Connect Plant Floor to the Top Floor

Integrating plant with enterprise has become an ongoing topic in companies seeking to connect all operating areas.Vince Tullo, senior vp of Automation Equipment Business for GE Fanuc Automation (Charlottesville, Va.) says, "When we talk about advances in automation technology, we're talking about solutions that enable e-business.

By Staff January 1, 2001

Trends in Industrial Networking

Enterprise-wide connectivity

Real-time control

Wireless LAN

Integrating plant with enterprise has become an ongoing topic in companies seeking to connect all operating areas.

Vince Tullo, senior vp of Automation Equipment Business for GE Fanuc Automation (Charlottesville, Va.) says, ‘When we talk about advances in automation technology, we’re talking about solutions that enable e-business. From the shop floor to the top floor, e-business is revolutionizing the way we think about manufacturing by incorporating every layer of the enterprise and every component that comprises the process.’

Control Engineering polled 1,500 readers, in part, to explore changes in industrial networking. One hundred and seventy-nine completed the survey for a 12% overall response rate.

Objectives of the study were to investigate respondent awareness; current and planned usage of industrial networks; examine what features/ characteristics respondents wanted; and determine where the intelligence for implementing industrial networks currently resides and where it will reside in the near future.

When asked about networking familiarity and use, 66% were most familiar with Ethernet. Respondents indicate Ethernet is also the most used industrial network and the one they’re most likely to buy in the next 24 months (see table). Other leading mentions of industrial networks familiar to the respondents include Modbus (63%), RS-232 (60%), RS-485 (48%), and 4-20 mA (49%).

Chris LeBlanc, communications product manager for National Instruments (Austin, Tex.) says, ‘Ethernet, widely used as the networking standard for IT applications, is also finding acceptance as a fieldbus. Many industrial network protocols such as Profibus, ControlNet, DeviceNet, and FOUNDATION fieldbus are being adapted to use Ethernet. Ethernet networks deliver the capability to support industrial and Internet protocols concurrently over the same wire.’

Jeff Frekot, product manager, Phoenix Contact Inc. (Harrisburg, Pa.) agrees that Ethernet has become the base for other protocols. ‘Today OEMs and end-users are familiar with various networking technologies and are working on optimizing the various networks to increase product/process quality and manufacturing reliability.’

Mr. Frekot adds, ‘Historically, there has existed quite a gap between information technologies and factory automation tools. More recently, Ethernet has offered more than just a simple bridge between these two worlds. Today, the opportunity exists to combine the two worlds and allow continued evolution of industrial automation.’

Important features

Features that respondents found most important in industrial networks were reliability, ease of use, and ease of software configuration. The ability to purchase from a single supplier was considered the least important factor.

On the supplier side, important characteristics included responsiveness when industrial network problems occur, availability of technical assistance, and after-sale service support. ‘Good software support is the most critical element in any network-based application. Software must have the knowledge of all elements of your application, including third-party hardware,’ says Mr. LeBlanc.

GE Fanuc’s Mr. Tullo, says, ‘One of the most significant changes shaping today’s automation industry is the growing acceptance and use of Ethernet to connect all levels of the enterprise.

‘The entire enterprise benefits from the many open advantages that Ethernet has provided for years as the de facto office networking standard. Advantages include immediate access to information; reduced set-up, maintenance, components, and training costs; ease of use; and infinite network scalability.’

According to the reader survey, intelligence for the implementation of industrial networks currently resides mostly in controllers (85%) and PCs (65%). Respondents generally felt future implementation for industrial networks will reside more in PCs (65%), followed by controllers (59%).

When asked what is the leading application for industrial networking, 66% of respondents identified process control, while machine control was reported by 60%. Robotic control was the least mentioned primary application with a 12% response rate.

Future of networking

According to National Instruments’ Mr. LeBlanc, the Internet and portable wireless communication devices are providing new tools for engineers and technicians to remotely monitor, program, and diagnose industrial measurement and automation devices and systems. He adds that Bluetooth is an emerging technology that has the potential to enable next-generation industrial wireless communication networks.

Benson Hougland, director of technical marketing for Opto 22 (Temecula, Calif.) agrees there are future advantages for wireless networking. ‘Looking forward, Ethernet will be taken to the next level with complementary technologies, such as wireless local area networks (LANs). Wireless LAN builds on the true openness of the Ethernet LANs and TCP/IP standard protocols, providing a natural extension to existing networks without the constraints of cable.’

Phoenix Contact’s Mr. Frekot says, ‘Over the next few years, customers will look to their suppliers and OEMs for solutions that solve their specific application needs, both technically and commercially. Automation solutions will have to combine the latest technologies with some form of guarantee that the system will meet the life-cycle expectancy.’

