Manufacturers are in a push now to expand globally. However, in the cash-rich / low-employment state post-recession U.S. corporations find themselves in today, manufacturers are being asked to stretch assets further than ever, said Raj Batra, president of Industry Automations at Siemens. Expansion now therefore often means increasing production output without increasing production infrastructure. In other words, manufacturers must focus on operational efficiency.
"Companies, quite frankly, have to do more with fewer people," said Batra. "And there comes the productivity imperative... Now it's not about cutting costs or dealing with fractured supply chains, it's about increasing productivity in operations."
Given this more-with-less theme, it's not surprising that resources for such productivity boosts are limited. So manufacturers are now looking for cost-effective, efficient ways to update plant operations to get this extra productivity.
Bernie Anger, general manager of Control and Communication systems at GE Intelligent Platforms highlighted this point: "The reality is, the automation infrastructures are, mainly in this country and in Europe, fairly old," he said. "It is impossible to compete against emerging economies with an infrastructure that is completely outdated."
To overcome this challenge, he said companies need to take a look at their resources and make the smartest move to increase efficiency. For many, he said, "updating controls to make plants more productive is a lot more manageable [than updating the entire infrastructure]."
This is where PROFINET comes in.
Integrating these controls into a single network like PROFINET enables users to maximize control productivity from the "shop floor to the top floor," said Batra.
The result is an entirely new, efficient system. Upgraded to an enterprise system, with little hardware added, manufacturers are able to meet these new productivity demands without increasing investment in infrastructure, he said.
As an example, Anger added, "When we run a single wire down the network, it takes us three microseconds to determine that there is a network breakage. Which means we can guarantee transfer all the time. The technology enables that kind of stuff. It's fast and it's incredibly robust."