More than 50 percent of today’s Internet connections are to devices, according to Gartner Research, and that number is only growing. This is all part of the “Internet of Things” — the seemingly infinite number of devices and their interconnectedness via Internet Protocol (IP). Many devices already being used on the plant floor today are IP-enabled, but an even greater opportunity awaits in the open-standard, IP-enabled devices that can be leveraged from non-industrial settings. These technologies, such as digital tablets, video cameras and RFID readers, provide endless new opportunities for greater productivity, innovation and collaboration, among other benefits.
To take advantage of these devices, your operations must allow these machines and devices to communicate with each other via a standard unmodified IP-centric network infrastructure. The Ethernet Industrial Protocol (EtherNet/IP™) was created to support this interoperability on the plant floor and ensure seamless enterprise-wide connectivity within a single infrastructure.
For decades, manufacturing operations technology (OT) and enterprise information technology (IT) systems developed and evolved into separate physical architectures – remaining largely walled off from each other in the industrial and business spaces. But in the Internet of Things era, in which an endless number of connected “things” communicate on the same network, the segregation of IT and OT networks can be a handicap. As a result, manufacturers are converging their OT and IT systems into a unified network architecture, giving them nearly unlimited access to valuable production data that can help them make improvements and more swiftly react to market changes. On top of this, manufacturers also have access to new technologies, such as mobility, virtualization and cloud computing, that enable them to deploy their people, machines and infrastructure in ways that are more efficient and cost effective.
Given the vast opportunity that manufacturers are being presented with, nobody can say with certainty what the plant of the future will look like. Odds are there won’t be a single archetype but rather many variations. Still, if we could peer into a crystal ball, we would probably see common characteristics across the plants of tomorrow.
Automation Network Infrastructure
Whether producing packaged meals, steel or automobiles, the plant of the future will be information driven, and that begins with a strong foundation in the form of a single common network infrastructure. Today’s proprietary and closed systems that dominate plants present a major challenge to sending data to the right place, at the right time and in the right context.
A common network infrastructure built on standard unmodified Ethernet and Internet Protocol (IP), such as EtherNet/IP, enables the seamless flow of data either within a plant or across an organization’s global enterprise. It also offers new opportunities for increasing productivity, improving time to market and minimizing reconfiguration when conducting changeovers. For assistance in designing and implementing a common network infrastructure, the Converged Plantwide Ethernet (CPwE) Design and Implementation Guide from Cisco and Rockwell Automation provides validated networking architecture design principles, and the Panduit Industrial Ethernet Physical Infrastructure Reference Architecture Design Guide provides key considerations for the physical layer.
For more information on this topic please visit http://www.industrial-ip.org/en
Routeco have supply partnerships with Rockwell Automation, Panduit and Cisco and so we are well placed to assist you with adopting your IT/OT Convergence strategy within your manufacturing plant. Please contact us to arrange a visit from one of our Automation Specialists to unlock the benefits of Industrial IoT today.