Industrial networking: One network for full enterprise connectivity
While industrial networking is a powerful tool for improving operations, it is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. There are several considerations, such as environment, traffic, security, and cabling, that must be taken into account before implementing the appropriate solution for individual networking needs.
With Ethernet originally being created for the office environment, it is crucial that users consider their environmental conditions when determining what type of cabling is needed. Industrial Ethernet cabling is designed to meet and exceed the requirements of industrial applications, and the environmental conditions will generally determine the type of cordset used. Cordsets are expected to perform in applications that involve everything including welding, high-flex robotics, washdown, or hygienic conditions. Cordsets must be designed to withstand shock and vibration, crushing and pulling, bending or twisting, dust and dirt, water, oils, chemicals, corrosive gases, or temperature extremes.
Along with the environmental considerations, industrial networks must be able to manage plant traffic and interface with existing systems. Traffic ranges from data transfers to mission critical transmissions, and being able to distinguish between the two, identifying high-priority traffic to ensure it continues to operate efficiently. Additionally, since many processes deal with sensitive information, manufacturers should use security mechanisms to avoid outside intrusion and protect internal communications.
Networks are layered and require filtering to allow information to pass through a system based on its source, application, and destination. Filtering can be done based on various parameters, such as IP address, port type, and physical parameters. Additionally, establishing network redundancy is also important because if a problem occurs, an alternate link will ensure production is back online automatically, preventing lost information.
Before implementation, plant managers need to consider network communications signal requirements, including CAT 5, 5e, 6, 6A and 7; two-pair or four-pair cabling; D-code or X-code cordsets; solid or stranded cabling; and shielded or unshielded cabling. This will enable users to select an appropriate solution.
As demand grows and industries become more competitive, operation data must travel across greater distances, at faster speeds, and in larger quantities. Due to this, maintaining reliable enterprise connectivity is necessary for continued overall production. Therefore, protocols connecting the office with the plant floor must offer seamless interoperability among manufacturing enterprise networks. Implementing a complete, end-to-end networking solution provides a wide range of benefits, including a lower overall total cost of ownership (TCO), a higher return on investment (ROI) due to real-time visibility and flexibility, reduced network maintenance, and decreased labor costs.
When moving the network from the back office to the factory floor, manufacturers require high-level reliability and security, with sophisticated features that allow constant access to critical production information. The advances offered with industrial networking protocols now enable one, high-quality network that can control an entire plant operation.
By providing comprehensive integration with administrative-, control-, and device-level management, information moves freely throughout the entire enterprise, providing unparalleled visibility. This degree of simplistic, complete information sharing ensures a more seamless production by automatically updating inventory information, distribution data, and real-time status updates.
Additionally, deploying one factory-wide network eliminates excess costs, maintenance requirements, and time-consuming installations. By monitoring every aspect of product, industrial networking can work to identify any issues faster to minimize downtime and prevent costly lost production.
- Karie Daudt is director of marketing for Turck. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering and Plant Engineering, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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