Industrial Wireless Communication and its Impact on Manufacturing

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There is no silver bullet of a solution in the form of an off-the-shelf industrial wireless communication system for a given requirement.

What is Industrial Wireless Communication?

Industrial wireless communication means machines and devices communicating with each other as well as with human operators without physical connections by cables. Imagine there was no wireless in industry. Consider the typical shop floor with all the machines, control panels and automation paraphernalia like relays, sensors, etc., all needing cables to connect with each other to send the signals for operation and the resultant jumble of wires. The concept of industrial wireless communication is not new. It has been around for over 3 decades now in various forms beginning with radio connection initially, and later the Wi-Fi. However, by wireless what is implied is data communication and cables are still needed for electricity supply and also hydraulic/pneumatic pipelines where the machines and equipment need these. But in general, wireless technology cuts the clutter and problems that occur due to damaged cables and connections.

The Challenges of Industrial Wireless Communication

Data communication is a vital part of the Industry 4.0 ecosystem that aims to create smart factories by networking all the machines with embedded devices. Though the idea of industrial wireless communication sounds simple, especially in view of the proliferation of Wi-Fi devices in day-to-day life, there are many challenges when it comes to implementation in the industrial environment. First and foremost, with all the machines and metallic equipment running on electricity, there is a lot of electromagnetic interference (EMI) or the disturbance caused by an electromagnetic field, which adversely affects the performance of wireless communication with the ‘noise’ it generates. The other major issue is bandwidth and frequency related, which affects the performance by causing system faults due to overcrowding of devices. The third significant factor is the harsh environment of a manufacturing plant with all the heat and dust, and in case of process industries, the corrosive environment due to the presences of vapours and chemicals. Finally, there is the matter of standards and protocols, and the interoperability of products from different suppliers, that need to be matched for compatibility of devices as well as address the cybersecurity concerns. All these challenges call for careful consideration and professional expertise for implementation of industrial wireless communication solutions.

Industrial Wireless Communication Solutions for the Smart Factory

One of the most common mistakes that occurs is when enterprises approach industrial wireless communications networks from the IT perspective. Unlike the IT environment where regular modems and routers can perform satisfactorily, the conditions in OT are different and call for specialised devices to meet all operational requirements in varying conditions. Personnel and equipment safety, reliability of the devices, and productivity are the top priorities here. The concept of smart factory or digital factory essentially evolved thanks to the advances in communications technologies which enabled connected machines and devices for highly flexible and customised manufacturing. This needs precision and accuracy with no room for error. A second of lost communication can cause not just a disruption in the process, but also damage the equipment, and worse, compromise the safety of personnel and equipment. Since technology is in continuous evolution mode, where there are problems, solutions are also available; and so is the expertise in the form of experienced professionals to implement them.

 

Conclusion

Today there are solution providers galore catering to a burgeoning post-pandemic market where digitalisation has become a priority. But there is no silver bullet of a solution in the form of an off-the-shelf industrial wireless communication system for a given requirement. The ideal solution is a carefully crafted one, devised by taking into consideration actual requirements, existing machinery and equipment with room for expansion, the selection of devices and compatibility, and so on. A solution that seems perfect for a warehouse may not suit discrete manufacturing; a process plant may have its own special requirements. An experienced solution provider like ENPWS, with decades of experience in automation and robotics, can help enterprises implement a robust industrial wireless communication system by studying the operational requirements at length, and coming with the optimum solution that also factors in the total cost of ownership. Talk to us today! Reach us on rfq@enwps.com

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