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Digitalization offers the manufacturing industry brand new opportunities and options for effectively responding to these market trends. If companies want to exploit the full potential of digitalization however, they must have a communication network that is tailored to their specific requirements. There is no other way to guarantee company-wide access to all relevant data – around the clock and in real time. This in turn creates the conditions for significantly faster, more flexible and more efficient production processes.
Industrial communication networks are the backbone of any successful digital transformation, and the basis for consistent, end-to-end integration, digitalization and optimization of the entire value chain, including external suppliers. In this way, a digital copy of the real value chain is created – a digital twin on which production processes can be simulated, tested and optimized. The result is a consistent increase in efficiency, productivity and quality during all phases of the production lifecycle.
Unlimited data consistency and transparency based on an industrial communication network creates the basis for highly efficient interoperability across all automation components. This means that companies can optimally utilize their production plants and respond more flexibly than ever to market demands – key parameters for an appreciably shorter time to market.
Due to the sharp increase of networked components in production and their connection to the company’s IT, security concepts must be consistent from end to end. One promising solution is to implement a multilayered “defense in depth for industry” concept based on the IEC 62443 standard. This standard creates the conditions necessary for a coordinated approach among product suppliers, system integrators and plant operators. The implementation of security processes, the training of personnel and secure products are all important components on the way to a secure production plant.
Data isn’t only generated by individual machines. Entire production lines create data too. With the open interface OPC UA, TIA not only lets machines share this data with each other but also enables it to be used by the enterprise IT systems or via the Cloud. Data analysis then facilitates valuable insights into how your production lines are performing.
The well-thought-out connection of office and data center networks to automation networks is a major challenge for companies – especially in view of the tasks involved with the digitalization of industry and the accompanying comprehensive networking of all corporate areas and the extensive exchange of data. Experience shows that not every Ethernet-based network can be planned, implemented, and operated in the same way – and an inappropriate approach to achieving complete network convergence can turn out to be very costly for customers.
The integration of different systems into an IT or automation infrastructure is complicated because there are no standardized interfaces and protocols. So what sort of communication architecture is required for networking the ten-thousand devices in the digital factory? In this respect, industrial networks and the OPC Unified Architecture are regarded keys to the digital infrastructure.
A key benefit of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) lies in the collection and analysis of data from the field level employing appropriate systems and algorithms, e.g., for predictive maintenance and its linking to the production planning. As a result, new strategic competitive advantages can be developed. However, in order to tap new relationships (correlations), as much data as possible has to be transmitted to the cloud, with minimal retrofitting costs for existing installations.
To attain a joint network from the field level all the way to the transfer point to the World Wide Web, the requirements of both worlds must be taken into consideration when connecting the industrial backbone to the core. With high-performance Industrial Ethernet switches featuring automation and IT mechanisms, the goal of “one cable for everything” is achieved.
By now, Ethernet has become a standard in office networks and automation networks. It suggests itself to bring those networks together. But there are some risks and pitfalls you should consider.
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