Rockwell Automation/Cisco Systems: Customer needs pave Ethernet's way from factory floor to executive suite

Listening to your customers is a skill to hone. That's why users of both Rockwell Automation and Cisco Systems solutions recently attended the Customer Innovation Council—a series of events hosted by the vendors—to make their views known. These particular users clearly expressed a desire for greater adoption of Ethernet network technology, calling for easier connectivity of industri...


Listening to your customers is a skill to hone. That's why users of both Rockwell Automation and Cisco Systems solutions recently attended the Customer Innovation Council —a series of events hosted by the vendors—to make their views known.


These particular users clearly expressed a desire for greater adoption of Ethernet network technology, calling for easier connectivity of industrial devices and machines with the rest of the enterprise—where Ethernet reigns. They called for a single common infrastructure that can reduce costs, simplify the technology footprint, and enable broader collaboration from the factory floor to the executive suite.


Council participants from Kimberly-Clark, Owens Corning, General Mills, Goodyear, Kraft, Eli Lilly DuPont, GM, and Coca-Cola say the challenges behind this are as much technical as they are cultural, since manufacturing engineers and IT specialists often have different priorities: speed and uptime versus security and reliability, respectively.


The Stratix 8000 switch combines Cisco Catalyst Ethernet switch architecture and configuration tools with the Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture.


“There was a clearly stated need for automation controls and IT to work more closely together,” says Brian Oulton, Rockwell Automation director of network business. “But there is a unique set of requirements for IT professionals applying networks to the enterprise, and another set for factory engineers who need to implement robust networks on the factory floor. We put that all together in a switch that communicates natively to Rockwell controllers, allowing the controllers to take action based on behavior of the network or the switch.”


Oulton is referring to the Stratix 8000 switch, which uses the Cisco Catalyst Ethernet switch architecture and feature set, and Cisco configuration tools that enable secure integration with the enterprise network. Stratix 8000 also blends the easy setup and comprehensive diagnostics of the Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture.


Leveraging the openness and availability of standard, unmodified Ethernet brings cost-effective enterprise network technology securely into the plant automation domain. A removable compact flash card for one-step device replacement and default configurations also gives manufacturing engineering the comfort level and independence it needs without IT department assistance.


The Stratix 8000 scales from six to 26 ports with options for both copper and fiber to support a variety of applications.


“The switch monitors traffic for every port in the network. If it goes above a certain level, an alarm indicates action needs to be taken,” says Oulton.


Allen-Bradley RSLogix technology also prompts immediate remedial action, temporarily halting production, maintaining batches at a particular temperature, or shutting down the device entirely until people respond.

See all of the winners.


The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
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2017 Lubrication Guide; Software tools; Microgrids and energy strategies; Use robots effectively
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Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Research team developing Tesla coil designs; Implementing wireless process sensing
Commissioning electrical systems; Designing emergency and standby generator systems; Paralleling switchgear generator systems
Natural gas engines; New applications for fuel cells; Large engines become more efficient; Extending boiler life

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

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