In today’s increasingly competitive global manufacturing marketplace, manufacturers need to modernize or risk falling hopelessly behind their competitors. The question: how do they do this within their existing infrastructure? The answer is not a tangible product that can be purchased off-the-shelf, nor is it a guide with secret steps to solving problems. The answer is Connected Manufacturing, an approach to infrastructure modernization based on standard engineering principles. Using Connected Manufacturing principles, manufacturers are able to upgrade their plant networks easily, cost effectively, and at their own pace without interruptions. With this approach—using technologies that connect to a manufacturers existing equipment—manufacturers can reduce operating costs, improve operations, ensure data security, and help maintain an aggressively competitive stance in the global market.
Better Data for Better Decisions
Manufacturers are compelled to modernize because today’s global competition demands lower costs, tighter margins, and higher productivity. To compete effectively, they need to eliminate barriers to real-time data. By instantly providing managers and operators with accurate information, manufacturers enable these key personnel to make better decisions and respond more quickly to events as they emerge.
Connected Manufacturing unlocks the power of a company’s data. It securely connects existing equipment and infrastructure with a robust Industrial Ethernet network—the backbone of modern manufacturing. With Connected Manufacturing, manufacturers have access to large amounts of floor-level data from a single point of entry, even when users are off site. They connect with IT networks to share data among all levels of management, and have built-in network scalability and flexibility to expand faster and easier.
Connected Manufacturing applies the standard engineering knowledge, tools, and concepts manufacturers are familiar with. It starts with designing an open network that provides the bandwidth and flexibility for growth. PROFINET, the open standard for Industrial Ethernet, provides the multiple network design options to connect existing equipment and infrastructure seamlessly and easily. As a flat network, it eliminates the complexity of multiple fieldbuses and layers of data. The need to maintain multiple networks and keep personnel trained on multiple technologies is eliminated. Moreover, the network’s diagnostic capabilities and communication redundancies help reduce production delays.
Transition at a Manageable Pace
Manufacturers can transition from fieldbus to a Connected Manufacturing network without completely replacing existing equipment. By taking a step-by-step approach, as budgets allow, they can modernize a network that is connected to specific equipment or production lines. Industrial Ethernet provides the common platform needed to network isolated islands of automation. This horizontal integration is a cornerstone of Connected Manufacturing. In addition, manufacturers can connect their networks vertically, from field level to management level, to provide unprecedented data transparency across the whole plant network.
Highly Secure Data
Connected Manufacturing places strong emphasis on secured and controlled access to data. A comprehensive security plan requires several levels of protection, commonly referred to as “defense in depth.” Connected Manufacturing enhances network security by using industrial security appliances and a secure cell design approach. This design approach incorporates access control features such as firewalls and VPN tunnels for encrypted, secure communications.
Furthermore, wireless capability keeps the manufacturing facility and equipment cable free, eliminating cable repair and lost production. Industrial wireless LAN technology has evolved to the point that it can now be used in critical applications. Wireless control gives engineers the design freedom to build an application based on true requirements, instead of working around technology restrictions such as the physical limitations of cables and slip rings.
Driving Down Downtime with Improved Access
With Connected Manufacturing, secure access to diagnostic data for troubleshooting becomes an easy task. Many of the diagnostic messages that traditionally required engineering software are now readily available using a standard Web browser. A user with proper credentials can access these messages about a device directly through the webpage.
Messages and alarms sent via SMS text or email will notify an operator or maintenance person immediately, which ultimately reduces downtime and cost. Once notified, an operator can remotely connect via a secure VPN tunnel directly to the plant floor to perform programming changes.
The Next Paradigm
According to Industry Week, the next paradigm shift in manufacturing is towards connecting manufacturing operations across the value chain. They note, “to do so, organizations will not only need to connect their plant equipment and supply chain, but also their demand chain. This can be achieved by connecting the products they create using machine-to-machine (M2M) technology for the Internet of Things (IoT). If an enterprise is connecting the assets it creates, it can gain powerful insights into its customers, business processes, distributors, maintenance requirements, product warranties, and much more.”Have an Inquiry for Siemens about this article? Click Here >>