Industrial Communication - Needs of Users

Ethernet and fieldbus are the two main keywords when talking about industrial communication systems. In spite of the various developments of intelligent, flexible, and complex control systems, the needs of the users in industrial communication should not be neglected.

Parallel Use

You know already from your computer at home: Certain programs are not compatible with every operating system, and some do not want to cooperate with others. Here, different operating systems always cause headaches.
In order to prevent this for the users of industrial communication systems, for some time there has been a standardized test and certification system that obliges the manufacturers of field components of Industrial Ethernet and fieldbus systems to make sure that all of their devices can exchange data and synchronize each other via a common network.
When a device does not have such a certificate, it is not certified as equipment.

Fieldbus or Ethernet?

Here also, the users of industrial communication systems do not have to worry. As old installations often have to be taken over, expanded, or modernized (or partly modernized), transparent network gateways and the compatibility of fieldbus and industrial Ethernet networks have merely been a logical development. In practice, special gateways and coupling systems have been developed.

What are the advantages of Ethernet?

The needs of users, not only in industrial communication, clearly show the tendency to be able to execute more complex tasks in increasingly easy ways.
The real data transfer of Ethernet can even be concentrated into a single installation system, which among other things, offers the advantages listed here to the user:

  • Only a single cable is laid, which reduces the installation expense considerably.
  • Not only is maintenance easier, but the training of installation and maintenance personnel is also less expensive.
  • Fault correction is facilitated and shortened. It is even possible to correct a fault during operation without problems.
  • All networks more or less have uniform engineering and configuration tools.
  • The collected information of the network can be processed by all partial components, depending on the configuration.

Complex structure , but simplified operation

Users of industrial communication also need some time to get used to new systems. Now, the individual components of Ethernet can be newly combined depending on the task, which does not really facilitate the operation.
To also meet the needs of the users of industrial communication systems, Ethernet networks are constructed as follows:

Individual partial components (slaves) are combined and controlled by a common controller (master).
The masters can communicate with each other by means of a common network.
However, should a lateral communication of the individual field components be more efficient for the data transfer, this is also possible.
Basically, this means that communication of masters and/or slaves with each other is possible.

This reduces the load for the main control of the plants, which perfectly meets the needs of the users of industrial communication.

Long-term Costs

The acquisition costs for new devices are often the least part of the resulting costs of new systems. Particularly in industrial communication, the users naturally prefer lower maintenance costs.
For this reason, the operators of fieldbus and Ethernet systems have started an initiative to simplify maintenance and servicing of their networks and field components and to keep their costs as low as possible.
After the easily understandable device description files GSD and EDS, concrete approaches to this were also developed, for example:

  • FDT (Field Device Tool)
  • TCI (Tool Calling Interface)
  • EDDL (Electronic Device Description Language)

The program of the future in this field will probably be FDI (Field Device Integration).

The special needs of users of industrial communication regarding cost reductions

Industrial communication systems are used exclusively by companies and plants. These must make a profit competing with the huge number of competitors continuously on the increase in the course of globalization. This is done best by increased efficiency and cost reduction for production and general operation. As these in many cases already operate with local networks (LAN), their expansion to Ethernet or fieldbus networks for better control of production and manufacturing means appears rather logical.
Furthermore, the modern industrial communication systems offer their users further benefits:

  • Saving of raw materials by more precise control of production and especially the dosing processes.
  • Saving of primary energy not only lowers the electricity costs, but also leads to lowering of the CO2 balance.
  • The improved capability for order-related manufacture and the related reduction of stock.
  • In connection with this, the capability for pro-active diagnosis and shorter down-times.
  • The capacity of the systems for continued monitoring of measuring values and tolerances leads to increased product quality and reduced defective production.

The future of the needs of users of industrial communication

Fieldbus and Ethernet clearly represent the future of industrial communication, thus the demand for these systems will clearly rise.
In the course of globalization, these systems will initially give their users and operators a significant market advantage, but it is to be expected that with the passage of time, these will become a kind of standard for all production and manufacturing plants.
A considerable demand for these highly complex technologies is also to be expected from the highly dynamic sector of renewable energies.