In his blog talking about the Internet of Everything (IOE), Cisco CEO John Chambers talks about change being a constant.
He goes on to postulate that to embrace it and to lead it are the best ways to shape your enterprise's desired outcome within this process of change.
EtherNet/IP is an enabling technology that helps machine builders benefit from some of the innovation that is the Internet of Everything.
The proliferation of Ethernet in industrial manufacturing and process applications is creating the opportunity to connect machines and other automation assets together into the wider Connected Enterprise.
This in turn facilitates the trend for enterprises to generate and exploit “Big Data,” which is the actionable information that those machines and assets generate.
The traditional focus for a machine builder is often around the function of their machines and their mechanical attributes. For many, the machine throughput is a key attribute combined, of course, with its cost competiveness in the market.
Increasingly, this focus is shifting, requiring the ability for the machine to be flexible and handle a myriad of products and packaging variations, conjured up by ever-more creative marketing departments.
Many enterprises are now demanding that a contemporary machine needs to demonstrate a high overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and increasingly be energy efficient.
Crucially, this data is expected to be made readily available to the end user of the machine.
A lot of the intellectual property and differentiation is in mechanical design. A modular approach is very common in helping machine builders benefit from standardization and minimizing customization.
Ultimately the perennial challenge is to design, develop and deliver a machine at the lowest possible cost.
The development of Ethernet/IP technology over the past several years has enabled machine builders to make significant gains in this area.
For example, many traditional machine designs feature multiple networks to accomplish the control task.
Sometimes these are separate traditional networks such as Sercos or Profibus, and sometimes they are multiple variants of Ethernet such as Ethercat or Powerlink.
The reason for multiple networks is usually the need to separate motion control, high-speed I/O and safety tasks from other aspects of machine communications.
The use of EtherNet/IP gives the machine builder the ability to minimize the engineering time while maximizing machine performance.
Different disciplines such as motion control, I/O control, HMI and safety coexist on one standard single Ethernet/IP network. This leads to simplification for the machine builder and reduced development costs.
This approach also promotes a standard onward connection to the end customer's enterprise, thus allowing the actionable data generated by the machine to be easily shared around the enterprise.
In turn, this data can be served up to appropriate personnel in a format that allows real-time decisions to be made that have a potentially positive impact.
For example, monitoring energy usage could lead to plant being run more efficiently. Production problems can be highlighted rapidly and remedial action can be taken, therefore minimizing down time.
As Cisco's John Chambers suggests, the Internet of Everything creates a tremendous opportunity in business and specifically for industrial automation.
Adapting to this change in environment and adopting the best technology to exploit this opportunity is crucial for machine builders to generate and maintain competitive advantage.
EtherNet/IP is a clear leading technology in bringing this reality closer for machine builders.
Published March 25, 2014