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Smart factory MES

The integration of IT and OT is becoming an unstoppable trend and the core of smart manufacturing. In the digital era, various industries are actively embracing digital transformation to seek greater development opportunities. Today, networks have evolved from simple data transmission to diverse digital business support platforms, penetrating various aspects of enterprise operations, including office, R&D, production, and sales. Optical networks with characteristics such as high-speed bandwidth, flat architecture, and intelligent operation and maintenance are becoming a focal point of industry attention.

As part of the digital transformation, COFICAB Cables (Tianjin) Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of COFICAB Group, has depicted the application scenarios of informationization, networking, and intelligence in the construction of smart factories in detail. According to Shan Zhuoqun, COFICAB's IT manager, establishing a high-bandwidth, high-service experience, high-reliability, and cost-effective industrial network is fundamental for implementing MES, ERP, and other information systems as the company moves toward intelligent manufacturing in its new factory. With support from Ruijie Networks, COFICAB has established a simplified optical Ethernet network, ensuring the continuity of current business production and facilitating the rapid development of future operations. This achievement has set a benchmark for the application of advanced industrial networks in digital factories.

COFICAB Cables (Tianjin) Co., Ltd.
Enabling Smart Factories Through Network Construction

As the hidden champion in the automotive cable industry, COFICAB has investment projects that are distributed in 14 production bases, 6 advanced distribution centers, and 4 R&D centers across 12 countries on 4 continents, with a total of more than 4,500 employees. COFICAB has close cooperation with major OEM manufacturers in China and abroad, including Daimler, Ford, General Motors, BMW, and so on. In 2015, COFICAB Cables (Tianjin) Co., Ltd. was established in the Wujin Economic and Technological Development Area, Tianjin, China. The factory covers an area of about 26,000 square meters, with a building area of about 15,000 square meters, and has more than 350 employees.

With the booming of the Chinese automotive market, COFICAB has seen rapid growth. This year, the company invested in the establishment of COFICAB Cable Technologies (Tianjin) Co., Ltd. The new company has a production line building area of about 22,000 square meters, plans to employ 250 people, and will also become the largest R&D center of the group in the world. In the stage of large-scale expansion, the original workshop of COFICAB could no longer meet the market demand. Building a new workshop became the top priority of COFICAB's development blueprint.

Floor Plan of New Workshop of COFICAB

According to COFICAB's IT manager, the new workshop measures 310 meters in length, 65 meters in width, and 15 meters in height. The civil works were completed in March, and the deployment of the MES system and comprehensive cabling has started. Initially, the high-level design for the new workshop included plans for 720 wired information points and 51 wireless AP information points in conjunction with the MES system. However, actual deployment has encountered the following bottlenecks:

First, the new workshop has a super-long distance of 310 meters. If the weak-current cabinet is deployed at the geometric center of the workshop and network cables are deployed based on the information points, multiple cabinets will occupy the space. In particular, the MES system has been deployed in the new workshop. Bundles of network cables are pulled out from each cabinet based on information points, which not only affects the appearance but also makes maintenance difficult.

In addition, in the future, industrial Internet applications will be launched during the construction of smart factories, and higher requirements will be placed on data collection capabilities. Once additional monitoring points are added or equipment positions are adjusted, the deployment and removal of network cables will also need to be adjusted accordingly. Having to rearrange the cables each time will pose significant management challenges.

Lastly, the current market conditions with rising copper prices also contribute to increased deployment costs for wired networks. The overall cost increase directly impacts the pace of information construction in new factories.

The new workshop requires real-time, comprehensive coverage throughout the production process, including data collection, process control, and quality monitoring and optimization. Therefore, the challenge for COFICAB is to build a network with high bandwidth, easy maintenance, and low cost.

Selecting the Right Products for COFICAB's Networking Needs

After setting its goals, COFICAB actively engaged in product selection. It was during this time that COFICAB encountered Ruijie Networks. Shan Zhuoqun stated that the network, as the "central nervous system" of the smart factory, not only needs to ensure the continuous operation of existing business but also lay the foundation for the future digitalization of COFICAB's various operations. Therefore, the company conducted repeated comparative analyses of network construction schemes at that time.

