Process industries have begun to acutely feel the need to reduce plant downtime through real-time knowledge sharing and high-speed communication protocol, according to a report from Frost & Sullivan (F&S, www.industrialautomation.frost.com). They require intelligent devices that extend location-independent control over other automation components to facilitate rapid information recovery and immediate response, as well as to optimize asset utilization of the plant.
However, implementing sophisticated information systems entails deployment of a vast array of devices across the plant, which, in turn, necessitates seamless data flow across different modules of the process infrastructure, from low-level field devices to business-level decision-making systems, according to the F&S analysis. This complex connectivity can be simplified by using a high-speed, open system and a central network, such as industrial Ethernet, which assures complete transparency in operation.
F&S's "Strategic Analysis of European Industrial Ethernet Market" provides insights into industrial Ethernet protocols such as Modbus transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP), Profinet, EtherNet/IP, EtherCat, Ethernet PowerLink and other protocols.
"Ethernet devices used for either an enterprise application or production process work with the same technology and offer the benefits of a common and shared platform," says research analyst Khadambari Shanbagarman. "This creates the flexibility of sharing the network, lowering additional expenses and reducing unwanted cabling."
This flexibility also helps convey field-level data to the business application, enabling the close functioning of the plant, which, in turn, eases workforce operations, notes Shanbagarman. In fact, Ethernet devices greatly emphasize the need for a predictive maintenance capability that provides great workforce mobility in large plants.
Further, industrial Ethernet allows the system to be connected to the plants' intranet, where information from various plants can be accessed across different facilities and information can be quickly transmitted even across diverse geographies. This indicates that the Ethernet setup helps in a seamless connectivity across all parts of the plant network and the real-time information is made readily available to the user, according to the report.