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.
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!
Wireless is a growing part of the industrial manufacturing landscape to connect from enterprise to plant. Have you considered how standard wireless technology has advanced to be much more capable and able to deliver a clearer picture of what is happening for hard to reach devices in manufacturing plants?
You’ve probably noticed that your iPhone takes some pretty good pictures. Detailed, bright, featuring stark contrasts between different colors that make each light in a city’s skyline stand out.
Some of these crisp photos are the product of high-dynamic-range (HDR) imaging. Instead of taking a single picture at single exposure level with a limited contrast range like in normal camera, the iPhone’s HDR camera takes multiple pictures of the same image at different exposure levels. Then, it pieces these pictures together to create a photo that more accurately captures the level of detail and color intensity found in the actual scene, closer to the image seen by the human eye.
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.
Many of us have had to deal with harsh winter conditions in the US over the last couple months which sometimes requires working from home. With mobile devices and high speed internet, our connections to co-workers and plants can continue in spite of adverse conditions. For today’s manufacturing plants, the amount of connected people, plants, data and things is growing exponentially and these connections need to perform reliably no matter the environmental conditions.
Cisco estimates that 50 billion new IP connections to be installed by 2022 will unlock trillions of dollars of business value for manufacturing. Cisco research estimates that only 4% of devices on the manufacturing floor are connected to a network. Thus, there is a huge industry push to connect all the islands of information that stand in the way of Internet of Things value creation. The challenges of deployment though are also very real – no one can afford to gamble on reliability or performance of their critical manufacturing processes and risk downtime or worse.
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.