Your plant has a real-time business intelligence system that wirelessly connects various department managers with what's happening on the factory floor. It also provides reports to the corporate office via the Internet. However, this system produces silent periods and gaps in coverage. For example, a graph of Line 3 output might show a 1-hr gap.

You haven't worked on this system before, but you're now the one in the hot seat. Your boss wants answers fast. What should your first steps be?

First, determine if those gaps and silent moments reflect actual conditions. Changeovers, lunch breaks, shift changes, or scheduled maintenance can interrupt production. If the gaps correspond to down periods, the reports are showing actual conditions. Ask the report administrator about modifying the report to indicate downtime rather than just showing a gap.

If any gaps occur outside of downtime, do some cause elimination before calling in a network specialist:

  1. Ensure the routers are industrial grade, not consumer grade. An error here can easily account for the loss of network data.
  2. Conduct thermographic inspections of the routers. Relocate them away from heat sources or add cooling, as needed.
  3. Conduct cable testing on the Ethernet cabling to those routers. If you don't have a high-end cable testing device, this problem justifies owning one.
  4. Ensure there's no "separate ground" causing flashovers; see Art. 250, Part V.