Convergence Model
quote start The bigger challenge is often organizational and cultural convergence quote end
Manufacturers face unprecedented challenges as global economic forces drive competition and open opportunities in new markets. Flexibility and efficiency are required to quickly develop and manufacture an increasing number of products to meet rapidly changing demands. At the same time, manufacturing companies are becoming more complex and globally dispersed, accelerating the need for increased collaboration, visibility and efficiency.

CEOs recognize that to achieve these business objectives and be competitive in a global manufacturing environment, their organizations need to do a better job of getting the right information to the right people at the right time, in the right place, in a usable, integrated format in order to make quick, smart business decisions. The organization must become more responsive to changing market and operational conditions without sacrificing efficiency.

Ultimately, network convergence helps align technology with business goals. These goals typically include increased agility and responsiveness, a cost-effective strategy for business process transformation, and enterprise-wide visibility.

However, challenges exist to this alignment. Manufacturers have many systems and layers that may not communicate. Information needs to move quickly between supply chains, distribution chains, the people and equipment on the manufacturing floor and the company’s decision makers. Development and integration of applications and systems can be costly and time-consuming without ample coordination. And silos in organizational structures between IT and manufacturing can result in poor information exchange and resource allocation, and integration challenges.

Manufacturing Convergence Model

Enter the convergence trend. In simplest terms, the deployment of Internet Protocol (IP) technologies, such as Ethernet, has pulled IT and manufacturing professionals together, often creating turmoil, but often creating opportunity to improve efficiencies, drive company-wide best practices and provide transformational change that improves the competitiveness of manufacturers.

This diagram helps define the different components of manufacturing network convergence and address challenges in each area.

Figure 1. This diagram helps define the different components of manufacturing network convergence and address challenges in each area.

Technology and Network Convergence

Convergence occurs to align technology with the business objectives. Technology convergence is typically the first step in the model and allows:

  • Standard technologies and skill sets
  • More flexible systems with open standards
  • Simplified integration between multiple systems
  • Investment protection through technology compatibility
  • Scalability achieved by establishing a robust foundation on which to deploy and integrate applications

Network convergence allows:

  • Integration of business and manufacturing systems
  • Remote access and support
  • Fewer networks to maintain
  • Visibility and integration of technologies and communications
  • Foundation for more innovative business models

Best practices for technology and network convergence include:

  • Standardization of design and technology: Many manufacturers are standardizing technology and architectures across multiple plants to simplify design and deployment, resulting in quicker deployments, more efficient support, and cost savings
  • Reference Architectures and standards: These provide best practices and recommendations based on input from multiple organizations
  • IT and Manufacturing collaboration to establish best practices and requirements around system architecture design, security, and service and support models
  • Consideration of the entire system of networks, applications, and devices to understand impact across performance and risk
  • Incorporation of OEMs in system design
  • Alignment of technical design with business needs
  • Strategic thinking around the role of technology in solving the ultimate business objectives
Organizational and Cultural Convergence

While technology and network convergence have occurred within many manufacturing companies, the bigger challenge is often organizational and cultural convergence. This convergence is essential to truly break down barriers and eliminate silos of information and isolated systems. Only then can a manufacturing organization align technology with its business objectives and become more responsive and efficient.

There are a number of different challenges that need to be addressed:

  • Different networking models: Manufacturing and IT often have different models and experience in designing networks based on the technologies and requirements they are familiar with from past experience
  • Unique requirements: The requirements to support enterprise networks, including data, voice, video, and mobility, can be different than automation networks. While most of the technologies and many of the best practices can be applied, there are some important differences that need to be addressed.
  • Different languages: IT and manufacturing teams often use different terminology, or have different meanings for the same words.
  • Service and support expectations: Automation networks often run 24 hours a day and need to respond very rapidly to issues. They may require a different service model than the typical network.
  • While there is no universal solution, within some organizations, manufacturers have achieved success with the following best practices:
  • “Cross-pollination” between IT and controls teams: Moving people between groups through formal and informal cross-training programs and creating cross-functional teams, such as in security
  • Co-developed architectures and standards
  • Clear ownership definition and procedures: For example, ownership of equipment, access rights, and decision parameters
  • Defined service-level agreements (SLAs) for manufacturing: Understand requirements and get buy-in and documented procedures from support group upfront
  • Flexible organizational structure: Multiple structures may work (combined, hybrid, etc.).What is important is defining the working relationship and making sure groups are collaborating.
  • Including suppliers and partners: They are a vital part of the ecosystem.
Business Model Change

When technology, network, organizational, and cultural convergence are achieved, it allows increased efficiency and performance, more reliable systems, and more efficient project implementation. In addition to these cost and efficiency gains, a converged manufacturing organization can also start to use technology in new ways and implement innovative new business models. Here are a few examples from different customers:

