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Process industries generate Ethernet boom

14 December 2009

The European industrial Ethernet market is set to reach $307.12 million (€209.38 million) by 2015 according to a recent report by Frost & Sullivan. The analysis suggests that the market will grow as process industries turn to centralised networks.

Process industries have begun to acutely feel the need to reduce plant downtime through real-time knowledge sharing and high-speed communication protocol. They require intelligent devices that extend location-independent control over other automation components to facilitate rapid information recovery and immediate response as well as optimise asset utilisation of the plant.

However, implementing sophisticated information systems entails the deployment of a vast array of devices across the plant, which, in turn, necessitates seamless data flow across different modules of the process infrastructure – right from low-level field devices to business-level decision-making systems. This complex connectivity can be simplified by using a high-speed open system and a central network, such as the industrial Ethernet, which assures complete transparency in operation.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Strategic Analysis of European Industrial Ethernet Market, finds that market is expected to earn revenues of $307.12 million by 2015. The study provides insights into different industrial Ethernet protocol such as Modbus transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP), Profinet, Ethernet IP, EtherCAT, Ethernet PowerLink and other protocols.

As centralised networks are the order of the day, industrial Ethernet service and device providers will be hoping to generate good revenues because the prognostic capability of their devices is ideal to provide a centralised communication link to all process and control system components.

“Ethernet devices used for either enterprise application or production process work with the same technology and hence, offer the benefits of working on a common and shared platform,” said Frost & Sullivan research analyst Khadambari Shanbagarman. “This creates the flexibility of sharing the network, lowering additional expenses and reducing unwanted cabling.”

This flexibility also helps convey field-level data to the business application, enabling the close functioning of the plant, which, in turn, eases workforces’ operations. In fact, Ethernet devices greatly emphasise the need for predictive maintenance capability, which provides great workforce mobility in large plants.

Further, industrial Ethernet allows the system to be connected to the plants’ intranet, where information from various plants can be accessed across different facilities and information can be quickly transmitted even across diverse geographies. This indicates that the Ethernet set up helps in a seamless connectivity across all parts of the plant network and the real time information is made readily available to the user.

Despite their obvious advantages, end users are willing to employ industrial Ethernet technologies only in their new projects or in Greenfield applications. The global economic downturn and the consequent credit crunch has resulted in fewer investments in industrial Ethernet for retrofits/existing projects.

End-user segments such as oil and gas and chemicals have been traditionally slow adopters of new technologies such as Ethernet because of the technology’s lack of a proven track record.

Nevertheless, end users’ low awareness about the technology can be remedied once suppliers launch education campaigns about the technicalities and long-term benefits of using Ethernet. The price issue can also be resolved once suppliers achieve economies of scale.

“The commonly available protocols such as modbus TCP/IP and Ethernet IP are available at competitive prices due to the extensive usage of these devices on factory floors,” noted Shanbagarman. “In the case of deterministic protocols such as EtherCAT and Ethernet PowerLink, the costs of devices decrease once the actuator sensor interface (ASI) and field programmable gate array (FPGA) prices are reduced, making them affordable to more customers.”


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