One of the largest retailers in the US with a 100-year history, over 300,000 employees, and which produces around 40% of its private labels, knows a thing or two about service and quality. However, it was experiencing automation and device issues across its plant Ethernet network, which would inexplicably cease communications.
The company initially struggled with making its business network function as a plant floor network. The IT managers were using market-leading software tools for troubleshooting; however, when problems occurred at the plants, the IT tools were insufficient to identify the precise issues.
Industrial Network Visualisation and Analytics
The company was already familiar with IntraVUE software, Panduit’s application tool that provides visibility into all levels of devices and connectivity. It is designed to increase awareness of the physical infrastructure; produce data that speeds documentation and deployment, and more quickly pinpoint and resolve connectivity issues and failures.
With an understanding of the software’s capabilities management agreed to a test period at one of its dairy farms, which produces around 454,000 litres of milk each day. During the test period, a network disruption occurred that was particularly dire, causing nearly an entire day of downtime.
Some packets of data were arriving from the PLCs (programmable logic controller), however, not all data was being transmitted into the database server. The system screen indicated the data interruptions were coming from various PLCs. After multiple unsuccessful attempts to identify the source of the problem, the plant team contacted Panduit that evening to engage IntraVUE software, which was immediately deployed.
IntraVUE software pinpointed several PLCs with duplicate IP addresses. Specifically, it showed changes in IP addresses on some of the Rockwell-ENA 9300 network translators, which were causing the network to perform erratically. The team unplugged the devices with duplicate addresses which stabilised the network.
At another of the retailer’s plants, the network was also experiencing intermittent network issues, and the plant team could not determine the cause. The software was able to detect duplicate MAC addresses for two different devices on the same network. They then used IntraVUE software to isolate various devices on the network, located an undocumented, non-industrial device that was mounted above a false ceiling, and removed it, successfully resolving the problem.
Standard Across 30 Plants
Panduit helps the customer standardise with IntraVUE software across more than 30 facilities, where the software is now in general use. In addition, some plants integrated IntraVUE software to monitor and raise alarms and advise about sudden changes in network behaviour.
The solution has proven to be a valuable tool for the company’s control engineers and IT managers who need to troubleshoot within the automation networks. The customer also uses the software to provide notification emails to network personnel when there is an issue, whether it is a device that has gone offline or is consuming more bandwidth than normal.
Report details are tailored to help manufacturing IT teams provide relevant information to the critical plant stakeholders while maintaining their network’s secure and robust configuration. IntraVUE software can provide plant management with the overall uptime of their critical plant network at-a-glance, enable control engineers to determine the root cause of production system disruptions, and provide maintenance technicians with the tools to proactively care for them these critical network-enabled production systems.