Is Your Plant Networking Helping You Avoid Downtime?

August 28, 2017 Enterprise Networking, Trends

The cost of downtime is increasing as processes get more optimized and lean.

Some examples from recent ARC Advisory Group case studies show the extreme value of saving an hour of downtime in many industries:

  • Automotive OEM Stamping Machine: $43,000/hour of lost revenue. That is $720/minute.
  • Food Packaging Line: $15,000/hour of lost revenue for a typical packaged food or consumer item. That is $25/minute.
  • Pharmaceutical Batch: $500,000/batch when interruption of a batch causes the entire batch to be scrapped. This is approximately $8,300/minute.
  • Paper Drying Line: $31,000/hour of lost revenue for a typical bottleneck in paper production. That is $516/minute.

Industrial-Plant-Manufacturing-2Many companies see the Internet of Things (IoT) and transitioning to IP networks a key part of gaining control of downtime. By collecting more data, insights can help reduce downtime and costs associated with diagnosing and correcting the root cause.

While plants have many smart devices today, several are not effectively connecting and sharing their information. In addition, many companies may not have a solid network architecture and physical infrastructure plan in place to make these connections.

An initial and integral insight is that there is valuable information locked away in motor drives and devices that may not be connected to allow for data collection.

For example, there are many intelligent VFD drives that can potentially be connected to Ethernet/IP that provide valuable data to help speed diagnosis or even show increases in current or temperatures, this can be used to schedule preventative maintenance and in turn, avoid downtime.

Major Industrial Networking Companies state that new device analytics and mobile device action cards can turn stranded device data into actionable insights, such as, alerting the maintenance staff to a problem with a motor drive system before it causes downtime. However, many companies still face concerns about how to effectively scale their plant networks to pick up all these connections cost effectively and robustly.

The use of validated network architecture Converged Plantwide Ethernet (CPwE) is key to enabling all these edge connections, while having the security and connection to industrial data centers where these insights can be processed on site.

The use of validated physical infrastructure building blocks that bring the best practices for high density network connections, such as an Industrial Distribution Frame (IDF), can simplify deployment of all these high value connections to machines, processes and devices.

A final key consideration for ensuring your network is scaled for reducing downtime in your plant is to consider the network physical infrastructure choices you make as you add connections. Most network downtime can be traced to weak physical infrastructure – not making the right choices on cabling can cause ‘ghost’ intermittent problems or full downtime events.

To avoid downtime, it is critical you take time upfront to develop specifications for each area of your plant based on its industrial environmental challenges – shock/vibration, noise/EMI, temperatures, and chemical/climatic exposure.

Take time to get a qualified certified installer and make sure connections are tested. Then use smart physical infrastructure and network monitoring tools to assess and diagnose developing problems before they cause a lot of costly downtime. Also, considering how wireless sensors can monitor critical enclosures as well as across plant areas to provide insights into developing conditions that can cause equipment problems can prove to be greatly beneficial.

In summary, there is no reason to tolerate high downtime costs – truly leverage your Ethernet/IP networks alongside robust physical infrastructure building blocks to enable insights that help your staff reduce downtime costs and provide a solid foundation for a Connected Enterprise.

bob-kinnison-1Bob Kinnison has over 20 years of experience in the electrical and data communication industry. Bob helps to ensure ABS clients have the best structured cabling infrastructure possible to support their business needs.