Evolution on the Food and Beverage Plant Floor: from Conception to ConnectionFollow article
Advancements over recent years have led to vast improvements in quality, productivity and safety on the factory floor. The introduction of automation and robotics into the food and beverage market has created a more sustainable food industry, but how are manufacturers introducing innovative networking technologies to their plant floor and what are the benefits?
The benefits of migrating to Ethernet
Continuous monitoring of production processes is crucial in industries such as food and beverage, where manufacturers try to optimise the uptime on the plant floor and are often required to meet regulations. Despite being designed originally for use in offices, Ethernet has enabled many manufacturers to collect and communicate data in real-time.
Industrial Ethernet offers a multitude of benefits for manufacturers connecting equipment on the plant floor to an enterprise network, including:
- Decreased plant downtime because of enhanced equipment performance
- Optimized equipment performance from coordinated monitoring and control
- Cost savings due to improved energy efficiency and resource management
- Faster information flow thanks to increased data transmission speeds
- Increased business intelligence through wide access to information
EtherNet/IP, a leading Ethernet solution, can be used in applications including factory automation, process control and robotics. Molex has a range of Ethernet industry standard products that are designed to meet Ethernet specifications. These include industrial and harsh-duty switches, a range of M12 receptacles and cordsets, and more.
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The importance of ensuring reliability
Moving Ethernet networks out of the cabinet and onto the plant floor risks exposure to some of the harshest environments. To implement a successful Ethernet network, the infrastructure must be faultless, so choosing environmentally suitable, reliable connectors and cables is vital to maintaining uptime on the plant floor.
Molex’s Brad connectivity products provide one convenient source for specifying numerous passive interconnect and industrial communications requirements for industrial applications. Providing reliability across factory floors, Molex’s Brad range includes cables, cordsets, switches, I/O modules, interface cards and much more.
Overcoming delays to migration
Despite the availability of such products, the cautious approach of many manufacturers has led to delays in improving their automation systems. Many manufacturers find a product that is suitable for their needs and continue to use this product for the decades that follow, even if it means delaying upgrades to a better system.
Additionally, manufacturers in the food and beverage market face unique challenges that may impact their incentive to change. Challenges such as contamination prevention, safety for workers and consumers, critical environmental conditions, extensive cleaning procedures and adhering to regulations are likely to complicate the implementation and adoption of new systems.
Factory floors of the future
The need for manufacturers to explore the possibilities of innovative plant floor networking technologies is increasing as they look to grow profits and improve operational efficiencies. A well-structured migration to Industrial Ethernet will enable manufacturers in the food and beverage space to retain legacy systems that still hold relevance, as well as tap into innovative applications that will support growth in the future.
From the dry areas of the process to the most demanding harsh environments, Molex’s industrial communication, connectivity, power, control and plant accessory products meet the increasing automation requirements of the food and beverage industry.
View Molex's Food and Beverage Interactive Guide here