Industrial Ethernet

Preparing for the IIoT: A Pharma Case Study

The future of industrial automation is being shaped by the vision of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). In this vision the controllers, actuators and sensing devices used in manufacturing will be integral components of information networks. Cyber-physical interaction will lead to new products and services that we can’t even imagine today.

Every organization is at a different place in the journey towards the IIoT. For example, you might be implementing IT standard technologies such as TCP/IP networking and Ethernet. Or you might be updating your networks from an ad hoc system to a well-designed industrial Ethernet infrastructure. Perhaps you are focused on improving cybersecurity defenses.

Wherever you are, it is interesting and instructional to know what other companies are doing to prepare for the future. In today’s article we look at how a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical manufacturer in Saudi Arabia modernized its industrial network with high priority on resiliency, redundancy and scalability for the future.

Industrial Networking Team Delivers High Reliability

The LAN team of the pharmaceutical company worked with System Integrator ZMS Technology to update the plant’s industrial network. The result was improved reliability today and IIoT-ready industrial Ethernet infrastructure for tomorrow.


Pharmaceutical Plant Industrial Networking Requirements

Saudi Pharmaceutical Industries & Medical Appliances Corporation (SPIMACO) develops and manufactures pharmaceutical products and medical appliances. SPIMACO’s main manufacturing facility, the Al-Qassim Pharmaceutical Plant, is operated by 500 highly qualified professionals and has earned national quality awards plus major international certifications.

Its forward-thinking management team wanted to improve efficiencies and prepare for the IIoT. To do so, it decided to put all of the plant’s medicine manufacturing machines on a single well-designed industrial Ethernet network, integrated with its centralized Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES).

The new network solution needed to be resilient, scalable for the future and have Defense in Depth cybersecurity. It also needed to be implemented in record time, without disturbing running operations, and take into account the demanding clean-room environment of a modern pharmaceutical plant.

Significant parameters of the integration project were:

  • Approximately 500 nodes needed to be integrated
  • The network had to be deployed only in non-hygiene zones to comply with strict regulatory requirements
  • The access for cabling was restricted
  • All of the machines have similar IP addresses

Industrial Network Design Delivers Redundancy, Cybersecurity and Expansion for the Future

The project was led by ZMS Technology, a long-standing Hirschmann System Integrator partner of choice for delivering innovative industrial network solutions in the Middle East. Network design expertise was also provided by staff from the Belden Competence Center.

Based on several meetings and a site survey, it was decided to divide the plant into various rings and sub-rings. These were spread across the plant and connected using Belden industrial grade cables. The complete network is configured and monitored using Hirschmann’s Industrial HiVision Network Management Software.

The full Gigabit network is equipped with Layer 2 switches and Layer 3 routers installed over multiple rings, providing a highly available infrastructure that can expand to triple port count in the future. Multiple VLANs for different services were implemented. Good segmentation and use of the various security features of the switches resulted in a highly secure industrial network.


Example of a typical ring network structure using Hirschmann routers and switches. The ring topology provides redundancy today and easy expansion tomorrow.

Fast Industrial Network Implementation / Project Goals Achieved

The entire project took nine months from planning to deployment. Network pre-configuration and testing in Germany made onsite activation fast. The new industrial network was installed, commissioned and tested to pharmaceutical industry standards in just five days.

All 500 IP nodes of the network were integrated with the central MES. Most of the panels were installed outside the hygiene areas, in locations such as corridors and walkable ceilings, to comply with cleanliness standards.

The industrial network and its components meet or exceed the specified real-time control and reliability needs of the plant and will deliver many years of productive infrastructure use.

Evaluate Industrial Ethernet Networking Options Based on Total Cost of Ownership

As this application shows, industrial Ethernet is more than just a physical ruggedization of IT equipment or block diagrams with lines. Organizations need to determine their application needs now and into the future and then evaluate networking options based on their total cost of ownership.

A well designed network will result in the highest level of availability and scalability for the future and enhance the total lifecycle manageability of the asset.


Belden Industrial Networking Design Services

North America

Belden offers a no-charge Industrial Ethernet Infrastructure Design Check-Up that evaluates your network based on industry best practices.

To reach a sales representative who can arrange a Design Check-Up:

Europe and Other Parts of the World

Across the globe, Belden employs network design engineers who can work with your technical team to develop cost-effective industrial networking solutions. 

Locate a regional office near you.