RS Components (RS), the trading brand of Electrocomponents plc (LSE:ECM), the global distributor for engineers, is offering a range of solutions and products that will help companies easily and cost effectively move into the Smart Factory arena and exploit the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The IIoT is underpinning the next industrial revolution, which relies on the collection of pertinent manufacturing data and then exploits it to give high-level software suites and decision makers the information they need to make dynamic, real-time decisions on the effective operation of their plants. This data flow can also be shared across all elements of the value stream, leading to more effective operations from raw materials and spares, through manufacturing and process control and onto on-going remote support in the field.
RS offers users two primary approaches to exploit the capabilities of the IIoT, neither of which involves significant capital expenditure or complex redesigns of existing systems. Users can either exploit the capabilities of contemporary PLC technologies or simply add the capability to tie existing legacy network infrastructures into modern communication systems.
According to Paolo Carnovale, Category Marketing Manager - Automation & Control at RS: “Industrial automation systems and IT infrastructures are complex and expensive assets. When new technologies become available, engineers cannot simply uproot them to start all over again. RS is introducing a series of devices to connect existing legacy systems to the Internet of Things. An installed sensor or PLC might have been designed to communicate through a serial port, and use Modbus as native protocol, but that doesn’t mean that their data cannot be translated and made suitable for IoT systems.”
From a replacement-PLC/controller perspective, RS offers a number of options from leading suppliers, including the Siemens SIMATIC S7-1200 + HMI KP300 Starter Kit, which offers a communication interface that fulfils the highest standards of industrial communication; and the Magelis SCU HMI controller starter kit from Schneider Electric, a panel PC that offers Ethernet connectivity for seamless integration into wider networks.
Software solutions also exist in the form of groov from Opto 22, which is a web-based operator interface system that connects easily to almost everything and is available either a standalone hardware appliance or as a PC-based Server for Windows. Intermediary devices can also be used to bring legacy systems into an Ethernet environment. One example being the ED-204 Ethernet Media Converter from Brainboxes, which can be used to link PLCs with PC-based data acquisition and analysis solutions.
Ethernet-capable sensors and devices, such as the AX8 from FLIR, are also becoming commonplace. With EtherNet/IP and Modbus TCP compliance, these devices can directly share analysis and alarm results with a bigger automated system. Ethernet capability is not essential for the IoT, as proved by the PyroNFC Infrared Temperature sensor from Calex. This sensor is fully configurable via a NFC-compatible smartphone, which can then act as the bridge to the wider network.
Engineers have a diverse range of options from RS for connecting into the Smart Factory. From simple discrete automation, through plant-wide line and process control and onto remote control and monitoring, even the oldest legacy solution can be connected into the information super highway in some way, giving decision makers greater scope for important operational improvements and performance gains – the foundations that underpin the fourth industrial revolution.