Shan Zhuoqun introduced that the primary reason that ultimately led COFICAB to choose Ruijie was Ruijie's years of focus on industrial network application scenarios. Through their designs for all-optical Ethernet networks and wireless network service coverage, combined with a comprehensive network security system and O&M platform, Ruijie's solution aligned perfectly with COFICAB's requirements for "high bandwidth, high business experience, high reliability, and low cost." "We evaluated multiple vendors during the selection process, but the solution provided by Ruijie was exactly what I had hoped for, even better than I had expected," Shan Zhuoqun admitted.

Furthermore, Shan also noted that Ruijie's technical team possesses extensive practical and project experience. They are a group of experts truly knowledgeable about on-site operations and industrial expertise, and they provided valuable professional insights during project discussions. "Following technical discussions with the design institute and the engineering implementation company, we all greatly valued Ruijie's technical concepts and actively enhanced the solution design based on Ruijie's recommendations," Shan emphasized.

After extensive discussions with Ruijie engineers, COFICAB chose to expand the network down to the team level in the form of an all-optical network. The high bandwidth ranging from 1000 M to 100 G in the all-optical network ensures that the business system will not face bandwidth limitations during COFICAB's future digital transformation. After the optical fiber was deployed in the workshop, COFICAB installed multiple small cabinets and placed 8-port or 24-port SOE switches in each cabinet based on information point density. Ruijie supports optical port APs, greatly facilitating the deployment of APs on the workshop rooftops. If the number of information points needs adjustments due to line changes, the solution can be directly deployed, which is convenient and fast. Furthermore, Ruijie's SOE switch supports PoE and can directly connect to various terminals requiring power supply.

System Plan of COFICAB Workshop Network

It is worth mentioning that Ruijie's SOE switch is also deployed in the office area of COFICAB. "The previous switches were placed in the office area, and colleagues would complain about the noise. The Ruijie SOE switch, however, features a fanless design, producing no noise at all, which is one of my favorite designs," added Shan Zhuoqun.

System Plan of COFICAB Workshop Network
Future-Ready: Powering Growth for Chinese Manufacturing

Optical networks are likely to become the preferred choice for future enterprise campuses and new factory buildings," Shan Zhuoqun explained. In the process of promoting intelligent manufacturing, the bottom-tier data collection and interconnection will be an indispensable part of information technology construction. Faced with digital transformation, enterprises have common needs such as "flexible production" and "agile development," and the high bandwidth of optical networks will provide strong support for data-driven operations. When asked about the benefits of Ruijie Networks SOE solution for COFICAB, Shan summarized the benefits into three points

Firstly, the high bandwidth opens up future possibilities. Extending a full 10 G optical fiber link to the workshop allows for easy network expansion. Deploying high-density access points supporting the Wi-Fi 6 protocol in the workshop can triple capacity performance. These access points support optical fiber access, bypassing the 100-meter limitation of network cables.

Secondly, Ruijie's SOE solution features easy maintenance and management: The optical fiber network is easily reconfigurable. When future network upgrades are necessary, the cables do not need to be replaced. Multiple small cabinets are installed, and 8-24-port SOE switches are deployed based on information point density. Flexible wiring and POE support are provided for convenient and rapid installation. When information points are removed, the cables can be easily detached. If information points are dispersed in the future, the switch's port capacity can be increased from 8 ports to 16 or 24 ports. The switch supports plug-and-play functionality, facilitating online and rapid expansion.

Thirdly, the SOE solution delivers high-cost performance at reduced costs. The integrated cabling component is more cost-effective compared to traditional Ethernet. Overall, the project saved approximately 20,000 meters of network cables, resulting in total cost savings of over CNY 100,000 (approximately USD 13,710) for the company, including device costs.

In Shan Zhuoqun's opinion, Ruijie's SOE solution is not just a supplement to COFICAB's ICT infrastructure, but also a crucial engine for adapting to external changes. "I believe the network plays a foundational role in building smart factories. Without a high-quality network environment, systems like intelligent production and logistics are mere illusions." Shan Zhuoqun explained that through cooperation with Ruijie, he learned that enterprises have many ideas and limitations in network planning. As the saying goes, a nine-story tower starts with a pile of soil. It's essential for companies to introduce a network supplier from the beginning. "Let professionals handle their specialties to unlock greater value." In the future, COFICAB will continue collaborating with Ruijie, not only implementing all-optical networks but also leading the way in enterprise digital transformation, Shan concluded.

Scenario Innovation,Drives the Digital Future

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