An integrated network for Industrie 4.0

System integration via the cloud makes networking at the production level easy and secure by vertically integrating management and systems as well as providing a security function for Industrie 4.0.

By Haruyaki Otani September 2, 2017

The implementation of smart factory technologies and platforms, such as Industrie 4.0, is attracting a great deal of attention and requires integration and optimization of the information technology (IT) systems used at the management, production, and field levels. However, integrating field networks with higher levels using IT can pose problems for the network’s speed and capacity.

Traditionally, the management level has been located at headquarters while the production and field levels are at plants. Because of globalization, however, many production and field levels are dispersed in different areas of the world, which requires systems appropriate to each region to be constructed. To achieve optimized management and IT systems, the management level often is located regionally (Figure 1).

Global integration of manufacturing IT systems that use the cloud has many factors that need to be mitigated, such as exchange rate fluctuations. This means that information must be rapidly available to respond to these changes. In most cases, a custom-made IT system would be optimized for business operations, but this requires an enormous investment in time and money. On top of that, there is a chance that the system might become obsolete as it goes into operation.

Abandoning custom-made systems and using cloud services to fulfill business operation requirements is designed to improve management efficiency and agility.

System integration via the cloud makes networking at the production level easy and secure by vertically integrating management and systems and providing a security function. The attitude towards security also differs at the field level as consistent productivity is required even in the case of an incident. Safety at this level is also vital. Because the field level often will include a variety of networks, seamless connection is required to straddle different layers of networks.

Field networks need to integrate with production given the real-time operation constraints. 

Future manufacturing IT systems

In the future, cloud applications will be adopted to support Big Data and artificial intelligence (AI). Meanwhile, the manufacturing industry increasingly will use applications such as preventive maintenance to minimize facility downtime. To provide for these new applications, field-level networks will need to be high-speed and have the capacity to handle large quantities of sensor data.

The trend away from production to mass customization is advancing into job production. To achieve low-cost production, technical issues must be overcome, such as reconfiguring a field network to improve optimization.

Security is provided at the production level and field networks are cost-optimized with a focus on design for productivity such as processing time. One of the most important requirements for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is to ensure that the data and information are secure.

Stefan Hoppe, OPC Foundation global VP, said, "In a connected world connectivity and interoperability have no value without security."

Safe communication can include communication between safety field devices and a safety controller as well as transmission and reception of data between controllers. When one process is stopped by a safety function, other related processes are synchronized to stop to permit a rapid restart following recovery. 


Seamless message protocol (SLMP) is defined as a mechanism for integrating and seamlessly connecting different types of field networks. This protocol enables connection from a higher-level system to field devices without considering the differences.

Ethernet is adopted as the lower-level communication layer and a token passing method is its higher-level communication control method. In the token passing method, data transmission rights-tokens-are relayed around the network between stations following a designated route. Only those stations having data transmission right can transmit data.

Currently, tokens are circulated around a statically determined route, but technically, it also is possible to change this route dynamically at random intervals. In the future, this will enable route switching depending on the product to be manufactured (Figure 2).

Simultaneous troubleshooting also is important in network configuration. It must be possible to easily find the location of trouble on the network. Management tools for network event history and a network diagnostic tool can help users find the cause quickly.

Haruyaki Otani is with CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA). This article originally appeared in the June 2017 Control Engineering Europe supplement. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering,


Key Concepts 

  • Implementation of Industrie 4.0 requires integration and optimization of the information technology (IT) systems.
  • In the future, cloud applications will be adopted to support Big Data and artificial intelligence (AI).
  • Integration between networks can help protocols to seamlessly connect different types of field networks.

Consider this

What other benefits can Industrie 4.0 and network integration provide for companies?