Deploying a reliable physical infrastructure for process

The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the plant floor in radical ways, and companies are learning they need to put together a viable physical infrastructure. One metal processing company realized this and implemented a structured and engineered approach to ensure its investments for its short- and long-term future. See advice from that case study; learn more in a webcast.

By Chris Vavra August 11, 2014

Organizations are being challenged to leverage technology and networks to connect the factory and enterprise, boosting productivity, innovation, and business agility on the plant floor, according to James Neawadde, Jr., an industrial automation solutions architect for Panduit Corp.

"What we need to recognize is that business growth and technology are very strongly linked. It is a trend that continues and is an imperative for the future of manufacturing and process organizations," he said.

The plant floor has seen a major transformation in recent years by the Internet of Things (IoT). Everything is becoming more and more interconnected. Some estimates have indicated that 100% of plant floor devices will be providing data by 2018.

As a result, connectivity is paramount and vital to a plant operation. "The industrial IP networks are becoming a network fabric that easily and securely connects vital services," Neawedde said.

It also means the potential for big money and big profits for companies. Over the next 10 years manufacturers are expected to generate $3.88 trillion in profits from IoT. These profits will come from innovation, efficiencies, employee productivity, asset utilization, and improved customer experience.

Organizations need to have a plan in place and to be ready to make adjustments and upgrades on the fly. This might cause problems in the short term with plant operations and with IT. While the changes may be painful in the short term, that is minor compared to the long-term costs.

"Each plant has its own unique environments that are determined largely by what they produce. Most plants have different environments in different areas of the same plant," said Alan McFarland, solutions architect for Panduit Corp. 

Metal processing case study: Building a network infrastructure

A metal processing company in North America with operations in 30 countries implemented a structured, engineered approach to ensure the company’s investments in network distribution and to modernize its approach by leveraging the impact of IoT on manufacturing operations.

Networking project objectives included:

  • Ensure quality improvements to minimize risk
  • Predictable maintenance
  • Enhance network security
  • Enable process video capabilities
  • Improve visibility of process control data
  • Improve energy utilization.

To do this, the company needed to redesign and build a process control network infrastructure for a multi-building industrial manufacturing campus environment. This required understanding the essential requirements of the new network as well as what was feasible from a logistics and budgetary standpoint. The company also needed to consider bandwidth requirement, space availability, and the position and location of any zone enclosures so the worker can have convenient access without risk of injury, McFarland said.

For the actual physical network design, the company needed to create a process control network that complied with regulations while focusing on key needs like:

  • Choosing the right framework of the logical architecture
  • Selecting the media type and addressing environmental considerations
  • Developing a phased plan for network deployment
  • Planning for switch deployment.

To streamline the process, Panduit, which had been contracted to build the network, used a stepped approach with four major steps: data collection, design activities, deliverable activities, and final acceptance of the proposal.

"A stepped design process makes the design more manageable and simplifies things for the customer. It breaks down what may be an overwhelming situation into smaller, more manageable pieces," McFarland said.

In the end, Panduit helped apply methodologies and best practices to effectively manage physical layer risk, mitigate problems in physical infrastructure systems, reduce costs of ownership by improved scalability, and improve service management. The design and development cycles were also reduced, according to McFarland.

More integrated networking

While it may not be easy in the short term to put together a physical infrastructure for your network, the long-term benefits from a logistics and financial standpoint do outweigh any potential shortfalls. As everything becomes more integrated and interconnected, companies need to find a solution that works best for them, the speakers suggested.

– Edited by Chris Vavra, content specialist, CFE Media, Control Engineering,

Learn more about how to improve your industrial network in the Control Engineering webcast, A Network Foundation: Applied Case Study in Deploying a Reliable Physical Infrastructure for Process on Aug. 13, 2014, (and archived thereafter). Ask your questions in the Q&A at the end of the presentation; if you’re watching the archived version after that date, questions from others and their answers also will be included. area includes multiple industrial networking topics.

Author Bio: Chris Vavra is web content manager for CFE Media and Technology.