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FEATURE ARTICLE | January 22, 2014
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How to Improve Production
Efficiency and Reliability with
Industrial Network Management
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FILED IN: Information Management, Networking
Understanding how one of the largest industrial
projects in the world manages its industrial network
makes clear why manufacturers of all sizes need to
embrace good network management to address
LEADERSHIP IN
production availability and efficiency requirements.
A U TO M A T I O N
One of the largest greenfield industrial projects in the
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world, the Qatar Aluminum (Qatalum) smelter located near
Mesajeed Industrial City in Qatar, was conceived to be
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one of the most cost-effective aluminum smelters in the
world. In addition, the plant had to meet strict environmental regulations. The facility includes
17 separate plants connected via an automated process control system.
Management of Qatalum’s entire operation starts when raw materials hit the dock. It
continues until the high-quality aluminum extrusion ingots and foundry alloys are
Information
Management
Allied Electronics
American Industrial Systems
Antaira Technologies
containerized and loaded on ships for delivery to sites around the world.
The industrial network used to connect Qatalum’s facilities and operations was designed by
ZMS Technology of Stuttgart Germany, and consists of more than 1,000 nodes. Based on
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his experience working on other industrial network projects, Shariq Khan, technical manager
of ZMS Technology, knew that employing manual maintenance strategies or using a series
of local workstations to manage cells of networks within a facility would not provide the
efficiency and accuracy required for Qatalum.
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With This Article
Rapid Installation
Manual configuration of network devices is tedious
and error-prone, especially when you’re working with a
network with more than 1,000 nodes. To automate
management of the network, ZMS Technology chose
Hirschmann’s Industrial HiVision network management
system (NMS) to smooth the way for site acceptance
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testing. Using this NMS, the Qatalum team was able
to:
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Connecting
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the Supply Chain
• Significantly reduce network installation time;Ensure
consistency
• Ensure consistency in network infrastructure
configurations; and
• Automate documentation of configuration
eWON Flexy
information.
Industrial HiVision’s installation and maintenance
Know the
Difference
Between IoT and
M2M
capabilities and powerful diagnostics quickly
recognized and mapped all components on the plant
network, including non-Hirschmann products. The
system was also able to configure common device
Automation Strategies >
Networking
parameters across multiple devices simultaneously,
dramatically reducing the time it took to get the
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network ready for test. The ability of the NMS to detect
inconsistencies between parameter configurations
reduced troubleshooting time.
Day-to-Day Operations Streamlined
With seventeen separate units at the facility, the
company often encounters cable crimping and
transmission errors, such as cyclic redundancy check
A Structured
Approach to
Cabling
(CRC) errors. Many of these problems are difficult to
find without the aid of a monitoring system.
The remote monitoring capabilities of Industrial
HiVision were very appealing to Bashir Habib, head of
IT infrastructure at Qatalum, because it allows for the easy pinpointing of such problems,
which can directly affect production.
“A centralized industrial network management system is an important element in overall
plant operation that allows Qatalum to consistently meet production goals,” Habib says.
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For day-to-day operations, the NMS only requires oversight by a single network
administrator working half-time to effectively oversee the entire network. This includes
carrying out repetitive but essential maintenance tasks such as changing passwords
regularly and implementing firmware updates.
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Cable breakdown is a particular concern due to the heat and arid conditions in Qatar. If
cables are not monitored properly they can deteriorate and cause network failures that
require expensive shutdowns and emergency maintenance. Qatalum uses Industrial
HiVision’s graphical interface and advanced monitoring capabilities for proactive
maintenance of the system.
Industrial NMS tools also make it easy to identify problematic connections. They can dig
down from the port to the switch and even to the cable to identify an area of potential failure.
Having this capability practically eliminates unplanned downtime. Without the NMS, the
alternative approach to fixing problem connections is to shut down a portion of the network
and sending a process engineer to troubleshoot—a very expensive process.
Sustained Uptime and Cost-Effectiveness
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Perhaps one of the greatest tests of the
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network management software came in
2012 when the system was upgraded. The
upgrade required an audit on all 1,000
nodes. In addition, nearly 100 changes
were implemented and checked.
The audit required a complete review of the
network, starting with the layer 2 switches
and following the network infrastructure
throughout the facility. This thorough audit
involved checking switches, network
backbone and firewall connections to the IT department, verifying each PLC’s attachment to
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the network, as well as conducting a damage assessment and accurately mapping the
thousands of cables used.
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“It took us eight days to complete the audit. If we had had to do it manually, it would have
taken months, and even then we would not have been 100 percent sure the upgrade was
complete. Industrial HiVision allowed us to manage the whole process with just a few clicks,”
said Khan.
Network Management Lessons
At the scale of an operation like Qatalum, only automated component management using a
NMS made sense. However, the benefits achieved here apply equally to smaller projects.
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The insight provided by an NMS into the details of the network’s operation provide a quick
payback in terms of engineer productivity. When you factor in the additional benefits of
improved reliability and auditing, it makes sense to consider use of an NMS as your Ethernet
network develops from ad hoc to infrastructure.
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Sidebar
Key NMS Characteristics
If you’re serious about moving your network from an ad hoc state to a true infrastructure,
here are few key things to be aware of as you explore network management systems.
To meet the needs of industrial applications, network management systems should have:
A highly visual interface that makes sense to automation engineers;
Support for industrial topologies;
Integration with SCADA devices; and
The ability to monitor devices from different vendors.
To be effective in improving the efficiency and reliability of the network and minimize
production downtime, the NMS should be able to:
Map all the components, from various vendors, on the network;
Configure common parameters across multiple devices simultaneously;
Detect inconsistencies between parameter configurations;
Offer event logging, filtering and forwarding; and
Allow for remote access and monitoring.
COMPANIES IN THIS ARTICLE: Belden Inc.
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