IT and Controls – Working Together for Better Industrial Networking

Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Mark Wylie, a Belden manager with many years of experience working in both the controls and IT domains. He is responsible for our Industrial Ethernet Infrastructure and Certified Industrial Network programs.

If you are a controls or process engineer you will have noticed the direct involvement of IT while designing and deploying industrial Ethernet. While the networks and technologies come together easily, the language, culture and standard practices used by IT are very different. Indeed, they often pose a significant problem in a production environment.

If you are an IT professional working in a production environment you’ve probably run into a ton of resistance and anxiety from others based on perceived differences. Take heart, your skills are still valuable and may just require a few new twists and tweaks.

In today’s article, I hope to bring some understanding to both sides so that you can work together to better meet your company’s common goals.


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ICS Security for Oil and Gas Applications, Part 2 of 2

My previous article covered part of Scott Howard’s presentation on ICS Security for Oil and Gas applications from this year’s Design Seminar. In that article, we reviewed some of the cyber security fundamentals discussed by Scott.

For example, we examined the fact that most cyber threats are unintentional and originate from within the control network. We also looked at the fact that a perimeter defense is not sufficient and that IT solutions are not appropriate on the plant floor.

Instead, what’s needed is Defense in Depth, that is, multiple layers of defense that work together to prevent network incidents or contain them if they do occur. A key best practice for Defense in Depth is to implement the zone and conduits model as defined in the ISA IEC 62443 standard. While not a regulation, this standard provides practical guidance that leads to more robust cyber security.

Today, we will take a closer look at zones and conduits and then review how they were be implemented in three oil and gas applications.


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3 Steps to Selecting the Right Industrial Cables for Oil and Gas Projects

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Peter Cox, cable expert, and a Project Manager in Belden’s Industrial IT group, for his contribution to this article.

From subsea drilling 6,000 feet below the surface to pipelines that cross many landscapes to intense refining processes, the range of conditions for oil and gas installations is very broad. As a design engineer, you may be involved with many types of projects with very different requirements. How then do you approach selecting the right cable for an oil and gas application?

But won’t any cable do? Certainly not! Cable issues account for more than 70% of signal transmission issues and they are difficult to diagnose and resolve. With downtime costing thousands of dollars per hour, availability requirements demand that the right cable is specified for each use.

The good news is that despite the broad range of oil and gas applications many of them share common cable requirements. In this article I take away the voodoo and spell out the 3 easy steps to selecting the right cable.

Windows XPFigure 1: These drill rigs are an example of “harsher” environment for cable use.
Image Credit: 
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New PRP Redundancy Extends Industrial Wireless Applications – Part 1 of 2

Editor’s Note: This article was contributed by Julia Santogatta, Belden’s director responsible for the wireless initiatives and Tobias Heer, Belden’s Head of Embedded Development.

Several months ago we asked whether you have moved wireless projects off the back burner yet. The reason we asked is because new advances in technology and standards mean it’s probably time to take a fresh look at industrial wireless.

One of the most common concerns about wireless for wide-ranging mission critical applications has always been – and still is – reliability. Will it work in your noisy environment? Will it be robust enough to ensure your data makes it to its destination? Can it ever provide you the assurance you need that it is stable enough?

These are all good questions. Up until now, there have been many techniques and planning guides written to help address those concerns. However, there hasn’t been an integrated, tried and true solution to really hit the mark I’m sure you’ve been striving for – zero failover, zero data loss.

Recent advances in technology and standards have changed this. These advances have made industrial wireless applications much more stable, reliable, fast, secure and a lot easier to deploy. This is in part thanks to the use of an updated and improved protocol called Parallel Redundancy Protocol (PRP).

In this Part 1 of a two-part series on redundancy techniques for reliable industrial Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs), I will explain why PRP technology makes wireless worth another look.

