable    relay  system,  the capital  investment   for developing   hardware and  software  is slightly  more, but significant  savings  are seen in the engineering   effort, estimated   at near- ly  a  35 percent   savings   over  hardwired    controls.     The  only  engineering required   on  a programmable    relay  system  is writing   the  application   pro- gram.   No hardware   engineering   needs to be performed   by the OEM on the internal  components   such  as timers,  counters,  contacts,  and  coils when  us- ing a programmable   relay system.

Product Support Cost
Depending   upon  the complexity and quality of the control  system  design, an OEM may dedicate  7-10 percent  of their resources  to support tasks. These costs may increase  if a hardwired component   becomes  obsolete,  or if customers  have special  I/O requirements   and re-engineering   of a simple control  system  is required. With an equivalent  programmable   relay system, re-engineering   and internal  support only requires  a programming change,  or the addition  of an expansion  I/O module. 

Additional Benefits

Beyond  higher   processing   power,   compactness   and  reduced   hardwiring,programmable   relays offer a number of benefits  to OEMs:
Broader application span: Extensive  flexibility  and  simple     programming      language     standards      allow programmable    relays   to  meet  a  wide   variety   of  OEM product  requirements.

Easy re-use of software: The scalability  of programmable relays  and  their  common   programming    software  can  be easily  re-used  and  reloaded   to accommodate   the  changing needs  of the users  of the OEM products.

Low implementation cost:   Built-in   common    control functions  such as timers,  counters,  real-time  clocks, high- speed   counters,   temperature    controls,   etc.  provide   the capability   of  solving   complex   tasks  with  minimal   programming.

Built  to Industrial  Standards: Programmable    relays  are designed   to  operate   in  harsh   industrial    manufacturing environments,   which  provides  manufacturing    grade  reliability   for   any   non-manufacturing      application    at   no additional   cost.

Programmable Relay Use Growing in OEM Applications
Use of programmable    relays  in the OEM market  is growing  rapidly.    Over  the  past  several  years,  OEMs have  begun  embracing   programmable    relays  in a variety  of applications   as they continue  to face challenges  that require  lower  costs, greater functionality, and  smaller  product  sizes, which  has expanded   the role of programmable relays beyond  traditional   markets.

On-time  delivery   of their  equipment   to the  market  is extremely   critical  to OEMs  today. Any delay can result in lost sales.   The environment of continuously    changing   demands    from   customers    frequently    translates    into shorter   product   lifecycles  for  OEM  products,   which   is  why   some  early adopter   OEMs  now  have  begun  to look  into  commercially   available   programmable   relays  instead  of hardwired   controls  or a custom  control  board. These  OEMs  are  able  to use  programmable    relays  to enable  faster  time  to market   and  quicker   updates of their  existing  products   to  meet  customer demands.     The resulting  use  of programmable    relays  increases  the  agility and flexibility  of OEM products  and reduces life cycle costs.

The trend  in the  programmable    relay  market   is to offer  a product   with  rich  functionality    in  a  compact size.     One unique   feature  is a built-in  LCD display   with  keypad   for changing   function   parameters and  programming    directly on the device, along with the ability  to display  configurable
text messages  and I/O status.

A programmable    relays’ display  can provide   users  with  a
variety  of important   information.    When  programming    the device  through   the front  panel,  the display  shows  the connected  function blocks  or ladder  logic  rungs.     When   in operating   mode,  the  display can  show  text  messages,   the status  of inputs and  outputs, and variable  and  current values, as well as time and  date  information.    The display  can also  show  the  parameter values being  changing   from the front  panel  such  as timer  and  counter  set points,  PI control parameters   for temperature   applications,   etc.
Emerging Programmable Relay Market: Building Automation

Lighting  control  by modern   programmable    relays  provides   building   automation  solutions for:
•    Daylight  / time dependent   light control
•    Group  lighting  control
•    Peak load minimization
•    Energy  management
Heater   / Climate   / Ventilation   control  by  modern   programmable    relays provides  building  automation   solutions  for:

•    Temperature   control
•    Energy  management
•    Time / temperature   dependent control
•    Environmental   and weather condition  based  control
•    Safety and security  alarming  for air quality control
Rich functionality,   ease  of use  and  the  compact size  of modern programmable   relays  is  beneficial   to  OEMs.     It  is  expected  that   an  increasing number  of OEMs will begin  using  programmable    relay  solutions      in their  products   to reduce  overall  costs,  speed up time   to  market    and provide product performance  improvements.
OEMs will continue  facing challenges  to raise productivity,
lower  product   costs,  reduce   operating   costs  and  increase return   on  investment   (ROI) to  remain   competitive   in  the global  market.    This  is expected  to result in the  increased use of programmable   relays  in place of hardwired   controls and custom boards  across many  industries.
Recommendations

•    An OEMs decision  to either  buy programmable   relays or design  a
system  with hardwired   controls  must  be weighed  against  its goal of lowering  total costs while fulfilling  business objectives  to quickly produce  product variants  to meet changing  market  demands.

•    OEM engineering   should  focus on investing  in core product competencies rather  than  distracting   its efforts to maintain  a custom hardwired   controls  system  design  for which  effective packaged solutions  such as programmable   relays are available.

•    OEMs must  focus on improvements  in their products  that bring their customers  higher productivity   at a lower cost and carefully  evaluate  the contribution of programmable   relays, in comparison   to hardwired controls, toward  reduced  design and support  time, smaller product sizes etc

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