We’re past the point of deciding whether industrial networks are necessary. In fact, many of the networks currently in place have been supporting plant operations for a dozen years or more. Now, it seems, many plant managers are considering upgrades and improvements to support safety applications, improve efficiency and productivity, allow better access, and make the facility cybersecure.
Although the choices and decisions can seem overwhelming, helpful resources are emerging. Once you make the decision to use an Ethernet-based network, for example, you still have to decide on a protocol, and using a single protocol isn’t always possible. Application profiles and reference network architectures, however, can provide proven examples of what has worked elsewhere.
Another source of practical advice and real-world insights are conferences. The ARC World Industry Forum 2014, being held this month, is presenting a session titled “Enabling the Information-Driven Enterprise,” hosted by the Profinet North America organization. The Automation Conference, presented by Automation World in suburban Chicago May 20-21, has three network-focused sessions of the more than 20 being offered.
David Mattes, founder and CEO of Asguard Networks, will share information about a new approach to industrial control system (ICS) security at The Boeing Co. “When Boeing’s 777 manufacturing line transitioned from fixed monolithic tooling to lean mobile robotic tools, the new tools required wireless communications that were difficult to enable on industrial control systems,” says David Greenfield, Automation World director of content and chairman for The Automation Conference. “Boeing wanted a solution that could be applied throughout the enterprise and they wanted this capability based on standards. David Mattes held the lead technical role for this project and, in his session, will discuss his work with The Boeing Co. to create remotely networked industrial automation, using a new approach to ICS security.”
Also at The Automation Conference, top industrial safety network providers will discuss the implementation and use of safety networks, and answer attendee questions about the technology. A separate Network Hardware Decisions panel will have hardware providers addressing common questions about cabling, connectors, gateways and switches.
“What distinguishes The Automation Conference is our exclusive focus on automation, and our commitment to peer-to-peer education that allows attendees to hear firsthand from the individuals who are using the products and technologies being discussed,” says Greenfield. Peer advice based on direct experience is one of the best sources of information for those wanting to build their own state-of-the-art network.