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Implementing Factory Communication the SMART Way

In light of the fast paced development of the Industrial IoT and its expected impact on the global economy, factories are lining up to implement manufacturing automation systems with fully interconnected networks. One of the main complications of the implementation process is finding an economical yet robust way to integrate tasks and processes that are both disparate and complex. Other issues that must be considered include the challenges posed by potential cyberattacks, environmental fluctuations, complicated network topologies, and event management between different types of data protocols, networks, and device subsystems. Redundancy is also extremely important for mission-critical factory applications, which are generally required to be up and running all the time.

Five Key Factors for Factory Communication

A highly efficient smart factory network must deliver open, self-healing, highly secure Ethernet connectivity from field device networks to SCADA systems and backbone networks to optimize plant-wide communications and operational efficiency. Five factors are particularly important—Security, Management, Availability, Robustness, and inTegration—which taken together form a SMART strategy for implementing factory communication.

Security

With cyber risks growing daily as the world gets more connected, factory administrators need to find the best way to detect cyber-threats to mitigate potential risks and reduce the impact on factory operations and facilities. Factories can prevent network threats across factory cells, zones, and fields by using an all-in-one solution that supports an industrial firewall, VPN, NAT, and Ethernet switch. This provides multi-layer defense-in-depth protection for the entire network infrastructure, but at no extra cost for data transmission.

Management

There are four basic aspects to implementing and managing factory networks: installation, operation, maintenance, and diagnostics. Even with careful network planning and design, these four aspects of network management still present SCADA and field engineers with a number of different challenges. To optimize network efficiency, maximize system uptime, and minimize total cost of ownership, smart factory networks not only require rugged hardware well-suited for harsh industrial environments, but also user-centric software tools for integrating SCADA systems and ensuring that engineers can monitor and manage their network easily and efficiently.

Availability

Factory network interruptions can cause costly downtime and collateral damage. To prevent network failures, factory networks should implement a millisecond-level self-healing redundancy technology in the smart factory’s control automation and facility management network. To further ensure non-stop data transmission for multi-point failovers, multi-point network redundancy can be achieved by attaching bypass relay technology to route network traffic around inactive network nodes and forward the traffic to the next active node.

Robustness

For complex factory systems, device durability is critical for doing more with less; when a plant operates continuously without interruption, field engineers spend less time and effort on downtime corrections. Networking equipment used in a factory needs to share a common set of robust features designed to eliminate device failure due to harsh environmental factors:

  • Fanless operation in wide temperature environments for a longer MTBF
  • Powerful EMI/EMC shielding, and shock and vibration resistance to increase operability
  • Redundant power supply with isolation protection

inTegration

More often than not, a factory network must integrate legacy fieldbus network devices that are unable to connect directly to an Ethernet network. To enhance operational reliability and communication efficiency, it is important for all of your field devices to be able to connect to an Ethernet network. One way to integrate field devices with a smart factory network is with industrial Ethernet gateways for fieldbus to Ethernet protocol conversion. In addition, for a PLC control network, the network switches need to support a number of different industrial protocols, including EtherNet/IP, PROFINET, or Modbus TCP, so they can be managed by a PLC and integrated with a SCADA system.

Moxa’s Optimized Industrial Ethernet Solutions for Smart Factories

Moxa’s comprehensive product portfolio and vertical expertise enable smart network architectures that allow factories to use both existing and new equipment to increase production and uptime, and optimize plant-wide communication and operational efficiency

For more Moxa’s Smart Factory solution, please visit
http://www.moxa.com/Event/IES/Smart_factory_network/Portfolio.htm

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