Here's how industrial Ethernet can help your facility

Just as there are choices in industrial networks, various protocols have emerged to serve the industrial Ethernet space. Network experts gathered in Chicago at Siemens' invitation to discuss trends and offer advice. “Don't wait” seemed to be a recurring theme among speakers at the two-day conference in October.

12/01/2006


Just as there are choices in industrial networks, various protocols have emerged to serve the industrial Ethernet space. Network experts gathered in Chicago at Siemens' invitation to discuss trends and offer advice. “Don't wait” seemed to be a recurring theme among speakers at the two-day conference in October.

“People are really looking at how to implement industrial Ethernet, trying to figure out what to use, thinking about what applications to connect, as people drive to one network for all experiences and functions,” said Jeremy Bryant, automation market network specialist, Siemens Energy & Automation. Bryant admitted that one network protocol could not yet handle all needs, but noted advantages and savings in using one physical layer, Ethernet, for multiple purposes. Architectures can be designed “flatter,” with perhaps two or three network layers, instead of three or four, he told Control Engineering , before the start of the 3rd International Industrial Ethernet Symposium. It was the first time the meeting was held in the U.S.

Jeff Howe, Siemens product business manager, network products, said some customers have expressed frustration at the proliferation of Ethernet protocols, but noted the need to realize the capabilities of each. Those who wait for that consolidation will miss opportunities for greater overall efficiencies and may even fall behind competitively, Howe said.

Connecting to the bigger picture is key. “If you're not careful you will spend next 10 years working on small technical issues. Step out of a certain mindset, away from reactive behaviors, so you can see the bigger issues,” explained keynote speaker, Collins Hemingway, president Escape Velocity Ventures Inc. Hemingway, who worked at Microsoft for 12 years and co-authored “Business at the Speed of Thought” with Bill Gates, says faster changes mean that operational agility is more important than strategic-tactical issues.

Workers need to assume the unexpected, act, and react, with SWAT teams, not armies, using a more decentralized, orientation based on more customer feedback, Hemingway said. “Chaos is normal. If you accept that, you know that chaos is not your fault.”

Appropriate interactions with other areas of the organization results in semi-permeable membranes, rather than walls. Joint strategies, rather than cost cutting, create more savings. Redesigning a part might save 20% in manufacturing time, Hemingway said, as opposed to perhaps a maximum of 5% by speeding up a line. Invite criticism from everyone to increase learning capability.

Harry Forbes, senior analyst at ARC Advisory Group, cited research that expects 50% growth in industrial Ethernet equipment shipments, 2004-2009. The increase, he said, is pushing networks onto the factory floor where they hadn't been before; adding value.

Dan Miklovic, Gartner, managing vice president, manufacturing industry advisory services, said the “single mission is to make things that people want to buy. It's about synchronization, not alignment.” Knowing the speed of data gathering and transactions for each is key. Organizations should close the loops among plant, technical, and business IT, said Miklovic. For example, closed-loop operations reduced operating costs 57% in one water treatment plant from fewer call-ins, lower overtime costs, and fewer outages, Miklovic says.

“Product Research” in this issue offers original Control Engineering research on Ethernet protocols' market shares and trends.

www.sea.siemens.com

www.gartner.com

www.arcweb.com





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