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Quest for plantwide optimisation

25 January 2013

Today's market pressures require manufacturers to constantly balance productivity, globalisation, innovation and sustainability. In order to do this, they must effectively leverage their automation investments for continuo

Today's market pressures require manufacturers to constantly balance productivity, globalisation, innovation and sustainability. In order to do this, they must effectively leverage their automation investments for continuous improvement and the achievement of plant-wide optimisation, as Rockwell Automation explains

Working towards the goal of plantwide optimisation, the primary objective is to get all parts of a manufacturing environment working to maximise asset utilisation, productivity and uptime and seamlessly integrate this with all other aspects of the organisation. Although there are multiple facets to these objectives, the deployment of a robust, single-platform integrated architecture that can handle discrete, control, process, safety and motion sets the foundation upon which all further optimisation steps can build.

The value of an automation supplier is its ability to provide total solutions for a plant - from MES to I/Os - with real-time visibility and complete control of all production parameters across the plant. In addition, the ability to link the process automation to the discrete automation provides higher performance and lower operating costs. The right supplier will also be able to link regulation and safety compliance to high productivity.

Dominic Molloy, director of marketing, Rockwell Automation - European Region, explains: "Arguably the most important element of any plant-wide optimisation programme is the 'backbone' that acts not only as the conduit for the data, but also for all the automation and safety functions of the machines and processes. With multiple networks, protocols and suppliers, bottlenecks are inevitable, as data is transposed from one format to another, adding unwanted time to any process.

"Through the use of a single network, in this case a standard, unmodified Ethernet Industrial Protocol network (EtherNet/IP), Rockwell Automation is advancing the seamless transfer of data from point to point; be it the simplest component-level I/O block, all the way up to the overarching company MES system." With EtherNet/IP providing the link between discrete control, process, safety, automation and motion, investment in training, software licenses, machine design, programming, parts management and data handling can be reduced. With the singlenetwork approach utilising Integrated Architecture the sharing of data, from highlevel programmes all the way down to simple on/off signals is made simple.

In addition, the seamless integration of EtherNet/IP and the two other standard networks from Rockwell Automation (DeviceNet for plant-floor networks and ControlNet for an enterprise network) allows simple and efficient migration steps to be made or the use of all three networks which allows movement of data in much the same way as a standard EtherNet/IP network.

"With our portfolio of EtherNet/IPenabled devices growing on an almost daily basis, this open standard is spreading into just about every element of the enterprise," Molloy elaborates.

"Our value as a supplier is now not just restricted to the technology and services we can deliver. Now it is also measured on how we can help manufacturers - either directly or via our comprehensive worldwide network of system integrators and distributors - optimise their operations; helping them towards getting the best possible performance from their investment.

"Someone once said that the only thing constant about change is change itself," Molloy concludes. "As plants, their technology and industry legislation evolve, so does the definition and the goal posts of plant-wide optimisation. Complete, 100% optimisation, if I am honest, isn't going to be possible due to these ever-changing factors.

"However, Rockwell Automation is helping get companies onto the right path and facing in the right direction, along with helping advance forward - more often than not within touching distance of complete optimisation."

Guide published Rockwell Automation has published Converged Plantwide Ethernet (CPwE) Design and Implementation Guide (DIG) 2.0, which has been written to help manufacturers converge their industrial and enterprise-level networks. The guide, a collaborative development effort from Cisco and Rockwell Automation, provides detailed design guidance, recommendations and best practices for deploying standard EtherNet/IP network technology.

By following the guidance, manufacturers can achieve network convergence between manufacturing and IT systems within their enterprise, fostering greater business agility and opportunities for innovation with a high degree of security.

To download a free copy of the guide, visit www.ab.com/networks/architectures.html