  • Virtual support groups: Subject matter experts (SME) located anywhere, supporting production systems and networks in real time
  • Integration of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and location-based services to track product and asset status and location in real time and integrate this information with business and asset-management applications
  • Mobility of workers and mobile applications (HMI, etc.) to extend access outside of a control room
  • Collaborative manufacturing, including sharing data in real-time across the enterprise and value chain, real-time inventory visibility across the supply chain, and more
  • Real-time information regardless of location or device – extending access to data, voice, and video to anywhere desired (with the appropriate security controls)
  • Predictive maintenance and remote support
  • Real-time data for quality improvements, Six Sigma practices, and up-to-date inventory
  • Shop-floor system integration with ERP for scheduling, product delivery confirmation, quality tracking, etc.
  • Integrated physical and virtual security to track personnel, contractors, and analyze and correlate events

These are just a few examples. It is important to think about how integration between automation systems and the enterprise networks and business applications can help companies run their own business more effectively.

EtherNet/IP: The Pathway to a Single Network Architecture

Ethernet has been the de-facto standard for business enterprise systems for many years. Ethernet has been very popular for many years as a programming and HMI network in industrial automation because of its speed and ability to handle large amounts of data, such as the download of a programmable controller program. As the technology moved from 10M and hubs to 100M and switches, vendors added many more automation products and expanded Ethernet’s usage to include most, if not all, of the space occupied by traditional fieldbusses. Manufacturers are adopting Ethernet rapidly because it has now been proven to handle a variety of applications, and is well known because of its use in the business enterprise.

The industry adoption of EtherNet/IP for control and information has enabled network convergence between manufacturing and enterprise networks. EtherNet/IP is the world’s leading industrial Ethernet network for a number of reasons. First, it is capable of handling the widest range of applications, including discrete, safety, motion, process and drive applications. Several Ethernet derivatives are limited to niche applications, either by design or by the narrow range of products that are currently available on the network. EtherNet/IP, however, uses the Internet Protocol software suite for every application. This means that users don’t need additional gateways or software to transfer data within the manufacturing enterprise.

What major changes in industrial Ethernet, in general, and EtherNet/IP specifically are coming in the near future?

The use of standard wireless Ethernet (IEEE 802.11N) is going to become much more significant in industrial networking. The latest standard added many things needed to provide the stability required for industrial applications. Also, there will be a lot more innovation and improvements around physical media and cabling and different ways of transmitting the Ethernet signals, whether that’s media that works well in hazardous or explosive areas or media that carries both power and signal. These technologies will be refined and will allow for easier deployment and more flexibility in how to get those signals from point A to point B.

Additional refinements will help make the user experience even better with EtherNet/IP. Unlike fieldbus where a lot of work is required to create good diagnostics and tools, with EtherNet/IP, there’s already a wealth of tools, skills, and features that are available. Future enhancements will help expand these capabilities and improve the network’s performance in the industrial space.

Second, unlike some Ethernet-based networks, EtherNet/IP uses the same standards that are used for e-mail, the Internet, and many other popular applications in the very same way as those applications, without modification. Some networks use standard Ethernet but don’t comply with TCP/UDP/IP because they were developed before the potential of TCP/IP was fully understood. While these networks may use standard Ethernet cable, you’ll need to use special, proprietary switches, and may not be able to use the standard network management or troubleshooting tools that your IT people use on your business system. You’ll likely need special training and services to make these networks work. Further, completely standard devices inserted into the middle of these networks can cause problems for the entire network.

Third, the EtherNet/IP standard is managed by ODVA, a fully open organization with balanced membership of vendors contributing to the standards work and services provided to help other members. As a result, EtherNet/IP delivers interoperable Ethernet products from a large community of vendors, thus solidifying EtherNet/IP as the network of choice. Today, over 300 vendors – including Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric, Omron, Siemens, Emerson, Mitsubishi and other leading automation vendors have recognized the advantages of delivering EtherNet/IP solutions and are supplying OEMs and ends users with over 850 automation product lines and several million installed devices on EtherNet/IP.

  • Technology convergence: Using standard, unmodified Ethernet for networking throughout the enterprise and for automation on the manufacturing floor, or mixing commercial, business, and industrial networking technologies to solve business problems differently.
  • Network convergence: Networks connected and “integrated” – sharing information and running multiple applications over the same network.
  • Organizational convergence: Organized, defined, functional relationship between IT and Manufacturing, potentially including converged organizations or hybrid job titles.
  • Cultural convergence: IT and Manufacturing understand each other’s concerns and priorities, share best practices, and benefit from each other’s knowledge and culture.
  • Business model changes: Convergence allows business model changes.