Industrial Networks; Familiarity, Usage, Purchase Intent

Currently Familiar with
Currently Use
Likely to Purchase in Next 24 Months

Source: 2000 Control Engineering Magazine Industrial Networking Product Study






Foundation fieldbus

Foundation-HSE (High Speed Ethernet)







4-20 mA

Industrial networking products

For more information on industrial networking products, visit . For a wider listing of manufacturers, go to Control Engineering Buyer’s Guide at .

CPU with embedded Ethernet

Charlottesville, Va. -GE Fanuc Automation’s family of VersaMax products now includes CPUE05 with embedded Ethernet. It is said to be a low-end, high-performance PLC that contains faster instruction execution times and more user memory. VersaMax CPUE05 Ethernet capabilities include a 10-BaseT connection for faster data transfer, full-duplex communication, which eliminates collisions by using switches to simultaneously transmit and receive data, EGD (Ethernet Global Data), and SRT (Service Request Transfer) protocols. CPUE05 is compatible with all VersaMax modular products as well as with Windows-based VersaPro 2.0 programmable software.

GE Fanuc Automation

Embedded controllers with flexible I/O

Davis, Calif. -LogicFlex, embedded DOS controller with TCP/IP and Ethernet, addresses the demand for a compact, expandable SBC with flexible I/O points and Ethernet capability. LogicFlex is powered by a 25-MHz Intel 386Ex processor with 512 kbps of SRAM and 512 kbps of flash memory. Ethernet connectivity is supported by an NE2000-compatible controller with 16 kbps of on-chip buffer memory and 10-BaseT media interface. The majority of the I/O points is provided through a Xilinx CPLD. In-circuit programmability allows users to implement custom logic designs that more closely match a given application.

JK Microsystems Inc.

Controller provides networking, monitoring

Schaumburg, Ill.- Omron’s Open Network Controller is a compact industrial computer with the capability and flexibility to integrate industrial control systems. It allows users to integrate various types of industrial automation networks into ERP/MES and SCADA systems. It also enables web monitoring of control information and acts as the primary controller at the same time. Open Network Controller, with FINS Gateway, works with other applications to provide information to plant systems or move data through a network. Its size allows for installation in most sites and existing control panels.

Omron Electronics

Components promote networks and Internet

Alpharetta, Ga.- Simatic Net series control hardware, firmware, and cabling options complement Siemens E& A high-speed switches that integrate production floor and critical IT data at 100 Mbps. These industrial Ethernet components allow users to build a high-bandwidth network with Internet management capabilities and are optimized for connectivity with a native-socket, TCP/IP firmware interface. Simatic optical and electrical switching modules, joined with Ethernet communications processors for PCs and S7 PLCs, provide network access to controller data via 9-pin or RJ45 connections.

Siemens Energy & Automation

EtherNet/IP features real-time I/O control

Mayfield Heights, O.- Expanding the EtherNet/IP suite, ControlLogix, Flex I/O, and PanelView products are reported to be the first Ethernet-for-automation tools with the capacity to handle real-time control. ControlLogix provides multiple types of control by performing sequential, process, drive, or motion control in any combination. Flex I/O is a modular I/O system for distributed applications. Its components provide the functionality of larger, rack-based I/O devices, but save costly hardware, installation, and space. PanelView graphic terminals offer operator interface solutions with multiple operator input capabilities, monochrome or color displays, and flexible communication options.

Rockwell Automation

Measurement intelligence generates instant results

Austin, Tex. -LabView 6i, with Internet-ready capabilities, is reported to increase the productivity of engineers and scientists. With this version, users can deploy applications to colleagues with the LabView Player browser plug-in, publish data to the web, and share data throughout an enterprise. LabView 6i users can share test results and measurement intelligence data across an enterprise and worldwide with built-in Internet tools. With no programming from any interface control, users can continuously publish or subscribe to live data to the web or other applications with one mouse click. LabView Player is available free of charge from National Instruments.

National Instruments

Components allow rapid changeover, connection to network

Minneapolis, Minn. -Junction, Tee, and Cable System, a fully connectorized fieldbus system offering plug-and-play convenience, allows changeover to a connectorized network-often in 15 minutes or less. Its FOUNDATION fieldbus-enabled components work in harsh environments, including intrinsic safety, hazardous areas, and volatile processes. The junctions and cabling connect field devices to PLCs via a cable tray, and the tees are said to provide a quick, convenient, and NEC-compliant way in and out of the cable tray.


Antonia E. McBride, assistant editor

Remote program, debug, web card

Davis, Calif. -RabbitLink card, when attached to Ethernet and a Rabbit microprocessor-based system, allows users to compile, run, and debug programs on the remote system from a network-connected PC running Dynamic C 7.02 or later. RabbitLink card features 22.118-MHz Rabbit 2000 processor with a 10-BaseT Ethernet interface, 512-kbps flash, and 128-kbps SRAM. The card comes complete with preloaded software that allows remote programming and debugging. A static HTML web server and SMTP client are also included, allowing Ethernet feedback from any programmable embedded system with a serial port.

Rabbit Semiconductor