Ethernet certification can identify cabling issues, prepare for IIoT

Machines today are connected via Ethernet, which allow manufacturers to network their industrial automation and control systems and connect their plant production and business systems.

08/11/2015


Often overlooked by plant managers, industrial Ethernet certification is vital to overall efficiency and can mean the difference between optimized productivity and less-than-robust performance. Machines today are connected via Ethernet, allowing manufacturers to network their industrial automation and control systems and connect their plant production and business systems.

Ethernet cabling in manufacturing

An increasing number of devices are being connected via Ethernet as part of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). It is projected that by 2025 there will be about 50 billion Internet-connected devices installed in industrial applications.

As this occurs, the need for increased speed and bandwidth of the associated industrial Ethernet networks has risen. Gigabit Ethernet is emerging, and there is talk of 10-gigabit Ethernet soon entering the plant. As speed increases, the quality and integrity of the physical media becomes more important. Impedance and crosstalk between pairs rises, while signal-to-noise ratios tighten.

Operations technology (OT) is converging with information technology (IT) with enterprise big data that will soon require higher speeds). To prepare for this IT-OT convergence, plant managers are encouraged to ensure their Ethernet and cabling is certified to promote longevity and reliability.

Why certify?

Approximately 35% of total failures in plant automation are attributed to physical-layer failures, such as cabling. Physical deterioration, electrical failure, or poor installation and maintenance can all lead to unreliable network performance, as well as loss of critical data, system downtime, or even catastrophic, overall failure.

When installing cabling for industrial Ethernet applications, you can no longer simply assume it is going to work. To reduce start-up problems and minimize future downtime, it is encouraged to not only ensure cable is installed properly, but also to have it configured, tested, and certified.

Some of the most common mishaps when installing cabling for industrial applications involve the cable itself—whether it's too close to other cables or electrical equipment, crushed, kinked, too long, defective, or its bend radius is exceeded. The majority of these issues can essentially be fixed with proper certification, as cable certification ensures the cable infrastructure meets standards for quality and speed.

Certification is relatively common in commercial sectors but less so in the industrial space. With a significant number of industrial network problems related to cabling issues, testing can reduce the amount of finger-pointing when network problems arise and, for many cabling and network infrastructure vendors, certification is a requirement for warranties.

Cable certification

With the importance of cable certification for plant manufacturing in mind, it is relevant to understand that not all certifiers are created equal. Cable-certification test parameters include loop resistance, return loss, propagation delay, and cable length. If these parameters are out of specification, the risk of communication failure can increase. For operating convenience, look for a certifier that can be operated at either the local or remote unit to reduce unnecessary work for technicians and plant-floor workers.

Legacy industrial installations have used M12 two-pair cabling, but newer installations are switching to four-pair cabling. It is recommended to find a certifier that can handle both. Test configurations tend to be specific to industrial Ethernet as well as the industrial automation space, with some of the most popular including RJ45 to M12, RJ45 to RJ45, and M12 to M12 cable. The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) for frequency bandwidth also regulates each of these variations.

As of now, the most common TIA standard for cabling is Category 5e (up to 100MHz), but CAT-6 (250MHz) and CAT-6A (500MHz) are increasingly being used in industrial installations. It is important to make sure your certifier can support the higher standards of today, as well as the future. While CAT-6A is in practice now, CAT-8 (2,000MHz) is in draft mode. CAT-8 applications are expected in areas such as data centers, however, and not on the plant floor. When selecting a certifier, it is important to place versatility as a top priority and to look for a wide variety of adapters including the copper connections listed above. It is also suggested to seek single- and multi-mode fiber, as well as those for specialty tests such as patch-cord testing.

Mark Knebusch is the vice president of marketing for Softing Inc., a leading provider of industrial communication products and technologies for manufacturing and process automation. He is based in Knoxville, Tenn., and can be reached at mark.knebusch@softing.us.



Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2017 Top Plant.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
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.
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
March 2018
SCCR, 2018 Maintenance study, and VFDs in a washdown environment.
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
December 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
April 2018
Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

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

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Maintenance & Safety
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Industrial Analytics
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
IIoT: Operations & IT
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me