The need for factories to scale and operate more efficiently is ramping up quicker than ever. What does this mean? It means older devices on the floor that use multiple types of legacy serial based industrial protocols, need to get converted Ethernet based industrial protocols like Ethernet/IP, MODBUS TCP etc... Many times, these floors are expanding their networks through the addition of devices to prepare for and align with company growth goals. All these reasons lead to the anticipated growth of the global industrial Ethernet switch market at 14% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) between 2017 and 2023 (Source: Global Report on Industrial Network Switches - Market Watch). In US dollars, this market value is figured to be worth $2 billion by the end of the forecast period.

Industrial Cybersecurity

As more factory networks connect to cloud applications and converge with enterprise networks, spotting vulnerabilities becomes more difficult. The average cost of a data breach in 2021 can exceed $150 million. As you can see, taking precautions on your network security today will pay dividends in the years to come. Many companies today have cybersecurity initiatives to create protection from these threats. Designing the right switch into your manufacturing network is an important element of preventing cybersecurity threats while sustaining visibility.

Knowledge Gap for Complex Networking

To keep up with the growing manufacturing demands, your factory needs to have a network to gather data and bring visibility to production. While many factories have a network in place, others are just starting; the increased complexity of a connected plant network is often very difficult for operators to manage because those in charge often don’t have a networking background. Some companies may expect or rely on their OT (Operational Technicians) to manage this network transformation or expansion. However, their skill set is traditionally rooted in serial communications, not networking. They may have a basic understanding of networking, but to configure, monitor and manage network traffic, all while keeping it secure takes someone with an IT background. Unfortunately, if existing IT resources are not available, hiring or outsourcing for this talent adds additional cost to an organization.

Connecting Industrial Protocols

As you begin to think about expanding your network with industrial switches, it’s important to first understand and identify the different industrial protocols that may be connected on your network. Ethernet/IP, Modbus TCP, and PROFINET are all examples of industrial protocols, and the list doesn’t stop there. Not all industrial managed switches have the ability to connect these industrial protocols, so it’s something to consider. The benefit? It allows OT engineers, who are familiar with these protocols, to view the status of each industrial device on a SCADA or HMI in its native language. This can dramatically reduce response times of potential network issues since you eliminate the need to contact an IT expert, who typically specializes in managing non-industrial protocols.

Which Switch is Right For You?

Once you’ve identified what challenge(s) you’re trying to solve, you can start to look into which type of switch will best meet your needs. There are two options when it comes to Ethernet switches: unmanaged and managed. Both can be a viable solution depending on your application. Click on the switch below to gain a deeper understanding of the benefits, so you can better determine which is right for you.