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Simplifying Connectivity for Remote Monitoring

Remote monitoring plays an increasingly important part for businesses to succeed in the age of the Industrial Internet of Things. This includes not only enabling businesses to better monitor the working status of their equipment, but also to help them reduce costly downtimes, improve customer service, and increase productivity. Remote monitoring gives businesses visibility and transparency of data that is often stored in decentralized silos, facilitating the overall monitoring of operations. Simply put, managers know have the necessary data immediately at hand to make snap decisions in order to bolster productivity or avert disaster on assembly lines.

For a number of businesses, remote monitoring is already reaping awards, as it proves to be a time-saving and cost-saving solution. For example, Tech Manufacturing, a long-time manufacturer of machine metal parts for aerospace clients, increased its production capacity and reduced lead time for its clients’ largest and most urgent orders by implementing remote monitoring solutions. Having its legacy machines and devices connected to collect data and push it to the cloud, a real-time dashboard makes it easy for this manufacturing company to identify any critical issues on its shop floor.

Remote Monitoring Is Only As Good As Your Network

But as many businesses have learned over time, remote monitoring is only effective when their network, which connects sensors and other data-gathering devices on the shop floor, is resilient and reliable. Connectivity in a network, unfortunately, is not always straightforward. Before businesses can capitalize on remote monitoring, they have to overcome two main challenges to connectivity: connecting a large variety of different systems and making invisible machines and devices visible. For the purpose of this feature article, we will focus on connecting a variety of systems without causing network outage.

The Trouble With Too Many

As the IIoT trend continues to reshape manufacturing, we will see more and more machines and devices from different OT subsystems connect to ensure that managers enjoy full transparency of their shop-floor operation. These subsystems include CNC control systems, conveyor belt control systems, AGV distribution systems, and inventory management systems. In older hierarchy-based network architectures, these systems used to run smoothly on their own. The trouble begins when these subsystems get connected to each other. Networks either become unstable or fail, as they experience slow responses, network interruption, or single point of failure. The result is unreliable data and PLCs receiving incorrect responses.

These network problems can be attributed to three issues:

1. A cocktail-like topology: Machines and systems might use different commercial and industrial network devices, e.g., Ethernet switches, as they were built at different stages. Subsequently, the OT environment will contain many interfaces that may impact the daily operation of long-term hardware with regard to electromagnetic compliance (EMC), surge, and many more when the network gets connected.

To overcome this issue, an industrial-grade network that can withstand a high number of interferences (e.g., EMI/EMC) and extreme temperatures (e.g., -40 to 75°C), which cause a high occurrence of packet loss, is required.

A cocktail-like topology

2. Insufficient resilience: A resilient network is rooted in a network design that emphasizes redundancy. A traditional star or daisy-chain network is easy to deploy and maintain; however, it cannot provide millisecond single-point-of-failure recovery when connecting multiple factory subsystems together. Another common issue is insufficient bandwidth, as it will make network connections unstable, especially multiple systems running on the same network. Bandwidth becomes inadequate as data transmissions increase in an interconnected IIoT-based network.

To address these issues, redundant Ethernet technologies have been adopted rapidly to enhance reliability, ensuring high availability and supporting unlimited redundant network expansion to protect networks against transmission failures. For example, ring topology is a very popular and cost-efficient way to build a network and is recognized within the industry as being one of the most effective solutions to avoid network downtime.

3. Unmanageable interoperability: Subsystems employing different OT protocols usually use unmanaged Ethernet switches to connect machines in a single system directly. In an interconnected scenario, each connected node in a port should not only be manageable, but it should also support different OT protocols to be visible in SCADA systems, thus ensuring interoperability and communication with each other in the network.

Managed industrial Ethernet switches come to the rescue here as they can seamlessly integrate devices to SCADA/HMI systems and support the mainstream industrial proprietary OT protocols, such as Modbus and EtherNet/IP.

Moxa’s Solutions

Industrial Ethernet Switches
  • Moxa’s industrial Ethernet switches are designed with -40 to 75°C wide operating temperatures and are EMI/EMC certified.
  • Layer 2 Smart Switches support EtherNet/IP, PROFINET, and Modbus TCP industrial protocols for easy integration and monitoring in automation HMI/SCADA systems.
  • Advanced Managed Switches provide real-time and visualized central network management through MXview and cybersecurity features based on IEC 62443-4-2.
  • Layer 3 Managed Switches offer bandwidth of up to 10G for large-scale networks to bridge various IT and OT systems.
  • If you want to know how to address the challenge of making invisible machines and devices visible, download our application note to learn more.


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