Avoiding the roadblocks on the way to IIoT
When we talk about smart manufacturing, or IIoT, we are really talking about creating a complete network environment that gathers, exchanges, collates and enables the analysis of real-time data - from the factory floor, to the back office and right along the supply chain. Not only will this allow manufacturing and industrial processes to become more automated, but it will enable management systems to produce actionable insights across the entire enterprise, resulting in better and faster decision making.
It’s the network, stupid!
IIoT is not a single technology, it is a whole raft of new generation technologies - sensors, new applications, machine2machine interfacing, machine learning, predictive analytics, geo-location, wearables and augmented reality. The network infrastructure is what brings all these technologies and solutions together - without it, you have disparate collections of smart technologies never reaching their full potential.
In the manufacturing and industrial sectors there are specific network requirements which you just wouldn't need in an office or retail environment – so should the networks be the same? The answer, of course, is no.
The hardened network
Unreliable connectivity on LAN or WLAN can be a disaster for the highly automated processes in today’s production lines. Even minimal network disruption caused by inefficient data transfer, bottlenecking or data loss can have ramifications along the entire production chain. And not only does patchy wireless connectivity mean mobile assets and workers can't operate efficiently, it can also be a serious safety risk.
Bringing together controllers, sensors, IP-Video and wireless-enabled assets on busy manufacturing floors or industrial sites requires a network backbone that can maintain its reliability and quality of service in the face of the heat, dust, electromagnetic interference and vibrations caused by machinery and heavy vehicles. This is why a hardened network based on rugged components is vital in ensuring a reliable and secure manufacturing network, while being able to easily expand the network to incorporate new assets and technologies as they become available.
Built to last – the network requirements
So how do you build a hardened network to support connected plants and factories? Firstly, the switches, access points and routers need to be able to offer the same level of capability as you would find in any other advanced network - embedded security, dynamic network performance tuning for real time application delivery and reliable broadband IP connectivity. But this needs to be built using network hardware with industrial grade form-factors, hardened to operate in more extreme conditions.
Fairweather switches not good enough
Outside of the protected and climate controlled data centres, the campus network needs to be able to handle a much wider range of conditions. Hardened industrial-grade switches, which can operate in environments ranging from -40°C to +74°C, are a crucial element in a network subjected to continuous or fluctuating extreme temperatures. Non-hardened switches in the plant or at remote locations could severely limit the reliability and lifecycle of the equipment, putting operations at risk.
But temperature is not the only factor which can impact the network at the hardware level. Humidity levels or the airborne particles in dust need to be protected against, and that's where the convection cooled fan-less switch models can offer greater reliability and a longer lifecycle. Hardened switches are also designed to withstand the the greater shocks and vibrations caused by heavy machinery and vehicles as well as greater EMI/EMC variance.
Safety first, during and last – there’s now an app for that
Safety and security isn't an afterthought in the manufacturing world, so it shouldn't be when laying the network foundations of the connected factory. Gone are the days when the only alarm system available would sound across the factory floor and everyone downed tools and made for the exit. Modern manufacturing with real-time data communication needs - and indeed can have - a centralised alarm and notification platform that pushes out notifications that are accessible from apps on smart devices, as well as fixed telephony and computer stations.
Safety is paramount. Automatic alarms and emergency notifications such as the OpenTouch Notification Service can be built into the network and are critical to alerting supervisors to fires or employee injury. A network that can collect and aggregate alarms from different subsystems to a centralised platform can provide the responsiveness a 'smart factory' demands.
A universal notification service will provide the right alerts to the right people, at the right time, enabling them to respond quickly and appropriately to a given situation. These can also integrate into other safety and security systems such as CCTV and BMS to ensure fire detection, video & surveillance, intrusion detection can be easily managed through a single – and reliable - solution.
As well as emergency and safety notifications, engineering alerts can be directed straight to the right engineers. Notifications can be in the form of audio and text notifications, be routed to DECT/Wifi handsets, or sent directly to smart devices via an app, email or SMS – providing the flexibility needed across the full range of manufacturing and industrial settings.
Made to measure – choosing the right network for the connected factory
The Industrial Internet of Things is growing. But before you can even start to think about what new technologies and services to introduce, you need to ensure that you have the network in place to deal with the stresses and strains of the production environment – this means building an industrial-grade hardened Ethernet, with real-time safety built-in.
By Manish Sablok, Head of Field Marketing for North West and East Europe at ALE
Follow @ManufacturingGL and @NellWalkerMG
IMF: Variants Can Still Hurt Manufacturing Recovery
After a year of on-and-off manufacturing in the US, UK, and the eurozone, demand for goods surged early last week. Factories set growth records in April and May, suppliers started to recover, and US crude hit its highest price point since pre-COVID. As vaccination efforts immunise much of the US and UK populations, manufacturers are now able to fully ramp up their supply chains. In fact, GDP growth could approach double-digits by 2022.
Now, the ISM productivity measure has surpassed the 50-point mark that separates industry expansion from contraction. Since U.S. president Biden passed his US$1.9tn stimulus package and the UK purchasing managers index (PMI) increased to 65.6, both sides of the Atlantic are facing a much-welcomed manufacturing recovery.
Lingering Concerns Over COVID
Even as Spain, France, Italy, and Germany race to catch up, and mining companies pushed the FTSE 100 index of list shares to a monthly high of 7,129, some say that UK and US markets still suffer from a lack of confidence in raw material supplies. Yes, the Dow Jones has made up its 19,173-point crash of March 2020, and MSCI’s global stock index is at an all-time high.
Yet manufacturers around the world realise that these wins will be short-lived until pandemic supply chain bottlenecks are solved. If we keep the status quo, consumers will pay the price. In April, inflation in Germany reached 2.4%, and across the EU’s 19 member countries, overall prices have increased at an unusual pace. Some ask: Is this true recovery?
IMF: Current Boom Could Falter
Even as Elon Musk tweeted about chip shortages forcing Tesla to raise its prices, UK mining demand skyrocketed; housing markets lifted; and the pound sterling gained value. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), however, cautioned that manufacturing recovery won’t last long if COVID mutates into forms our vaccinations can’t touch. Kristalina Georgieva, Washington’s IMF director, noted that fewer than 1% of African citizens have been vaccinated: “Worldwide access to vaccines offers the best hope for stopping the coronavirus pandemic, saving lives, and securing a broad-based economic recovery”.
Across the globe, manufacturing companies are keeping a watchful eye on new developments in the spread of COVID. Though US FDA officials don’t think we’ll have to “start at square one” with new vaccines, the March 2021 World Economic Outlook states that “high uncertainty” surrounds the projected 6% global growth. Continued manufacturing success will in large part depend on “the path of the pandemic, the effectiveness of policy support, and the evolution of financial conditions”.
Mathias Cormann, secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) concurred—without global immunisation, the estimated economic boom expected by 2025 could go kaput. “We need to...pursue an all-out effort to reach the entire world population”, Australia’s finance minister added. US$50bn to end COVID across the world, they imply, is a small investment to restart our economies.