Safety Network interviews Harald Wessels, technical spokesperson of Safety Network International e.V.


As part of our series on “People at Safety Network International e.V.”, today we are talking to Harald Wessels. He is the organisation's new technical spokesperson. Safety Network Insight talks to Mr Wessels about his new job and issues relating to the systems SafetyNET p and SafetyBUS p.

Safety Network Insight: Good morning Mr Wessels and congratulations on your appointment as technical spokesperson for Safety Network International e.V.. Would you like to start by telling us something about yourself?

Harald Wessels: First of all I'd like to say thank you for the trust placed in my ability to take up this role, especially as I don't come directly from the world of safety but have many years' experience in product management of industrial communication technology components. Before I started my role as technical spokesperson for Safety Network International e.V. in December last year, my work included posts at Hirschmann Automation and Control and Phoenix Contact, where I learned a great deal about Industrial Ethernet and fieldbus technologies and their  applications. I think in particular that my knowledge in the field of network technology was instrumental in my being offered the role of technical spokesperson for Safety Network International e.V..

In my private life I've been married for more than 20 years and have two children. I grew up in the Weser Uplands, but have lived in beautiful Remstal for almost 20 years now.

Safety Network Insight: What is the role of the technical spokesperson and what are his responsibilities in the organisation?

Harald Wessels: In Safety Network International e.V. the technical spokesperson is the main point of contact for all technical issues concerning the systems SafetyBUS p and SafetyNET p. That's why from now on I will be attending the organisation's technical committees. Externally I will also be representing the organisation in technical committees, at discussion forums and specialist events. Finally I am the contact person for our member companies and users in terms of the systems' ongoing development.

Safety Network Insight: What's so special about SafetyNET p, what is the benefit for users?

Harald Wessels: One outstanding feature of SafetyNET p is the ability to divide control projects over multiple control systems, while maintaining a centralised view of the project – the optimum way to reduce engineering work to a minimum.

Add to that the simultaneous transfer of safety-related and automation data, plus highly flexible topologies and wireless transmission. Users decide whether they wish to transfer failsafe and standard automation data simultaneously or prefer to use separate networks; they can also choose the topology that best suits their application.

Safety Network Insight: You say that safety-related and automation data can be transferred simultaneously by SafetyNET p. Until a few years ago it was customary to treat safety-related and non-safety-related data separately – is this no longer necessary?

Harald Wessels: From a communication point of view, it is no longer necessary; however, it may make sense from a plant perspective. With SafetyNET p, the plant or machine builder has the option to implement the best solution for his specific application.

It's not really possible to make a general statement in this case, as the applications are too diverse. From a technical perspective or from the point of view of safety, it is no longer necessary because the protocol ensures there is no feedback.

Safety Network Insight: Ethernet now has a mature technological basis – what will be the next technological leap?

Harald Wessels: Ethernet as a communication medium is now more than 25 years old and is certainly mature, as you say. But that doesn't mean that it can't continue to develop. If we consider the technologies that Ethernet uses as a transport medium, we will still see a whole series of developments. As for industrial automation via Ethernet networks, it may no longer be in its infancy, but it is still very much in its teenage years. That's why for me personally, and for Safety Network International e.V., it's important to find answers to the outstanding questions and to be part of the further success story that is Ethernet and SafetyNET p.