Digitalization can be daunting. But with the right technologies, you can take the following steps to prepare your factory for Industry 4.0:
1) Connect Your Serial Devices to Ethernet
If your factory uses barcode scanners, weight scales, RFID readers, or other equipment with a serial interface, a serial-to-Ethernet gateway will enable you to connect these devices to your system network. This gives you the ability to control, monitor, and communicate with the serial devices in your plant from a PLC or industrial PC.
With web-based configuration, example programs, and windows-based management application, PortVison®, the DeviceMaster® serial and industrial Ethernet gateways from Pepperl+Fuchs deliver near plug-and-play industrial connectivity. The DeviceMaster gateway family enables RS-232/422/485 serial devices to connect to Ethernet or industrial Ethernet networks running EtherNet/IP, MODBUS TCP, or PROFINET while also providing solutions for EtherNet/IP to MODBUS and PROFINET to MODBUS communication.
2) Network Your Systems Using IO-Link Masters with OPC UA
The platform-independent, interoperable, and cross-vendor collaboration of machines in production is possible with OPC UA, short for Open Platform Communication Unified Architecture. This enables communication between machines and systems in closed networks and via internet.
Pepperl+Fuchs ICE 2 (EtherNet/IP) and ICE 3 (PROFINET) IO-Link master series incorporate OPC UA support with IO-Link masters for the first time. Both new IO-Link master series include an OPC UA interface and an industrial Ethernet protocol for connecting IO-Link devices to factory and enterprise networks. This makes them ideal for less time-sensitive cloud-based applications. The web-based configuration concept does not require additional software, so they are an optimal solution for standalone applications without PLC control.
3) Build a High-Performance Ethernet Network
Industrial Ethernet switches are key to the smooth operation of any network. The switches transmit, receive, and efficiently route data between wired and wireless machines signed into the network, meaning they are critical to reliable communication of wired devices.
RocketLinx® managed and unmanaged Ethernet switches from Pepperl+Fuchs are designed for rugged applications that require high-performance communication and reliable data transfer. Unmanaged switches provide an easy-to-configure, cost-effective solution for networking low-level field devices. RocketLinx managed switches, on the other hand, are used in the design of more complex networks and offer a wide array of additional features to support help with redundancy, security, authentication, and traffic management.
4) Connect Your Factory to The Cloud
Securely connecting your factory to a central data service is one of the first steps you can take toward Industry 4.0. Doing so can make previously unused or unavailable plant information centrally available. All process data can be stored in the cloud, so vital information is accessible to smartphones, tablets, PCs, and enterprise applications 24/7—across the globe.
Tools like the Neoception Asset Tracker, for example, monitor production equipment from the cloud. Pepperl+Fuchs IDENTControl System RFID readers use tags to identify assets. The object-specific information then travels through a gateway to the Neoception Cloud, where the data can be viewed at any time. This leads to a more detailed overview of assets and makes it easier to plan production processes.