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Net Gains for Carpet Maker

Shaw’s integrated network cuts downtime.

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The challenge facing Shaw Industries wasn’t unusual. After more than 60 years of making floor coverings, the equipment in its factories was a hodge podge of incompatible systems. “We had multiple networks operating separately from one another, which created considerable complexity and inefficiency,” says Gary Norwood, automation manager of Shaw Industries’ Contract Group. “We needed a single, unified network architecture that would allow us to communicate in real-time and in a standardized fashion.”


Excessive downtime due to unreliable equipment was the driver for Shaw’s need for standardization and better access to information from the plant floor. A big element of that goal was to restructure inefficient network configurations in six factories. Those plants manufacture 25,000 standard styles and colors of carpets, rugs, ceramic, hardwood and laminate flooring.


Once the decision to upgrade was made, Norwood/> quickly decided that the flooring company, headquartered in Decatur/>, Ga./>/>, needed a technology partner. He tapped Rockwell Automation Inc., the Milwaukee-based automation supplier that worked on Shaw’s most recent technology upgrade that occurred in 2005. 


Core Ethernet


At the core of Shaw’s system is a real-time version of Ethernet known as EtherNet/IP. Ethernet protocols provide far more compatibility than the jumble of networks that had developed at the company over time. “We have used virtually every input/output (I/O) networking protocol available, and the EtherNet/IP protocol provides more cost savings and performance advantages than any other, including minimal training requirements and quick start-up capabilities,” Norwood says.


EtherNet/IP uses standard, unmodified Ethernet 802.3 and TCP/UDP/IP (transmission control protocol/user datagram protocol/Internet protocol). Its application layer protocol is CIP (Common Industrial Protocol)—the same protocol used by DeviceNet and ControlNet. It provides device configuration, data collection, peer-to-peer interlocking, real-time input/output and drive control, and safety and motion control networking. It is compatible with other application layer protocols such as e-mail, voice-over-IP, video-over-IP, and Web pages. It also links real-time manufacturing and front office technologies.


Using a standard unmodified stack is a crucial issue for providing real-time motion control. It’s also critical if you want to get the benefits of IT (information technology) and manufacturing seeing the same data,” says Joe Kann, vice president of business development at Rockwell Automation.


Downtime Halved


The need for improved networking is evidenced by the size of Shaw’s operations. Over the past year, the company has become the largest user of Rockwell’s Point I/O, which provides up to four I/O points per module, linking systems with the DeviceNet network. Tying all of these points together with a networked control system gives Shaw more efficient control of flooring production processes such as tufting, dye coloring and backing, enhancing production. Perhaps a more important yardstick: the company reduced downtime by 50 percent.


Shaw uses the Allen-Bradley ControlLogix programmable automation controller (PAC) supplied by Rockwell for control of the carpet processing machines with EtherNet/IP-enabled I/O modules to connect the field devices. Housed in small cabinets surrounding the carpet finishing production lines, the I/O modules and network adapters easily slide together to help Shaw save valuable panel space and reduce installation expense. 


Shaw is also simplifying data collection and integration with enterprise level information systems. Shaw collects carpet processing data from controllers and uploads data into the SQL servers. Then Shaw’s management can perform critical analysis and reporting on production processes, identifying impending problems and improving overall performance. Operators also have real-time access to this data, so they can make production adjustments as needed.


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