Industrial Automation

The Fast Way to Commission Industrial Ethernet Switches

Juergen Schmid

The drive for productivity and high-availability manufacturing means you likely don’t have the time you would like to learn new things -even if doing so would ultimately save you time. In addition, you may be relatively new to industrial Ethernet networking and the equipment that comes with it.

If this is the case, you might be surprised to learn of the capabilities in managed switches, such as the Hirschmann RSP family, that make getting a switch up and running fast and easy.

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Today, I am going to walk you through how to use features built into switches to speed up their commissioning and deployment. With only the time it takes to read this article, you will be able to make switches operational much faster next time.


It’s possible to commission industrial Ethernet switches quickly with the right tools such as Hirschmann switches and the HiDiscovery software program.


How to Configure a Switch Without a Serial Cable

The traditional method for configuring a switch is to start by connecting to it via its serial port and a serial cable. However, often the correct serial cable and RS232 terminal program for connecting your laptop to the switch are not handy.


You can proceed without tracking down these items, however, if you have a software program to use for the configuration. An example is the free HiDiscovery program from Hirschmann, an offline configuration tool.


Simply daisy chain your new switches together, connect your laptop to one of them using an Ethernet cable and start up HiDiscovery. The program generates a list of the switches, even if they do not have an IP address. Indeed all Hirschmann products ship without a default IP address, ensuring that there is no chance of an IP address conflict.


To identify and label the switches, just push the “Signal” button in HiDiscovery to activate its LED. You will immediately see which device you are communicating with and you can assign an IP address, plus other parameters, such as the subnet mask and default gateway, to it.


An extra benefit of HiDiscovery is that the program detects devices with duplicate IP addresses, thus alerting you to network issues before they become operational problems.



 HiDiscovery uses Ethernet rather than RS232 to communicate with switches and
makes it easy to assign an IP Add
ress, Subnet Mask and Default Gateway.


Industrial Ethernet Switches with Built-In Documentation

Often, when you are configuring a switch you want to refer to its documentation. You might want to check what configuration settings to use or find out the impact of a particular setting. But, Murphy’s Law means that the printed documentation is never nearby.


Rather than hunt for it, simply access the web interface of the switch and click on the "Help" button. You will receive context-sensitive information that helps you get your task done quickly and efficiently.



Attendees at the 2014 Belden Design Seminar learn how to quickly and accurately
configure industrial Ethernet switches.


Industrial Profiles at Your Fingertips

Once your switch has been set up with an IP address, you might want to integrate it into an industrial application. Such an application will use a protocol, such as PROFINET, EtherNet/IP or IEC 61850. It needs a configuration file that tells it the capabilities of the switch, such as the number of ports.


The good news is that for Hirschmann switches you don’t need to search for the right file on the web, a USB drive or a CD. You simply use the switch’s file generator for the protocol you want and the right file is quickly created.


This makes it very easy to implement each switch variant for the application.


Save Time and Get it Right the First Time

The keys to fast commissioning of industrial Ethernet switches are:

  • The ability to communicate with them over Ethernet rather than RS232
  • The use of a simple software tool to configure IP addresses and other attributes
  • A button in the software tool that makes it easy to identify the switch and label the device
  • Auto detection of duplicate IP addresses
  • Integrated documentation and context-sensitive help
  • A built-in generator of configuration files for industrial protocols

If saving time and doing it right the first time are important to you, be sure to look for managed switches with these capabilities. After all, it could free up some time for you to learn even more about industrial Ethernet networking!