Benefits of upgrading a facility to Ethernet
Ethernet is a robust and stable network framework that has more possibilities than other networking protocols.
- Learn about the importance of aligning communication protocols in a manufacturing facility.
- Understand Ethernet’s benefits and advantages as a communication protocol.
- Learn how it can help bridge the information technology/operational technology (IT/OT) gap.
- Ethernet integration lets users connect multiple devices and systems, allowing for the transfer of data and information between them.
- Ethernet also provides fault tolerance and failover capabilities, which ensures the network will function even in the event of a network failure.
Ethernet has been a popular networking protocol for over four decades and is widely used in local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs). Ethernet provides a fast and reliable way to transfer data and is the most commonly used protocol for connecting devices in industrial automation and control systems.
One of the key benefits of Ethernet integration is the ability to connect multiple devices and systems, allowing for the transfer of data and information between them. This enables the integration of different devices and systems, such as sensors, actuators and controllers, into a single network, making it easier to monitor, control and automate processes.
However, when integrating devices and systems over Ethernet, it is important to consider the different communication protocols and data formats used by each device. This is because different devices may use different communication protocols and data formats, making it difficult to exchange information between them.
To overcome this challenge, it is best to translate the different communication protocols inside the controller, which acts as a bridge between the different devices and systems and can act as a normalizing point. The controller can translate the data between different protocols and formats, making it possible to exchange information between devices and systems that would otherwise be incompatible. It also provides a centralized location for support and maintenance personnel to see the data and troubleshoot should issues arise.
There are many options for translation devices, but it is recommended to try to utilize in rack communication modules. These modules reduce complexity in many ways, including wiring, “black box” data mapping, panel space and sometimes costs while maintaining centralized control.
In the perfect plant floor scenario, all devices and equipment would be aligned on one protocol. However, it is difficult to achieve due to attempts to leverage the value of various solutions from around the globe. The best path is aligning communication protocols when looking to upgrade or bring new equipment into a facility. It is often worth the upfront costs to upgrade equipment to a standard before integrating it into the network. A clean slate is a better point to start from so the extra cost will have a return on investment (ROI) over the life of the systems.
Benefits of upgrading to Ethernet
Since Ethernet technology supports high data transfers, (10 mbps to 100 gbps), users can control and collect data in real time, an ideal scenario for manufactures and industrial facilities. Furthermore, the increased bandwidth can generate faster, more efficient data transfers between devices forgoing a quicker response time. Moreover, since bandwidth is high and more data can be transferred, one can integrate a significant number of devices and systems into the automation process. These devices can include programmable logic controllers (PLCs), distributed control systems (DCS), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), Internet of Things (IoT) devices, wireless systems and more. PLC and DCS are considered advanced control systems. By integrating them into the process via Ethernet, users can expect an increased performance and response in the overall automation process compared to legacy protocols.
Ethernet is a robust and stable network framework that has more possibilities than other networking protocols such as serial communications and fieldbuses. Ethernet also provides fault tolerance and failover capabilities, which ensures the network will function even in the event of a network failure.
Ethernet is a commonly accepted universal protocol understood by resources in the operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) layers. There are more people available to design, develop, install and support an Ethernet system than the sum of people that understand alternate protocols combined. That understanding helps facilitates a common platform for collaboration and eventual IT/OT convergence.
While Ethernet can be costly at first, the long-term benefits outweigh the initial cost and will save future headaches. These include reducing downtime troubleshooting a communication issue that no one understands, resource flexibility or when companies look to start collecting data and need to easily pass the key tags to those demanding upper-level systems.
Bryan Little is operations director for Avanceon, a CFE Media and Technology content partner. Avanceon is a CSIA certified member. Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, email@example.com.
How has Ethernet helped your facility?