Conversation with: Zach P., Controls Engineer

Topic: Communication Protocols

Proper communication protocols are critical to the success of your automation integration. Each piece of equipment in your factory needs to be able to “talk” to each other to ensure processes run correctly and your operation is streamlined. Depending on the manufacturer and type of equipment, a new installation may not “speak the same language” as the machines you already have. That’s where communication protocols come in.

Zach is a Controls Engineer who leads the implementation of communication protocols that allow the equipment Wes-Tech installs to speak with your current machines and with each other. He talked to us about why it is so important for automation hardware and software to work together seamlessly and communicate with each other, as well as collecting data.

Zach explained that, for organizations that may be looking to improve efficiency, find out how well your production is doing, and get a strong read on how much money you are making from each line, you need as much data as you can get, and you need it to be good data. The more information you can get from the machines on the line, the more data you will have to help you optimize your process, understand how the processes are working on the floor, and determine how you can improve them.

“As we continue to move away from having hardwired signals between equipment, all communication is becoming digital. This allows devices to be smarter, and react better to each other. And the new protocols we can develop allow you to work in real time, giving you more information about the events the machines are experiencing.”

As discussed in our post series about the Wes-Tech process, we first work to define the problem and then to develop the right solution for you. Machine communications is one of the many components to your overall solution. The Wes-Tech engineering team begins by analyzing what you currently have and then works to develop an interface that communicates over industry standard protocols. First, that might include simplifying hardware – for example it now only takes one cable with four conductors to do what used to take 20 or more cables. Next you would choose the protocol you want to use, which depends on two main things:

  • Your hardware: Manufacturers use different “languages,” so we consider which languages the equipment already uses and the type of main cell controller.
  • Your goals: That is, whether it makes sense to replace equipment or keep it and whether you want to mix between multiple brands of products for your new solution.

Once these questions are answered, the Wes-Tech engineers program the devices and the logic to ensure your new solution fits together with what you already have.

Ensuring your communications protocols are done right has a number of benefits. The right programming will make you more efficient by giving you more and better information about how your processes are operating. When the right amount of thought goes into this step it can reduce your maintenance needs by streamlining wiring connections and cutting down on cables. And ultimately, ensuring the right amount of attention to this step will help improve your operations.

“When Wes-Tech comes in to develop a solution for your shop, we can help do a quick run through of your whole floor to ensure everything is working together. When the project is first being discussed, we will look for ways to help streamline your communication protocols for any new equipment, and can even look at what would work best for your entire operation.”

Whether you already know your communications protocol and data collection needs and just want an experienced team to give you suggestions on how to get there, or you need us to come up with the solution that will work best based on your operation, the Wes-Tech team is here to help you get the absolute most value out of your engagement with us.

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