Just as wireless plays a discernible role in everyday life, it has also begun to play a significant role in industrial environments including industrial networking. It helps managers gather data, monitor equipment and perform remote troubleshooting. However, this technology still poses challenges for suppliers and integrators who need to ensure not only that reliability is high, but also that security is solid and costs are within budget.
Wireless has been shown not only to reduce costs, its use in manufacturing also improves uptime, saves energy, and improves workplace safety. It does so by reducing both network installation and maintenance expenses. In addition, wireless can transmit data throughout a plant by penetrating walls and floors. Therefore, it also eliminates wiring costs as well as cable routing problems, while placing fewer restrictions on the location and placement of equipment.
In addition, wireless is also faster to install, which is particularly important on factory floors that need to reconfigure manufacturing and assembly lines quickly and efficiently in order to ensure a minimal amount of downtime. By using wireless, it eliminates the need to re-route or install cables when reconfiguration or change the physical layout of an assembly line is necessary. The plant manager can just move the machines to new locations and turn on the wireless network.
Ethernet switches play an essential role in monitoring the position and presence of doors, booms, and valves. However, wired switches can be difficult to install and maintain and may lead to expensive downtime. Wireless switches not only help to reduce maintenance costs because the equipment connections are less complex, they also simplify troubleshooting. Furthermore, Wireless networks increase system reliability by eliminating the potential for continuity issues caused by wiring or connectors.
Additionally, wireless can be used beyond the floors of the factory. In fact, is often considered the best networking technology for outdoor applications. These include shipping centers, warehouse yards, lumberyards, airports, and fueling stations. Wireless is preferred in large, open locations where underground cables are at constant risk from harsh environmental elements including having heavy vehicles travel across them. While there are industrial cables and switches, it can take weeks to troubleshoot and repair a broken cable under a large driveway.
There are some considerations that need to be taken into account when using wireless in an industrial setting. These include the fact that, like Ethernet, existing wireless technology was not developed manufacturing and, therefore, no considerations for real-time response or determinism are inherent in the media.
Therefore, wireless is highly susceptible to interference from a variety of sources and this can cause transmission errors. As with the installation of Ethernet into industrial and manufacturing setting, care should be taken to ensure that Industrial Ethernet Switches are used. They are better suited for the extreme conditions that occur within these facilities.
The best thing may be to combine both wired and wireless on the factory floor. Wireless can be used as a backup system for when cabling problems arise. In addition, equipment that needs wired links for speed and reliability can have a backup wireless connection to ensure that some data can be sent even if a cable is disconnected.