Yesterday’s Industrial Wireless Applications

  • Traditionally, wireless LANs have been used in industry when:
  • Cable is too heavy for the application.
  • Cable will not perform under the wear and tear of the application.
  • Cable is impossible to use because the application involves mobile machines or vehicles.

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Manufacturing IT: Separate the Industrial Network from the IT Network

One of the indicators that it’s time to update your network design is when troubleshooting issues take too long and having a significant impact on production. That was one of the issues Johnson Controls’ Automotive Experience Group was facing when it decided its “one size fits all” flat network infrastructure had to change.

The flat network design had been controlled by the IT department which initially did not understand how the good practices it used to manage the enterprise network were disrupting the plant floor network.

As the demand for real-time information has increased, more and more IT professionals are becoming involved with manufacturing networks. If you are one of those people, or if you are an engineer who wishes IT understood your operational network requirements, then the Johnson Controls story that follows may be helpful. Read more »

Eric Byres Receives ISA Award for Industrial Security Leadership

Today I am glad to be writing about a good news story. That story is that Belden’s Eric Byres is being awarded the ISA (International Society of Automation) Excellence in Leadership award for his contributions to the automation industry in the area of industrial security.

This award must be particularly exciting for Eric because it is awarded by his peers, that is, members of ISA. Read more »

Industrial Ethernet Cable: Should It Be Copper or Fiber?

Recently I attended the Belden Industrial Ethernet Infrastructure Design Seminar and one of the sessions that I sat in on was regarding selecting copper and fiber cable. This event has traditionally focused on networking topics but the cable sessions attracted attendees seeking proficiency in end to end systems.

The fact that the majority of industrial network failures occur due to signal transmission issues is a very good reason to be more knowledgeable about cabling solutions. Downtime costs for mission critical networks can range from $25,000/hour for an oil pipeline to $45,000/hour for a power plant.

If damaged or unsuitable cable is at the root of an outage, its duration can be lengthy because it is difficult to troubleshoot cable issues. With cable then, there is a real incentive to install the right product for the job the first time. With this in mind, let’s consider industrial Ethernet cabling options.



Four pair copper cable is shown on top and fiber cable is shown on the bottom. Signals are transmitted via copper when using copper cable and by light when using fiber cable.

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Oil Refinery uses Industrial Wireless for Remote Monitoring

Looking back in time it might be fair to say that smoke signals used during America’s Wild West days were one of the original wireless communications. For their era, they were pretty effective.

Sending information quickly across distances is still important. Traditionally, landlines and wired connectivity have provided the best communications solutions. If it is not possible to link systems by wires, communication has been very difficult, particularly for industrial applications.

Into this wired world came wireless technology, for example, the personal mobile phone. While clunky and unreliable at first, now it is the preferred telecommunication method for millions of people.

Similarly, concern about wireless security and reliability in industrial settings has limited deployment in the past. However, current technology now supports robust and reliable industrial Ethernet-based wireless systems. We are at a tipping point for the adoption of wireless, as shown in the following example of how one refinery is using it in areas where cable is not available or is too expensive to install. Read more »

Industrial Ethernet Helps Justify Equipment Upgrade

When you have equipment old enough to remember the Eisenhower administration (or even the Carter administration) it is important to have a plan before you have a problem.

In a manufacturing plant, equipment is expected to operate reliably for decades. As equipment approaches end-of-life, maintaining reliable uptime becomes more of a problem. Parts are harder to find. Vendors are winding down or discontinuing support. Maintenance people who understand the machinery have retired or moved on to other jobs. And, often, you have not been able to integrate the equipment into your plant communications system because of its age, which adds to maintenance and management costs. Read more »

Why High Performance VFD Cable is Important

Many industrial manufacturers are looking for ways to reduce their power consumption both to reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Industry accounts for over 40% of worldwide energy consumption and 65% of its power demand comes from electric motor-driven systems. One way to reduce greatly reduce the energy required to run motor systems is to use what are called “VFD”s. Read more »

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