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PCN adapting to innovations in process automation

PCN Technology, a manufacturer and service provider of communication networks and IP-enabled products, is bolstering its leadership capabilities with key additions to its executive team. The San Diego-based company specializes in advanced intra-network and Ethernet connectivity for automation and control processes.

The market for Ethernet switches and related hardware are expected to decline as companies are expected to move towards wireless networks.
Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images

The company is led by Dr. Venkat Shastri who has spent the majority of his career in the automation, semiconductor, and electronics sectors. He previously served as an engineer for NASA’s Mars Pathfinder project.

Last year, PCN hired Dave Karpenske as chief operating officer. Like other directors and investors at PCN, Karpenske spent nearly 25 years with energy manufacturer and services provider Schlumberger.

The challenge for companies like PCN is competing in a rapidly changing industry in which process automation is crossing over to various industries. Businesses in every sector are looking to reduce costs due to higher taxation, healthcare expenses, and labor costs. For instance, industrial Ethernet (IE) switches are increasingly employed in applications outside its traditional user base.

Infrastructure contractors and oil and gas customers ranging from smart grid (such as electrical substation automation), to intelligent rail and highway, as well as, drilling, pipeline, and refining applications are presenting IP connectivity companies with new opportunities and operational challenges. Hardware and connection cables are finding themselves installed in a variety of environments for clients that require the highest levels of assurance on operational continuity.

Process automation is no longer confined to robotics or automated manufacturing plants.

The market for Ethernet switches and related hardware are expected to decline as companies are expected to move towards wireless networks, according to a May 2013 report by Dell’Oro Group. “Data center consolidation projects and an increase in Cloud services are causing the data center segment to significantly outperform the overall Ethernet switch market," according to Alan Weckel, Vice President at Dell'Oro Group.

Companies like PCN Technology are facing several challenges. Customers are expected to move to high-capacity wireless. Last year, Spirent Communications announced the launch of its next-generation high speed Ethernet test solutions. According to the company’s press release, its new high density test modules along with a high performance chassis enable the doubling of port densities while lowering power consumption and total cost of ownership.

Secondly, clients are expected to utilize cloud computing as a more efficient way to communicate and store data. Some industry observers predict that the next generation of cloud computing will involve “vertical cloud computing” in which virtual servers and databases will serve niche industries and specialized businesses. Thus, experts anticipate that vendors will further customize their solutions for targeted markets with unique challenges.

Ethernet systems and communications infrastructure are also seeing needs for standardization. At last year's SIP Forum, keynote speakers offered their views on the importance of standardization, updated government legislation, data integrity, hardware, and security.

On its part, PCN Technology is anticipating future growth for its investors mainly because large enterprises that possess automation and control functions in their operations have a growing need to update their communications infrastructure and optimize operations by adopting new technologies. Additionally, the San Diego-based company serves the oil and gas industry.

“Over the last 12-18 months, PCN has seen consistent [and] measurable growth of product shipments, technology validations and engineering Alpha & Beta projects that have resulted in commercial integration activities. The company has a list of marquis customers growing within building management, oil and gas, energy, IT and other critical infrastructure markets,” said Karpenske upon his appointment as COO.

Other members of the management team and board include Irwin Pfister who serves as PCN’s executive chairman and lead investor. Pfister is the former CEO of Schlumberger SEMA and EVP of Schlumberger (BW). Additional investors and directors include Jerre Stead, current chairman and CEO of IHS, Inc. Stead is a former CEO of AT&T Global.

Joseph Kasputys is a director and investor who co-founded IHS Global Insight, Inc. Bill Kingsley is also a director and represents Enertech Capital’s investment in PCN. As a co-founder of PCN, Daniel Drolet serves as EVP of business development and marketing. David Strumpf, who is also a co-founder, is PCN’s chief technology officer.

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