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Getting Started on Your Own Industrial Ethernet Network

October 10, 2017 | Best Practices | Automation

Do you know, at this very minute, how much downtime you’ve had this month? Whether you’re producing more widgets than you were a year ago at this time? How much scrap is being generated as part of your manufacturing process? How much it costs you to make that $15 widget? How many plant accidents or near-misses you’ve had in the past six months?

industrial ethernet networks

Industrial plants are well positioned to save money, improve processes, enhance safety, and reduce time to market by using Industrial Ethernet to answer questions just like these.

You can think of it as Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the connected enterprise, or an Industrial network – they’re all terms used to describe the devices that connect to your Industrial Ethernet network. These devices use your Industrial network architecture to connect with each other and collect and share data in real time, helping you make choices based on what’s happening right now – not yesterday, not this morning, and not even five minutes ago.

When you have the answers to those questions, you can make informed decisions about things like:

  • Whether the sensor/PLC system is detecting the presence of a pallet.
  • How many widgets were made today. Did you meet the day’s goal? If not, why not?
  • The ability to ramp up quickly and take on a large order increase in a short amount of time.
  • How much scrap is being generated at which parts of the process – and how it can be reduced.
  • Whether manufacturing time can speed up to produce more widgets.
  • When a machine needs maintenance – preventing a complete system shutdown before it happens unexpectedly.
  • Which inefficient processes are delaying overall manufacturing time.
Every Department Benefits

Industrial Ethernet networks go well beyond sensors and controls to offer advantages to every corner and department inside your plant. Each department has different metrics that are important to them, and different key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure and benchmark against: quality, safety, productivity, operations, etc. All of these departments can be improved through an Industrial Ethernet network.

For some groups, a shift in thinking may be needed when deploying an Industrial Ethernet network. As more automation devices connect, for example, it can be difficult to draw the line between information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT). Who needs to know which devices are connecting? Who will monitor network and device performance? Who will respond to a notification of an unplanned outage or downtime? Once answers to questions like these are sorted out, even IT and OT departments will realize the benefits.

Industrial Managed Ethernet Switches

industrial managed ethernet switches
The Allen-Bradley® Stratix 5700™ is a compact, scalable Layer 2 managed switch with embedded Cisco technology for use in applications with small isolated, to complex networks.

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Stratix 5700 Product Profile (PDF)

Is Your Plant a Candidate?

If you have an automation network, your facility is a candidate for improving connectedness within your industrial environment.

In some cases, we’ve seen manufacturing environments that already have many of the parts and pieces necessary for devices to talk to each other – and to the network. The network just isn’t set up correctly (or data isn’t being pulled into the system correctly for analysis).

In other instances, an industrial plant might be well on its way, but some tweaks and modifications are needed. A good example: Newer sensors, capable of capturing and reporting data, are sometimes plugged into older control systems that can’t document data from the sensors. By updating the control system, you can take full advantage of what your sensors have to offer.

It works the other way as well – we’ve seen plants with high-end control systems already in place, but the existing sensors aren’t capable of capturing information or providing alerts. In this case, software can be deployed to capture and log this information: How many times did a specific sensor go off today? How many times did the team use the emergency stop last night?

Expect an ROI

By tracking availability, performance, and quality, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) measures how effectively assets are being used.

overall equipment effectiveness (OEE)

Industrial Ethernet networks can help increase OEE – and even small increases can make big improvements to the bottom line. This helps you realize a quick ROI when investing in Industrial Ethernet networks. In fact, we’ve seen plants achieve a full return on their investment within six months of implementation.

Starting Down the Right Road

It may seem overwhelming to take the first steps toward deploying Industrial network infrastructure, but it’s worth it to get started now instead of waiting until it’s too late – when you wish you had access to real-time data.

industrial ethernet networks

When you work with Van Meter, we’ll start by having an informal conversation, asking questions such as:

  • What’s your plant network like right now?
  • How many devices are on your network?
  • How old is your equipment?
  • What types of cables do you have?
  • What percentage of your devices are connected now (if any)?

If you don’t know all the answers, that’s okay – we can help you find out. Once information gathering is complete, we’ll talk about what you’d like to work on. Do you want to improve safety? Increase production? Improve quality? After we explore those questions, we’ll take a walk through the plant floor to see it first-hand.

Once we know what you currently have, what you’d like to change about your current processes, and how your plant floor operates, we can put together a step-by-step plan to help you implement Industrial Ethernet infrastructure. As part of this process, we’ll help you ensure that your plant’s physical and network security are ready to handle any possible attack or breach attempts.

We can also help educate your entire team – from safety managers to IT directors – on the benefits and ROI of Industrial Ethernet networks. Contact us today to learn more!

Get Started on Your Own Industrial Ethernet Network »

automation product manager

ARTICLE WRITTEN BY:

JEREMIAH LEHR
EMPLOYEE-OWNER, AUTOMATION PRODUCT MANAGER

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