Manufacturers are working to take advantage of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) by automating their manufacturing and industrial practices. While this digital transformation can boost efficiency, productivity, and safety, it also presents significant challenges for network connectivity.
Not only is IIoT difficult for the networking and IT professionals responsible for this digital transformation journey, but the impacts of a global pandemic have exacerbated and accelerated the implementation of IIoT, Machine-to-Machine (M2M), Artificial Intelligence (AI), wireless, automation and remote management for manufacturers.
This is why many major global manufacturers are selecting Passive Optical LAN (OLAN) as their preferred network architecture to mitigate IIoT, M2M, AI, wireless, automation and remote management concerns. These same manufacturers favor OLAN because it is the best choice relative to:
- Long Distances
- Harsh Environments
- Speed Moves, Adds and Changes
- Strict Security
- Lower Costs
Long Distances – Manufacturers are challenged not only with long distances across their sprawling properties, but also by the height from floor to ceiling. Often operating these networks means the IT staff needs to use forklifts to reach switches, which adds even greater concerns. By installing a Passive Optical LAN, Ethernet connectivity with Power over Ethernet (PoE) can reach over 1000’ instead of just 300’ – and the need to do IT work on scissor-lifts goes away.
Harsh Environments – These environments can be hot, cold, sterile and be challenged with electrical interferes. They are a tough place to operate a network. With an Optical LAN design, the distributed optical-to-electrical converters, called Optical Network Terminals (ONT), can operate in extended temperature ranges, and their small form-factor makes them ideal for hardened enclosures allowing them to operate in the worst of conditions. Also, these fiber-based networks do not introduce, nor are they susceptible to, electromagnetic interference caused by machinery or other transmission systems.
Speed Moves, Adds and Changes – Moves, Adds and Changes, or MACs, in the manufacturing arena means adding whole new machines, or moving existing machines, on the plant floor. When these MAC events occur, the IT staff needs to adapt the physical network to connect these devices. Luckily the OLAN architecture delivers greater flexibility with better Ethernet density, and higher bandwidth, from a much smaller footprint, thus eliminating cable, switch, and technology hard limitations.
Strict Security – Network security is paramount whether the threat is a bad actor state, or a malicious employee (or contractor), or even a negligent employee (or contractor). Since Optical LAN is based on centralized intelligence, and management, it has a significantly smaller attack surface to defend that eliminates hundreds, and even thousands, of known points of network vulnerabilities. Plus, the IT staff can leverage the OLAN software defined network management to implement consistent, repeatable and error free security policies and procedures.
Lower Costs – Manufacturers are struggling with rising costs associated with IT and networking, including software, support, equipment, operational and technology refresh expenses. With Optical LAN, IT departments enjoy day-1 capital and year-over-year operational savings. Better yet, their investment is protected against business disruptive technology upgrades with this future-proof fiber-based network in place.
If you would like to get more information on this topic, click here to view our 30-minute webcast replay on-demand to learn how manufacturers can better navigate their digital transformation to Industry 4.0 with a more modern fiber-based network infrastructure design using Optical LAN.