Network integration enables Industrial Internet of Things

Control Engineering International: It’s easier to implement Industrial Internet of Things applications with network integration, data collection, visualization, and analysis, according to a Control Engineering China interview.

By Aileen Jin April 8, 2017

For Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and intelligent manufacturing, enterprises should lay a firm foundation before integrating higher levels. All plant-level equipment should be connected, and all data from connected equipment should be transmitted to a database, explained Daniel Gao, vice president of sales of Red Lion Controls Asia Pacific.

The automation company can help enterprises with interconnections in the supply chain, interaction with the web and mobile phones, and with writing data to a data center for thing-to-thing connections. Without such foundations, Gao said, it would make no sense to talk about intelligent manufacturing, IIoT, or Industrie 4.0.

U.S.-based Red Lion Controls Inc. participated in the 2016 China International Industry Fair, which was held Nov. 1-5, 2016, in Shanghai with the theme of "Industrial IoT (IIoT)." During the exhibition, Gao was interviewed by Control Engineering China. Gao noted that Red Lion Controls may solve some difficult challenges by matching customized products and solutions, in swift mode of operation among larger automation companies. 

Industrial networking, automation

Red Lion Controls’ main business consists of two major parts: industrial networking and industrial automation. After the purchasing of N-Tron in 2010 and SixNet in 2011, related sales have been satisfying. For industrial networking, Red Lion Controls has a traditional advantage, Gao said. As early as the 1990s, the company introduced the protocol converter, which included more than 300 types of industrial interface protocols and enabled seamless communication among different manufacturers’ equipment.

Compared with ordinary industrial converters, products offered by Red Lion Controls allow secondary development and are provided with functions such as storage, collection, programming and control. Intuitive UI screens may be created by virtual HMI, and processes may be controlled by remote access of data files by embedded web services. 

Industrial automation applied

Using the industrial interface protocols, the company developed a series of industrial automation products, including a human-machine interface that eases information integration and data capture. In product development, Red Lion Controls has been attaching great importance to product modularization.

Globally, the industrial automation and industrial networking businesses of Red Lion Controls represent about half the company. Gao said in the Asia Pacific region including China, the proportion of industrial automation business is relatively low and remains an opportunity for growth. He hopes that both sectors may be balanced in future.

"The market is huge, and our products are quite welcomed by the customers." Gao is confident in the further development of Red Lion Controls in China.

Accelerating expansion

Gao, who joined Red Lion Controls in February 2016, has made efforts to enhance technical support teams and instruct training and sales personal, in a reorganization aimed at prioritizing China in the Asia Pacific market. Red Lion Controls has made some achievements in fields such as water treatment, traffic, power, oil and gas, with recent annual growth estimated at 20%. "Overall market share is relatively low, and we can even do better," Gao said.

To accelerate the development pace in China, Gao expects "significant" merger and acquisition (M&A) activity, as the company seeks complementary positions in industrial automation and industrial networking in China. Gao said Jack Lee, the new president of Red Lion Controls, has made more than 60 visits to China over the past 10 years, and is considered an insider of Chinese markets and advocate for M&A opportunities.

Seamless communication with U.S. headquarters will bring more growth opportunities to Red Lion Controls China.

"We’d like to take this opportunity to make better orientation and market performance of Red Lion Controls China," Gao said, full of expectations for the future. He hopes industrial IIoT advantages will open new journeys for the company in Chinese markets.

IIoT product update: HMI, controls, networking

The Red Lion Controls GraphiteHMI operation panel enables convenient connection with enterprise equipment, allowing direct modification of setup and writing into a database on the website server. The user experience is excellent, said Daniel Gao, vice president of sales of Red Lion Controls Asia Pacific. In October 2016, Red Lion Controls expanded that platform by launching a new Graphite core control. It may be plugged into the touchscreen to give a PLC with collection, monitoring, and control functions. It also combines IEC 61131-3 programming language control functions with networking, and data visualization.

Gao said the ProducTVity Station (PTV) visualization management system launched two years ago can make real-time information in a mobile HMI. It also includes protocol conversion functions, making it easy to integrate into new or existing applications. Different from complicated PC and software combinations, PTV requires no additional programming and may be configured from a function library. 

Aileen Jin is editor-in-chief, Control Engineering China. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,


Key concepts

  • Manufacturing needs to begin Industrial Internet of Things applications with interconnected plant networks.
  • Connected equipment should transmit data to a database for analysis.
  • Intelligent manufacturing: Visualization of results can improve performance.

Consider this

Is your equipment interconnected and transmitting data for analysis?

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Author Bio: Aileen Jin is editor-in-chief of Control Engineering China.