Systems Integration

Cisco and Rockwell Automation to integrate manufacturing and IT


May 07, 2007

Rockwell Automation and Cisco announced at the Hannover Messe last month that they are working together to optimize network integration across the factory floor and throughout the enterprise, using standard Ethernet technology.

The companies are working together on reference architectures and detailed design guidelines for the use of common networking technologies across the production and enterprise network. The architectures will use using standard networking technologies, such as EtherNet/IP.

The partnership was formed to help leverage common open technology with security and reliability, while meeting the varied requirements across functions for an optimized networking solution—a desire strongly expressed by the companies’ joint customers.

“Customers are telling us they want linked reference architectures supporting both the office network environment and the factory floor,” said Paul McNab, vice president of Enterprise Marketing for Cisco. “Both plant and IT managers need secure, real-time visibility between the production floor and enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and supply chain management systems. This network architecture will allow manufacturers to achieve real-time visibility with a secure control network using Ethernet.”

Mark Wylie, technology partner manager for Cisco, says the collaboration has been driven in part by a need for education. “We want to help manufacturers learn how they can set up a system and scale it as their needs change. Customers say, ‘We are comfortable with Ethernet as technology, but help us understand how we can set up a VLAN, and how we can use that to ensure that controls can stay on their own segment and still communicate with the rest of the enterprise.’”

According to customer feedback, establishing dialogue between manufacturing and IT is key to better the understanding of potential risks for each and, ultimately, to successful network integration, says Wylie.

Based on their respective knowledge of manufacturing and IT cultures, Rockwell Automation and Cisco will hold a series of educational seminars to help organizations implement change by establishing best practices between IT and manufacturing.