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Three Strategies to Help You Spend Less Time Troubleshooting Industrial Network Issues

Troubleshooting industrial networks

Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It was the 1700s and he was speaking to Philadelphians about the importance of fire safety, but his words ring true today in a broad range of applications from healthcare to industrial network troubleshooting.

The impact of industrial network outages is measured in the thousands of dollars per hour, if not the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands. Outages cost you product, revenue, and whatever time it takes to recover. There’s also the risk of capital investment on different equipment that could be exposed to the outage. There’s also the cost of subjecting your employees to a high-stress work environment while trying to get recovered and back online.

Outages are a known hazard in today’s connected plant. But that doesn’t mean they have to be disastrous. In previous installments of our OT Network Effectiveness (ONE) service series, we’ve explained the difference between industrial and enterprise networks and revealed the two most important decisions your organization can make when planning an industrial network. In this latest edition, Agilix Solutions Industrial Network Specialist Ted Davis walks through the three network components you can address today that will make troubleshooting much simpler and more efficient If you encounter an outage in the future.

IP Address Scheme

The IP address is the first component in industrial network design and is typically the first indicator in an outage of how difficult or simple it’s going to be to troubleshoot the issue. The IP address has all four of the goals of a reliable plant network in it:

  • Reliability
  • Scalability
  • Maintainability
  • Ability to secure traffic

At the broadest level of categorization, there are two different types of IP addresses: public and private. The private IP address scheme is laid out following the standards and is the only IP address that you should use in the plant environment.

Troubleshooting industrial networkThe easiest private IP address scheme to use and explain is the address space. If you take for example,, each of those numbers tells you something specific. The first 10 says it’s a private IP address space. The second 10 communicates that we’re looking at Building 1 of the facility. The third 10 tells you that we’re looking at Line 1 in Building 1. The fourth 10 tells you we’re dealing with Machine 1 in Line 1 of Building 1. In a troubleshooting exercise, this makes it easy to correlate an IP address to a device and quickly identify if this is the issue.

The VLAN is also a way for the networking equipment to segregate ports that are to be correlated to an IP address. We always recommend setting the VLAN to match the numbering scheme of the IP address. So, in the case of the IP address 10.30.10, (which would be building 3, line 1) you want to make the VLAN match as either VLAN 31 or 310. Now you have a correlation of the VLAN to the IP address. Simplicity ensures that in an outage, you can perform a quick visible check to ensure whether or not you have an issue with IP addressing or VLAN assignment on the device.  If the IP addressing/VLAN configuration is correct, you can proceed to the next step of the troubleshooting.

A Consistent and Right-Sized Subnet Mask

Subnet mask configurationThe Subnet Mask is basically the number of devices within your IP address domain. It’s essentially the size of the box that contains all the individual IP addresses you’re working with. We typically recommend using a /24, a common subnet mask that often fits all the processes that are within the industrial networking space. If you stay consistent with the /24 across your industrial process, it’s very easy to identify if it’s been correctly configured or not. Picking a smaller Subnet Mask, like /24, keeps the noise of other device communications outside of the process. By removing unnecessary communication within a process, you can quickly determine and isolate why communications have been interrupted.

IP Gateway Configuration

The IP gateway is the device that has the address allowing communication outside the process. You can easily think of it as the door into the room. We only define the IP gateway on devices that require external process communication, like an HMI, PLC, or an internal server to the process that needs to share data outside the process, or if a new recipe needs to be downloaded into the process. The gateway determines which devices are allowed to communicate outside the process and facilitates that communication. A properly configured IP gateway ensures that only approved data is getting into or out of your industrial network and only approved devices are communicating outside the network.  The IP Gateway becomes the ideal place for an industrial firewall if a process needs to be secured.

Agilix is Your Partner in Industrial Network Design

Agilix Solutions Operational Network Effectiveness logoConnected plants enable greater performance and productivity than we ever thought possible, but they’re not without their risks. The risk of an outage for any number of reasons is one of them. When an outage occurs, correcting the problem and restoring production are paramount priorities. The steps you take in defining and organizing your industrial network will simplify troubleshooting and can mean the difference between a minor outage and a catastrophic one.

Agilix ONE is here to help you take intentional and well-planned steps in the design and implementation of your industrial network. Reach out to your account manager today for Ted and his team to help you make your industrial network stand the test of time.