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Wired vs Wireless Networking in Manufacturing

Wired vs Wireless Networking in Manufacturing

Modern manufacturing is amazing. With the use of automation tools, big data, and many other facets of the latest in technology, production capacity and efficiency constantly reach new highs.

Of course, using all of those resources requires a significant investment in networking. Manufacturing networks are often mission-critical these days, so it’s important to understand networking options and which ones are the best in manufacturing settings.

In general, you can choose between wired and wireless connectivity, and a direct comparison between the two reveals that one of these choices is better.

Why Manufacturing Is a Different Kind of Enterprise

When most people think about enterprise networking, they might imagine a large office building or a comparable indoor setting. In such a case, wireless networking makes a lot of sense. It’s an easy way to provide access to large numbers of users. There may be some wired components mixed in, but wireless often forms the backbone of these types of networks.

In a manufacturing setting, things are different. There are still large numbers of users or endpoint devices, but the surrounding environment is harsh. There are very large electrical draws that can create strong electromagnetic interference.

There are large spaces with heavy equipment and a whole lot of metal that can scatter and otherwise disrupt signals. In general, wireless signals are less reliable.

Because of that, wired networking is almost always the better choice for manufacturing settings.

Security

Digital security is important for all enterprise networks, and manufacturing is certainly no exception. The simple fact is that it’s much harder to access a network that has no wireless components. It’s easier to secure wired networks from intrusion, and as a result, wired networking security is usually superior by a considerable amount.

Reliability

Reliability is probably the greatest advantage of wired networks in manufacturing. EM interference, signal absorption, and signal scattering all disrupt wireless network signals. As a result, you can end up with unexpected dead spots, unpredictable disruptions in the signal, and countless issues with reliability.

It’s possible that regions will completely lose signal every time you run a specific piece of equipment.

The number of ways that manufacturing can mess with wireless means that it just isn’t viable in many locations.

Speed

Even in places where you can maintain a signal, you’re likely to lose speed over wireless connections. The sources of signal interference and disruption don’t always take devices offline. Instead, they might only partially obscure the wireless signal which has the effect of slowing down connection speeds.

On top of that, wired connection speeds have reached higher bandwidth numbers than wireless all along. When speed matters, wired connections give you better options.

Security

In terms of security, a cross-connect is much better. This is because the patching area creates an isolated part of the network, and this area typically holds mission-critical connections. With this layer of isolation, it makes many forms of incursions and attacks that much more difficult.

It’s also easier to add layers of security on either side of the patching zone, allowing for extremely robust network security.

While interconnects are not inherently insecure, they do not offer these additional security layers.

Cost Efficiency

At a glance, it often looks like wireless networking is cheaper. If a wireless access point has 200 feet of range, then that’s 200 feet of cable you don’t have to run in order to connect your network. On the scale of large manufacturing facilities, this seems like a major cost concern.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it doesn’t take into consideration the costs of downtime and slow connections. If unreliable networking leads to lowered productivity, then the wireless investment can prove to be unexpectedly costly.

Meanwhile, wired networks are more reliable and typically run faster. If they are preventing downtime or production bottlenecks, then you can easily recover the cost of some extra cable.

Additional Learning Center Resources