Pinpointing Determinism’s Benefits

Feb. 2, 2012
Usage of deterministic networks is broadening as a growing number of plant managers turn to automation or search for technologies that speed up existing operations.

Those who are moving from manual production or upgrading outdated automated operations with state-of-the-art technologies must do a fair amount of research to determine where they can get the most bang for their buck.

Part of that analysis should focus on networks, deciding where determinism can provide more performance. Determinism usually costs a bit more than conventional ruggedized Ethernet installations, and more support may be required. Users must figure out where to make that extra investment and where it won’t provide any payback. That’s more difficult when facilities aren’t already heavily networked.

“In this economy, more users are applying automation so they can improve their efficiency,” says John Wozniak, senior networking specialist for the CC-Link Partner Association, a network group based in Vernon Hills, Ill. “Many of them know their processes well, but when they add automation, they don’t know where determinism fits and where it doesn’t.”

When teams take care and analyze the benefits of different automation solutions, they can see substantial benefits. While the number of deterministic alternatives isn’t as vast as the number of products available in other areas, planners must understand all aspects of their design when they try to optimize their investments.

“The goal should be to eliminate unnecessary components, streamline software modules and licenses, increase efficiency and use the processing power of their controllers to improve their control algorithms,” says Joey Stubbs of the EtherCat Technology Group. “The elimination of network bandwidth bottlenecks means that a user no longer has to install black boxes in the system in order to give surrogate signals for parameters.” 

Click here to read Automation World's in-depth coverage of network determinism.