Ethernet network cabling in the enterprise is almost exclusively based on structured cabling. Greatly simplifying , structured cabling is based on connecting equipment, e.g. network switch to a personal computer, using solid conductor horizontal cable terminated at both ends with a jack mounted in a patch panel, wall faceplate or similar, and then making the connections from the jacks to active equipment using flexible, stranded patch cords. One benefit of doing this is that the horizontal cable with jacks forms the basis of a testable permanent link.
Historically, there has been little convergence between manufacturing and enterprise in the plant network. Instead, there are multiple, separate networks – one network may run fieldbus protocol at the device level, another network may run ControlNet protocol for machine-to-machine
communications, while a third protocol, such as Ethernet, or a proprietary network, links the machines to data acquisition and storage units for reporting or archiving. Meanwhile, a separate network, often an extension of the office Ethernet network, is on the plant floor, enabling workstation access to work orders and task instructions.
Collaboration between Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT) is becoming a necessity to design and deploy an industrial network architecture that follows IT best practices for security, high availability, and quality of service.
However, skills gaps still exist between IT and OT that can jeopardize effective planning and configuration of the physical and logical network fabric, especially at the switch level. In the words of Panduit Solutions Manager Dan McGrath, “My contention is that two kinds of switches are found in many plants today: (1) unmanaged and (2) poorly managed!”
Dan makes a point worth considering, as unmanaged switches are often deployed to enable quick initial startup of the machine or process. However, this short-term gain can turn into a long-term loss when the time comes to scale more nodes or integrate single machines into the wider factory network, in the form of increased time and materials costs.
Deploying managed switches is a definite step up, but can give plant teams a false sense of manageability and security. If managed switches are deployed as plug-and-play devices without attention to configuration and setup, IT/OT directors may be left with a network that works on Day 1 but is teetering on the edge of functionality or with major security flaws.
To update a famous acronym, I think there is a better approach that IT and OT teams can follow that will drive better network planning and increased team collaboration: Know, Integrate, Simplify, and Standardize, or K.I.S.S.
Manufacturing companies can experience an average of 3.9 power outages per year, and when the power goes out…production STOPS! Even short power blips can be detrimental. Every minute you wait for network equipment to restart can cost your company thousands of dollars. So what can we do about it? Install a UPS or Uninterruptible Power Supply System! Well that’s a great start, but traditional UPS systems rely on batteries, and if your UPS battery fails, your risk of downtime goes up…the very thing we’re trying to avoid. Batteries require maintenance and operating expenses such as inspections, testing, replacement and in most cases hazardous waste disposal. As an alternative to a traditional battery UPS system, an ultracapacitor UPS system improves uptime and eliminates maintenance, which saves you money! Let’s compare the two with our infographic below.
The FIFA World Cup brings out the competitive instincts of sports fans across the globe. The strategies, styles, skills and depth of teams around the globe are tested and validated like no other sporting event. How much training and practice does it take to play at that elite level? If you have participated as a coach or parent for your children’s soccer teams, you must appreciate the long journey these players and teams have been on to reach the pinnacle of their sport! Training, team building, and ‘play’ experience are all key factors for teams to achieve their goals whether on the soccer field or even the plant floor if you are thinking about transforming your industrial productivity.
For industrial plants today, a new competition is underway to produce faster, better and smarter than the other ‘teams’ around the globe. A key strategy involves enabling more teamwork, better decision making, and faster, more agile response by connecting people, processes, data and things in new ways. This market transition is referred to with varying names such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Internet of Everything, and Industry 4.0. One key aspect is how to best leverage the advantages of Internet Protocol (IP) which underpins so much of this wired and wireless connectivity – a new Industrial IP World Cup!
The linkage between technology and future growth is strong. As McKinsey & Company characterizes, for western economies the growth of GDP will only come from the “do it smarter” companies that build a better business model.
As a result we see that many process and discrete Industrial Automation systems are undergoing dramatic transformations and adopting new strategies for industrial Ethernet. Many companies are transitioning to Ethernet connected controllers, computers, high speed motion control, cameras and power electronics. Every day, 160,000 new industrial Ethernet nodes are connected (I.H.S. Global/IMS Research). And there are estimates that 100% of plant floor devices will be providing data as soon as 2018.
One of the core issues affecting the performance and reliability of industrial control systems is electrical noise. It can cause field device misreads; devices to fail, reset, or enter a fault state; equipment damage; or signal retransmission that inflicts communication delays. The topic of mitigating performance issues caused by electrical noise is wide ranging, but we’ll look at three topics here: the types of Electrical Noise, the types of problems caused, and a multilayered approach to EMI noise mitigation.
Power interruptions and power quality are frequent causes of downtime in manufacturing, costing the average operation thousands of dollars each year in lost productivity.
Just that situation can occur—network switches, PCs, and Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) are key parts of modern control systems, and even short “blips” in power can cause restarts that delay device availability for up to several minutes.
As ensuring power to these devices during outages is critical to quick machine recovery, many manufacturers rely on a traditional battery-based UPS (uninterruptible power supply) system as an insurance policy.
However battery-based UPS systems are reliant on battery maintenance. Users must be willing to implement a rigorous program to monitor, maintain and properly dispose of batteries to ensure effectiveness.
Some of the common identified issues with traditional UPS systems:
Panduit solutions have helped Oil and Gas processors deploy networks faster and more reliably. Use of standard IP (Internet Protocol) and EtherNet/IP in oil and gas applications is growing. Oil and Gas customers have deployed integrated, pre-tested managed switch solutions to provide fast installation and risk mitigation.
To accommodate the demands of managing increased productivity, energy infrastructure providers need to reliably deploy networks across their treatment/processing facilities. Overloaded networks can experience operational issues with out-of-date technology, therefore companies are deciding to upgrade to a system that offers consistency, reliability and adherence to the latest industry network standards.
At the recent Rockwell Automation Fair, in Houston, TX many of the 10,000 attendees learned about the Connected Enterprise, its importance in realizing the value of the Internet of Things, and how Industrial IP is providing a common platform to boost productivity, efficiency and flexibility.
Attendees of the Process Solutions Users Group also learned how companies are using innovation to transform the Energy industry, including techniques such as front-end engineering design (FEED), to reduce deployment time as much as 50%, with reduced costs and risk. If you were not able to attend the show, Controlglobal.com has a nice summary here.
It’s a sign of something ongoing in the marketplace, the aging of equipment and technologies and the drive to gain productivity by better connecting systems as upgrades occur.