Ethernet-enabled mobile communications reduces corporate travel
Ethernet communications streamline access into manufacturing operations and machinery. American Axle & Manufacturing regularly accesses 25 facilities globally via a Blackberry.
Mark T. Hoske
Ethernet communications enable easier access to manufacturing operations and machinery. Jeff Smith, senior engineer, global controls architecture and manufacturing networks, American Axle & Manufacturing (AAM), regularly accesses 25 facilities globally via a Blackberry. The browser-based window into processes, only accessible on a company-issued phone, has additional corporate security built in. Smith has used the interface to offer advice from his Southfield, Mich., location to a plant in Brazil, off hours.
The interface also has reduced corporate travel expenses. Instead of sending a team of five engineers to a site, American Axle now sends one, Smith said, with others available for online consultation if needed. Suppliers, if granted security access, can drill down to the machine level as well. These capabilities have been augmented by eliminating use of fieldbuses over the last five years, transitioning to use of Ethernet—from plant floor I/O connections to the enterprise, with help from Rockwell Automation and Cisco, he explained.
Key recommendations to getting the most from an industrial Ethernet implementation, according to information from Cisco Systems, Rockwell Automation, and Aberdeen Group:
- Get executive sponsorship and ownership to improve industrial network and manufacturing operations performance.
- Define and institutionalize a mechanism for standardizing and sharing industrial networking best practices.
- Foster a culture of cross-collaboration among traditionally disparate groups.
- Invest in network management tools for real-time network asset monitoring and utilization.
- Focus improvement initiatives on getting greater visibility into manufacturing operations, with business context.
- Expand the adoption of industrial Ethernet across all plants and convergence with enterprise business systems.
- Mark T. Hoske, CFE Media, Control Engineering, www.controleng.com
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