Sensing a major shift to industrial Ethernet, Rockwell Automation and two partner companies launched an online industrial EtherNet/IP™ resource center this week to educate customers on how to successfully deploy industrial Internet Protocol (IP)-based networks.
The partner companies, which also include Cisco Systems Inc. and Panduit Corp., announced the initiative, called the Industrial IP Advantage, at RSTechED, a week long technology conference by Rockwell Automation.
More manufacturers are seeking connectivity to smart devices, such as embedded sensors and image recognition. This new level of connectivity, now known as the “Internet of Things,” has an estimated value of $14.4 trillion for the entire economy, said Sujeet Chand, senior vice president and chief technology officer, Rockwell Automation, in his keynote address.
EtherNet/IP provides manufacturers with a single, standardized path toward accessing and sharing this data. Traditional fieldbus systems typically require separate networks and dedicated experts to operate each individual system.
“Manufacturing plants are looking to drive out waste, so when you have multiple networks and separate experts, that’s inherently creating inefficiencies,” said Dan McGrath, Panduit’s global solution manager. “If you converge that with things like mobility, the cloud and virtualization, you can have more timely information where you need it and help tear down those barriers.”
Breaking Through IP Barriers
While manufacturers are beginning to realize the benefits of industrial IP, many companies are still in the learning process. That’s why Rockwell Automation, Cisco and Panduit collaborated to form the Industrial IP Advantage. The website provides visitors with white papers, how-to guides and case studies that can help them understand how to deploy and gain value from industrial IP systems. The site also offers information on technology solutions and a “community” section with blogs from industry experts.
“What users can expect when they come to the website is education,” said Paul Brooks, business development manager, Rockwell Automation. “We have videos to explain how your manufacturing plant is going to be transformed, articles that explain the ‘Internet of Things,’ and the relevance of VLANs (virtual local area network) and how you implement them.”
The shift toward Ethernet in manufacturing operations means automation and IT experts must converge to deliver information effectively and efficiently. For instance, IT professionals are more familiar with how to deliver quality of service (QoS),a networking term for delivering predictable results, Brooks said.
“In the IT community, quality of service is so ubiquitous they almost don’t need to know what it is anymore, so it’s that reconnection of the two disciplines,” Brooks said.
Meanwhile, many IT professionals don’t understand the concept of real time in a manufacturing environment. IT experts may think of real time as a half-second, but in the automation world real time is in milliseconds, Brooks said.
Industrial IP Advantage brings together the expertise of Rockwell Automation on the automation side, Panduit as an infrastructure solutions provider and Cisco’s knowledge in networking to address these issues.
The Benefits of Industrial IP
After manufacturers address these deployment challenges, they can achieve significant process improvements through improved visibility across their entire supply chain. The Aberdeen Group reported in 2011 that manufacturers that had deployed industrial IP exceeded their operating margin goals by 26 percent.
Kevin Davenport, Cisco’s marketing manager, cited an initiative by electric car producer Tesla Motors Inc. to develop a straight-to-consumer business model by eliminating the dealership. This means the manufacturing supply chain will have to become more agile to meet customer needs, he said.
“Production lines will have to be more connected to make sure they identify issues before they happen, so bringing decisions closer to the consumer is driving demands on manufacturing,” Davenport said. “We’re going to have to leverage some of these (networking) technologies to meet those demands.”
Tier 1 auto supplier American Axle Manufacturing Inc. moved from a fieldbus network to industrial IP in 2006. The transformation has helped the company remotely support staff and gain greater supplier control, said Jeff Smith, technology lead at AAM. In addition, a single EtherNet/IP system eliminated the need to train additional employees to operate multiple fieldbus systems, said Smith, who led a session at RSTechED on building an EtherNet/IP system.
Smith cautioned, though, that manufacturers should ensure that their industrial IP systems have the same capabilities as their fieldbus systems before making the transition.
Securing the Network
Manufacturers that have deployed industrial IP networks have more tools now to address security concerns, said Kevin Zaba, vice president and general manager of the control and visualization business at Rockwell Automation.
In the past, manufacturers manually controlled access to networks. Rockwell Automation and Cisco explained the importance of providing dynamic access controls. For instance, companies can set policies that provide users with access to networks based on the time of day, location or work profile, Zaba said.
New advancements in security also enable more information sharing, said Maciej Kranz, vice president and general manager, Connected Industries Group, Cisco Systems.
“With secure architecture, people are much more comfortable enabling video sharing and information sharing,” he says.