The Internet of Things can deliver tremendous value to manufacturers and other industrial enterprises through decreased downtime, reduced operating costs and increased efficiencies.
But industrial operations face a huge task when it comes time to embrace the IoT and begin to converge network architectures, and many are unsure of where to truly begin. The first step in this journey to connected operations is to select the right industrial network.
Today, Ethernet has the broadest base of suppliers and resources than any other industrial networking technology which makes it a logical choice for many operations. With Ethernet comes a lower total cost of ownership and significant savings through better integration, easier management and broader support for ongoing maintenance.
But the real value of connected assets, machines, lines and plants is realized when they become part of an enterprise-wide network infrastructure. Reference architectures like the Converged Plantwide Ethernet (CPwE) offer validated, tested and secure architectures for seamless connectivity between plant-level operations and enterprise IT systems.
This opens up a wealth of possibilities to realize immediate ROI, such as OEE, plant floor virtualization, and predictive rather than preventive maintenance.
Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) is the industry standard for measuring how effectively your assets are being used by tracking Availability, Performance, and Quality. Even small increases in OEE can have a big impact to your bottom line, and in many cases can pay for the cost of deployment in months, sometimes even in weeks.
Previously, this was nearly impossible to measure in legacy systems, especially without connectivity down to the machine level. This resulted in “islands of automation” that trapped valuable machine data in isolated pockets. But you can immediately begin measuring OEE when plant-level systems are connected to each other and up to the business-level systems in a tested, Ethernet-based network architecture. This data is then used to drive improvements throughout your operations.
The ability to collect real-time performance data from machines on an Ethernet network can transform schedule-driven preventive maintenance into data-driven predictive maintenance. This can help you stay ahead of machine failures and reduce costly unplanned downtime.
Predictive maintenance can deliver significant cost savings in industries such as automotive, where a single minute of downtime can cost an automaker tens of thousands of dollars.
FANUC Robotics, for example, implemented a new cloud-based predictive maintenance system to help automotive manufacturer General Motors almost completely eliminate downtime caused by manufacturing equipment and industrial robots in its factories. The initiative, called Zero Downtime, leverages Cisco and Rockwell Automation technology to connect to plant floor robots and equipment, and send operational information to a secure database in the Cisco cloud. FANUC then uses sophisticated analytics to examine the data and predict potential equipment failures as early as two weeks before they happen. Workers are immediately alerted, allowing them to proactively order parts and perform repairs as part of a scheduled maintenance window.
Most manufacturing environments today have a mix of new and legacy equipment operating with several different types of control systems. Many of these systems are PC-based and represent a significant risk in terms of security, obsolescence and power consumption. Custom code running on outdated operating systems makes replacement difficult and upgrading prohibitively expensive. And with the distributed nature of the systems, patching and updating can be extremely time-consuming.
A converged Ethernet network allows PC virtualization to solve these issues for you. All of the plant-floor PC applications are turned into virtual images along with the underlying operating system. These virtual images are then loaded and run from a central server. Each PC on the manufacturing floor is then replaced with a low-power, thin-client box that connects to the local monitor, mouse and keyboard.
In this arrangement, legacy applications have a longer lifecycle, perform significantly better and can be restored from a failure with a simple mouse click. All security and patching is managed from single location while overall power consumption is reduced 90 percent.
Selecting the right network and securing funding are crucial first steps. But implementation needs to include other important design considerations like security and availability, as well as selecting the right topology and network devices.
There are a number of industry resources are available to help you. For example, the CPwE Design and Implementation Guide is a validated blueprint on how to connect your plant floor to your enterprise guide. It contains reference architectures, recommendations, tutorials and best practices – most of the engineering work to connect your plant has already been done for you!
Another resource for engineering and IT professionals who are tasked with converging their operations’ networks is the new industrial network design eLearning courses offered by Industrial IP Advantage.
The opportunity is real and the resources are available. Now it is up to you to implement and realize the real ROI of a converged plantwide Ethernet network!