Gathering data in industrial environments typically involves the interoperability of numerous devices employing different and incompatible protocols. To ensure a solid IIoT foundation, a protocol conversion gateway is vital to meeting end-host requirements for delivery of data between different components. This streamlines network operations, increases network performance, and extends legacy equipment investment. Security is another key consideration.


Noel Sheppard, general manager of Distec and Paola Hopwood, strategic account manager at Red Lion Controls, explore the impact of IIoT and the considerations when choosing products and services


ata collection in manufacturing is a valuable asset for organisations to

optimise their processes and better understand how their productions lines are operating, but it has to date been very limited in scope. In previous times, data was gathered from a piece of equipment and scrutinised for areas of improvement. Think of it as thousands of employees continuously running around collecting data on clipboards and manually feeding that information into an analysis tool; a lengthy and tiresome process. Thankfully, today’s cloud-based

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platforms have changed everything. There is no longer a barrier between discrete data points or individual application intelligence. Instead, good count data can be used to improve OEE while also reducing loss and waste. That same data set can also improve production efficiency and compare difference between production shifts. However, all this potential doesn’t mean your organisation wants – or needs – to invest in all-new sensors, networking solutions or data-gathering devices. A better approach is to assess what you already have whilst levelling it up with IIoT protocols; the aim being to build a feedback loop for all actionable data. Let’s take a closer look at the myriad of powerful impacts that IIoT technology can have in a typical manufacturing set-up. Fundamentally, the IIoT enables different devices from across the manufacturing environment to automatically communicate with each other – even if they use different proprietary protocols

that never included 24/7 monitoring access. Companies looking to connect devices from disparate manufacturers can now choose advanced HMIs, protocol converters and other automation products that natively speak different protocols. These industrial products then enable devices to communicate regardless of physical medium and offer industrial fluency and multi-protocol support. In turn, this enables the IIoT to ensure operational efficiencies across the entire manufacturing infrastructure. One such efficiency involves using data collected from monitoring points along a manufacturing line to minimise waste and downtime. As technology continues to improve, these status points will include more information from a wider range of sources. Managed Ethernet switches will be able to report on the flow of data throughout the facility in the same way that sensors on assembly lines can report a product’s status on a production line. This expanded collection of operational data enables organisations to make actionable data for a wide range of stakeholders by using visual management solutions to display critical performance data in real time. In turn, different personnel from within the organisation can gain granular visibility into operations, driving productivity and increasing throughput. And from there, the concept can be extended to include the supply and distribution chain too. How should you choose IIoT products and services, and what are the key considerations to bear in mind? First, think about protocol conversations.


By providing immediate access to data that is consistent, easily understood, and easily seen, employees are made aware of where processes currently stand, and where they need to be

Traditionally in manufacturing and industrial environments, it has meant physical isolation of automation equipment and enterprise networks. However, the IIoT means that connection- free facilities are increasingly few and far between. Security must be addressed through careful network planning and use of IP address best practices. There are a few different options: routers can be deployed within a network to limit network traffic to specific types of traffic or to specific users; Network Address Translation (NAT) can be used to obscure devices on the network from inbound access; and VPNs or tunnelling appliances can make factory-to-factory, supply chain-to-factory, or factory-to distributor communication secure by creating virtual “tunnels” through which sensitive data can be transmitted. Next, consider visual data management.

This can be broken down to three easy steps: connect to equipment, collect the data, and display the results. By providing immediate access to data that is consistent, easily understood, and easily seen, employees remain aware of where processes currently stand and where they need to be, promoting employee ownership to achieve the desired objectives. As the number of critical assets being

deployed in the field rises, the need for flexible, secure remote site process control and monitoring without expensive network infrastructures increases in pace. By pushing control to the network’s edge, organisations add more than operational reliability – the secure automation of field processes improves the speed and accuracy of operations and reduces costs. Ultimately, today’s floor communication protocols should be able to transmit data in a cloud environment, even when network connections are dropped. They should also offer consistent, robust security and easy scalability. The cellular network medium is proving to be reliable and secure, offering VPN tunnels, as well as more advanced methods to secure data like private access point names (APNs) or Software Defined Networking (SDN).

Red Lion Controls Distec


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