Manufacturing is an industry with complex operations, where the success of any organisation lies in producing the right products, with higher quality and lower costs than the competition.
This requires companies to enable real-time visibility into operations at the plant floor and at the executive level to make intelligent decisions.
An increasing number of manufacturers are addressing industrial networking as a discipline.
An industrial network differs from a traditional network in its need for determinism, reliability, and speed in the transmission of data.
Industrial networks require equipment that can handle severe environmental conditions, vibration, and shock. Network outages are intolerable.
Any form of disruption is unacceptable and can lead to waste or contamination of in-process materials.
Aberdeen’s report Industrial Networking: Real-time Foundation for Manufacturing and the Enterprise reveals that leading manufacturers are bringing together traditional automation engineering with corporate IT to gain a visibility into network performance.
When industrial networking is approached properly, companies can enable real-time visibility into data in order to optimise production, maintenance, and safety.
To properly implement an industrial network, the Best-in-Class have implemented a combination of business and technology capabilities (Figure 1 and Figure 2).
The Best-in-Class enterprises understand the importance of having an executive sponsor and ownership for improving the network architecture of the facility.
This is an opportunity for CIOs and manufacturing executives to work together to change the corporate culture.
With a true budget holder, it becomes easier to obtain the funds needed to invest in equipment, services and training. With the developments in technology, it has blurred the traditional lines between the business (IT) domain and the real-time domain of manufacturing IT.
This in turn has created a cultural battle between manufacturing IT and corporate IT.
The Best-in-Class are forming cross-functional teams that include both IT and manufacturers to build out a network strategy that has a balanced view from all groups.
Issues such as network topology, isolation, security, and network management are critical - and the reason that Best-in-Class are developing teams with the domain knowledge to design, implement, and manage such environments.
Indeed, these issues cannot be overlooked, and they drive the need for an organisation to create better alignment between corporate IT and plant IT.
The network architecture is essential to enabling the manufacturer’s ability to gain real-time visibility into operations at both the plant floor and executive level.