K.I.S.S. for Better Network Planning and Increased Collaboration

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.

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Building a Structured Approach to the Industrial Network

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.IA-P2P-StructuredCablingImage

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Can you picture wireless running your plant?

industrial network

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. 

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Connect the Unconnected Reliably

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 exponenoil pic1tially 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.

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Improving UPS Power Management for Industrial Networks

Power interruptions and power quality are frequent causes of downtime in manufacturing, costing the average operation thousands of dollars each year in lost productivity.

Recovering quickly from an event is critical; when the machinery has recovered and is ready to go, having production wait on the infrastructure to “reboot” is simply unacceptable.UPS-420-x-420

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:

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Panduit Solutions Support Faster Systems Migration to Reap Value of Connected Enterprise

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.

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Internet of Things: Claim Your Share of $3.88 Trillion

Hello and welcome to the first entry of the Industrial Automation Solutions blog. We are looking forward to engaging you with perspectives of industry trends and business drivers.  We hope to discuss ideas and insights around industrial network and control systems infrastructure that can help you leverage latest technologies and design methodologies, to help you improve the effectiveness of your operations and increase your business agility and competitiveness.

Industrial IP Advantage Internet of Things (IoT) Infographic

Internet of Things (IoT) Infographic (courtesy of www.industrial-ip.org)

One of the biggest challenges faced by companies today is the ageing and obsolescence of operational systems and networks. Continue reading