Industrial Automation

How to Bring Your Network Data and OT Data Together in One Place

Mehul Shah and Jeremy Friedmar
By breaking down barriers imposed by legacy infrastructure and disparate data, your plant can fast-track its Industry 4.0 journey by managing its network data and OT data together.


It’s a typical, busy day at your plant. Operators are working on assembly lines, overseeing manufacturing operations and conducting regular quality checks. Suddenly, production comes to a stop. You receive notification that a PLC stopped working. Every second of downtime translates to lost revenue. How can you quickly find out why the device went down—and get it running again?


In a traditional manufacturing environment, you may receive real-time alerts when a device malfunctions (thanks to tools capable of gathering and reporting on OT data). While these systems can let you know when a device stops working, they don’t always offer insights into root-cause analysis.


For example, the PLC device itself may be fine. Instead, the unexpected downtime could be caused by network congestion or cable disconnection. Because OT data doesn’t offer these insights into network performance, how can you know for sure?


Belden's team has experienced this disconnect in some of its own manufacturing plants. Because we weren’t able to connect network performance to OT data, our team was sometimes in the dark when it came to downtime or slowdowns: Was a device malfunctioning, or was a network problem impacting device communication?


Addressing the Gap Between OT Data and Network Analytics

Until now, not many vendors have been able to offer a platform that combines the nuances of both operational data and networking analytics. While they may offer solutions for both, those solutions are independent of one another. At the very least, as illustrated in the example above, this disconnect between the OT data pipeline and network analytics can create challenges with visibility and decision-making, as well as with compliance, interoperability and compatibility.


This means that plants must often deal with a variety of vendors as they work to meet their digital-transformation objectives, and they often have to integrate solutions through complex, manual business processes if they want to correlate OT data and network performance.


Belden noticed this industry gap and decided to address it—not only to help us meet our goals and improve our own production, but also to help you accelerate your digital transformation.


To do this, we expanded Belden Horizon, creating a comprehensive suite of software and services. As a result, plants now have access to an interoperable, industry-standard platform that covers OT data and network analytics, while also supporting centralized management of edge infrastructure.


OT Data Analytics: Wrangle Your OT Data

Data capabilities are necessary to accomplish Industry 4.0 objectives. Plant managers must be able to “hear” what their legacy and modern industrial assets are saying, and then analyze those conversations to make better decisions.


Belden Horizon Data Operations (BHDO) helps you fast-track your digitalization journey by breaking down the barriers imposed by legacy infrastructure and disparate data sources. You can collect data from legacy and modern industrial controls and sensors, contextualize and analyze it at the edge, and send it downstream for further processing.


Here’s how Belden Horizon Data Operations works to support your OT data and operations.


1. Discover and collect data from industrial assets

By gathering available data from I/O sensors, PLCs and other assets, it paints a fuller picture of what’s happening with every piece of equipment.


Prior to enabling asset communication, Belden Horizon helps plants discover all their industrial assets and the communication protocols they support. Then, Data Operations makes data collection possible regardless of protocols. Think about all the devices sitting on your plant floor. When one machine uses Modbus and another uses PROFINET, for example, it can help you collect data from those assets—plus many others by supporting more than 275 protocols.


As this problem becomes more prolific with additional equipment joining the network, the platform helps you unite data and protocols so they can be integrated, analyzed and applied together.


2. Contextualize and analyze data

Now that you have your data, you need to understand what it means. Data Operations also enables you to contextualize your data.


For example: You have numbers that represent a pump’s temperature and pressure—but what do those numbers really mean in the context of order processing or current shift operations? Is the pump performing as it should be? Job-function information often resides in IT systems, but Data Operations combines OT and IT data into a single, understandable view.


From there, you can gauge actual performance and draw actionable insights about things like averages, trends and performance that falls outside usual parameters. This allows you to answer critical questions about manufacturing efficiency, bottlenecks, quality and productivity.


3. Integrate and connect data to endpoints

You have your data, and you understand what it means—now it needs to be processed, analyzed and visualized to empower action.


To connect to endpoints and create a total edge-to-cloud data picture for your OT, IT and data science teams, your data most likely needs to make its way to an enterprise environment, whether that involves the cloud or a corporate data center in another location.


Data Operations helps you accomplish this so you can drill down into the metrics that matter most in your operation.


Network Analysis: Manage Edge Infrastructure and Network Performance

In addition to managing data, Belden Horizon software gives you everything you need to monitor, analyze and improve network performance and analytics so you can move toward a connected plant.


Belden Horizon Network Insights (BHNI) helps you discover industrial and networking assets and analyze your industrial network to gain insight into network performance and reliability.


By automatically sniffing industrial networking data and generating insights on what it notices, such as anomalies, security and performance issues on your wired and wireless networks, Network Insights helps you understand how your network is functioning.


It utilizes proprietary algorithms and machine learning models to generate insights that can help you monitor and improve metrics like:

  • Network uptime
  • Bandwidth and throughput
  • Latency
  • Reliability

Finally, it also works with any vendor’s networking devices, allowing plants to use whichever networking equipment works best for them while still gaining access to the insights they need.


Improve Plant Performance by Combining Data & Network Analytics

Belden Horizon’s suite of software and services helps you address and manage data and the network within one platform—all while enabling centralized management of your edge infrastructure.


Data Operations and Network Insights are vendor agnostic and work together to help you support and capitalize on OT data and operations while also managing network performance.


We’re constantly looking for ways to help you continue down the Industry 4.0 path. Check back often to learn more about how we can help you optimize plant performance based on OT data and network analytics. Stay tuned to our blog to learn more!



Related resources:

Network Access Control Is an Essential Part of Your OT Security

IT/OT Convergence is Happening Sooner vs. Later in Discrete Manufacturing

Key Challenges Facing IT/OT: Hear from the Experts