Recently, Rockwell Automation held its annual Automation Fair, which brings together system integrators and machine builders to learn about the latest in automation technology and trends. The main focus of this year’s Automation Fair was the so-called connected enterprise, which involves integrating operational technology (such as drives and controls on the factory floor) with information technology (IT) and business systems such as ERP and supply-chain systems in order to increase productivity.
To that end, Rockwell Automation and Cisco announced the release of a white paper and design and implementation guide titled, “Deploying 802.11 Wireless LAN Technology within a Converged Plantwide Ethernet Architecture.” The detailed design guidance aims to help control system engineers, IT network engineers, and system integrators implement standard, IP-based wireless networks in a more robust, secure and scalable way.
The guide provides in-depth information on 802.11 wireless LAN (WLAN) solutions within a Converged Plantwide Ethernet (CPwE) architecture, including design considerations for fixed position, nomadic and mobile equipment use cases. It also includes explanations for how to configure, maintain and troubleshoot WLAN for each use case, and detailed documentation on how the architectures were tested and validated by Cisco and Rockwell. Using the new resource, network designers can create a small network within a plant using a single autonomous access point, and scale up to create a larger, unified WLAN architecture.
“Wireless has an increasingly important role in the industrial network infrastructure,” said Ashok Patel, network architect at Owens Corning, the world’s largest manufacturer of fiberglass technology. “Managing both data collection and automation control over 802.11 is viable today if you understand and deploy the architecture and design best practices outlined in the new resources from Rockwell Automation and Cisco.”
“Wi-Fi networks (or IEEE 802.11) are incredibly useful in factory and plant applications – so useful that manufacturers must thoughtfully plan their Wi-Fi networks as an infrastructure serving all types of applications,” said Harry Forbes, senior analyst, ARC. “This new and timely resource from Rockwell Automation and Cisco incorporates lessons that many manufacturers learned through experience.”
Earlier this year, Rockwell and Cisco announced a collaboration to offer a training course and certification in the Internet of Things (or IoT) for developers. (We wrote about that here.) This latest announcement builds on that momentum by focusing on manufacturing enterprises and integrating devices such as drives and controllers into larger network architectures.