More industrial Ethernet spending, more productivity

Control Engineering research on industrial Ethernet shows that half of respondents expect to spend more and be more productive in the next 12 months. Ethernet is highly integrated with controls, automation, and instrumentation, according to 40% of respondents. See more Ethernet research details.


Nearly half of respondents expect to spend more on Ethernet in the next 12 months and increase productivity as a result, according to Control Engineering 2013 research on Ethernet. Courtesy: Control Engineering Mobility, Ethernet, and Wireless Study: EtheThe outlook for Ethernet spending is increasing, along with anticipated productivity gains, according to recent Control Engineering research on mobility, Ethernet, and wireless. Control Engineering, part of CFE Media, performed the research, in part, to better understand how users of automation, controls, and instrumentation are integrating Ethernet communications (which can support mobility and wireless technologies). These technologies are key components in plant to enterprise integration, industrial Internet, Internet of things (IOT), big data analytics, and manufacturing optimization.

In the next 12 months, nearly half of survey respondents expect to spend more on Ethernet and increase productivity by about the same amount. An additional 40% expect to spend about the same on Ethernet products. The most common products used, specified, and purchased include switches, wire or cable, networks, connectors, and routers. When asked how integrated Ethernet is with controls, automation, and instrumentation, “highly integrated” was the most common answer.

Control Engineering surveyed readers in October. Survey results from 200 respondents, analysis, and graphics comprise the November report on mobility, Ethernet, and wireless technologies. The summary results below focus on Ethernet. The survey results specific to mobility and wireless will be addressed in a later article.

In this Control Engineering research on Ethernet:

  • 46% of respondents see Ethernet as highly integrated with controls, automation, and instrumentation, and 40% see Ethernet as somewhat integrated.
  • Around 60% of what’s spent on Ethernet goes to products. Services get somewhat less.
  • Among those working on Ethernet-related projects, operations/engineering and business IT were the most common, with manufacturing IT, system integrators, and consultants working on Ethernet somewhat less.
  • Ethernet, industrial mobility, and wireless technologies are used 77% on the plant floor or operations areas, and half of respondents use these technologies to interconnect the plant floor with the enterprise.
  • Most used Ethernet protocols among respondents were EtherNet/IP, TCP/IP and UDP, Modbus TCP, Profinet, and EtherCAT.
  • Around 40% of respondents said Ethernet was easy to install; about the same described it as more challenging to implement.
  • Data access is the greatest technology benefit of Ethernet, cited by 63% of respondents.
  • Security along with lack of training, education, and support are among major adoption challenges.

More graphics, more about respondents, and more details and analysis about this Control Engineering Ethernet research is available here: 2013 Mobility, Ethernet, and Wireless Study.

In addition, two Control Engineering webcasts, offering one professional development hour (PDH) credit each, cover the topics of Ethernet technologies and case studies.

At bottom of this posting, see also links to two recent Control Engineering articles on plant-to-enterprise integration.

- Mark T. Hoske, content manager CFE Media, Control Engineering, and Plant Engineering, CFE Media’s Amanda McLeman helped with survey preparation, compilation, and analysis.

Anonymous , 11/26/13 09:49 PM:

I can certainly see how Ethernet is “highly integrated” with controls/automation at level 2 of the Purdue reference model because every DCS and PLC today use Ethernet between controllers, servers, and workstations. Ethernet is also used at level 1-1/2 of the Purdue model for integration of variable speed drives, motor starters, and MCC etc.

However, I do not see Ethernet integrated with instrumentation because Ethernet based instrumentation does not exist. There is no pressure transmitter, temperature transmitter, level transmitter, interface level transmitter, vortex flow meter, field mounted pH transmitter, conductivity transmitter, or amperometric transmitter (DO2 etc.) using Ethernet, There is no control valve positioner or intelligent on/off valve based on Ethernet.

I guess this is because “controls and automation” and “instrumentation” were lumped into the same question. That is, it might be useful to study the Purdue reference model, see what type of devices go into each level of the model, and what the networking requirement of those devices are. Let’s look at it from top to bottom:

Level 4: ERP
Only computers: servers and workstations
Ethernet is used exclusively here

Level 3: MES
Only computers: servers and workstations
Ethernet is used exclusively here

Level 2: PCS (DCS/PLC)
Controllers and computers (servers and workstations)
Ethernet is used here: “control network”

Level 1-1/2: Peripherals
Drives, motor starters, MCC, wireless gateways, remote-I/O etc.
Traditionally uses one of the “H2” fieldbuses (Modbus/RTU, PROFIBUS-DP, DeviceNet etc.) but increasingly the corresponding industrial Ethernet variety is instead used (Modbus/TCP, PROFINET, EtherNet/IP etc.)

Level 1: Sensors and Actuators
Sensors, transmitters, positioners, actuators, and valves etc.
Traditionally uses 4-20 mA and on/off signals, but increasingly one of the “H1” fieldbuses (FOUNDATION fieldbus, PROFIBUS-PA, IO-link, ASI, CompoNet etc.) is used.

Do not confuse “H1” fieldbus with “H2” fieldbus. They are often lumped together as simply “fieldbus” but this is not correct since they have very different characteristics and are used in very different kinds of devices in very different applications.

Anyway, it is clear to see Ethernet is dominant at layer 1-1/2 and above of the Purdue model. I personally believe the important take away is that there should also be digital networking at level 1: among the sensors/transmitters and positioners/actuators/valves. And it can be a mix of wired networking (FOUNDATION fieldbus H1) and wireless networking (WirelessHART). The Internet of things (IOT) paradigm with real-time data processing as well as “big data” history analytics both depend on more data that ultimately comes from more sensors to determine health of process equipment to improve reliability, monitor energy consumption unit-wise to improve energy efficiency, as well as monitoring safety showers and manual valves etc. to improve HS&E. Digital sensor networks, wired or wireless, are the only efficient way to get the data from all these sensors and at the same time monitor the health of the sensors themselves to determine if the measured value can be trusted, or if the sensor has failed or needs calibration. Using 4-20 mA and on/off signals would be too much wires and too many I/O cards etc.

Ethernet is not ready to take the place of 4-20 mA and on/off signals. That is why one of the “H1” fieldbuses are being adopted at the sensor/actuator level.

That is, Ethernet and “H1 fieldbuses” complement each other to provide seamless digital integration from the very “first meter” at the sensors and actuators all the way up to the enterprise level, without passing the analog domain of 4-20 mA.

I see IO-link created after PROFINET to bring data the very “first meter” from the sensors and actuators up to the PLC that puts it onto PROFINET. I see CompoNet created after EtherNet/IP to bring data the very “first meter” from the sensors and actuators up to the PLC that puts it onto EtherNet/IP. That is, these “H1 fieldbuses” complement Ethernet at the very lowest level in the digital system architecture, just like USB complements Ethernet on the very lowest level on your laptop. Indeed deploying more sensors on H1 buses will increase the demand for faster Ethernet at the higher levels to cope with the additional data. Conversely, existence of Ethernet at the higher level enables plants to deploy the additional sensors on H1 buses. So Ethernet and H1 fieldbus fuel the growth of each other.
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