5 Tips for Modernizing Your Industrial Network

Having a modern industrial network infrastructure has grown increasingly important these last few years. By implementing the latest networking and systems management technologies, you can harness the power of greater information sharing and improved connectivity. This allows you to turn smart industrial manufacturing into a reality.

Are you ready to modernize but don’t know where to start? Keep reading for 5 tips that will help you bring your industrial network up to speed.

  1. Collaborate Upfront

One of the keys to modernizing your network infrastructure is to involve functional teams from across your organization. While network modernization may seem like a purely IT job, having early and open dialog with all functional teams makes the process much more efficient. You want to get buy in from all stakeholders as early as possible. By collaborating upfront, you can identify risks and determine ways to mitigate them.

By collaborating, you can design a network that can be maintained without disrupting or causing downtime to the production team. Collaboration can also ensure that all connections between the MES and enterprise business systems are accounted for.

  1. Don’t Slack on Security

When modernizing your network, it makes the most sense to use a holistic security approach. In a recent BDO USA report, more than 90% of manufacturers reported cybersecurity concerns. Since cybersecurity practices are often an afterthought, ensure you address security upfront. The challenge is that there isn’t one product, methodology, or technology that can protect against today’s ever-growing threats and risks.

While security-through-obscurity may have been enough in the past, in today’s world, it simply isn’t enough. You not only have intellectual property to protect but also operations, employees, and your company’s reputation.

To start off on the right security foot, take time to complete a security assessment. This will allow you to identity risks and threats that your network and systems face. After a thorough assessment, take steps to implement a defense-in-depth (DiD) security approach that uses several layers of defense.

  1. Embrace SCADA

Companies and industries of all types need systems that allow them to distribute data, gain insight over their manufacturing systems, and to provide real-time updates on system health. Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) is a system that uses both hardware and software to:

  • Monitor and process real-time data
  • Record events into a data log
  • Control processes at remote locations
  • Interact with connected devices such as motors, sensors, pumps and valves

SCADA software also pairs well with human machine interface (HMI) software to better allow operators to visualize and manage systems. These systems are especially crucial for industrial organizations as they mitigate downtimes, process data for smarter processing, maintain efficiency, and boost system insight.

For instance, a SCADA system can be used to notify an operator of high error incident in the system. The operator has the ability to pause the process, look at the SCADA data, and determine the root cause of the issue. By pinpointing the problematic machine, companies can prevent product loss and minimize downtime.

  1. Select the Ideal Protocol

When designing your network infrastructure, a key decision to make is the best Ethernet protocol. If you’re like most industrial and manufacturing companies, you want to capitalize on the increasing popularity and growth of connected smart devices. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) uses the internet protocol which allows devices to interoperate on the same network.

As the number of connected devices is expected to top 20 billion by 2020, it makes sense for industrial companies to get involved in IIoT. A top technology to support IIoT is EtherNet/IP. This is an industrial automation protocol that embraces the power of IP and allows the coexistence of devices needed for commercial and industrial use. EtherNet/IP allows for cross-device connectivity and removes the known setbacks of proprietary networking.

  1. Prepare For the Future

When your main task is to modernize your system, one of the last things people account for is the future. But, when modernizing your system, it’s important to make decisions that will be long-lasting and beneficial, even 10 years from now.

Think about what your operations will look like in a decade. How will you use the information you collect? How can you further modernize your system by using automation or an open architecture? Could you see virtualization fitting into your architecture? The decisions you make now should make sense for your current needs but should also anticipate future needs.

Conclusion

A modernized industrial network is beneficial in boosting productivity. Modernization also brings about the benefits of better understanding system risks, enhancing safety, meeting compliance goals, and improving communication. If you have yet to upgrade your industrial network, now is the time!

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