Making an informed decision on the appropriate industrial switches can have a profound impact on the overall success of your industrial operations. The right switch is essential for maintaining reliable communications, optimizing network performance, ensuring security, and achieving operational excellence in industrial environments.

The term Industry 4.0 which has been with us at least since 2015, has been a topic of discussion in many forums and has helped shape industrial, economic, and political policies across the world. It has huge implications for society and promises a profound transformation of manufacturing and industrial processes through the integration of advanced digital technologies.

Networking is of paramount importance for Industry 4.0, as it forms the foundation upon which the entire framework of this industrial revolution is built. Industry 4.0 is characterized by the integration of digital technologies, automation, and data exchange in manufacturing processes, and networking is the glue that holds these elements together.


5 key switching features vital for Industry 4.0

Industrial switches are vital for operations networks. These unassuming devices serve as the unsung heroes behind the scenes, playing a crucial role in the seamless connectivity, communication, and data exchange that power the smart operations of the future. In this blog post, we’ll explore the role of industrial switches and five key characteristics to look for when you are selecting switches for your own operations.

Industrial strength

Industrial operations have exacting requirements for their network components. Industrial switches must be able to withstand extreme conditions, such as high temperatures, humidity, vibrations, potential exposure to dust and chemicals, electric and magnetic fields (EMF), and power surges. They must be engineered with durable components, ensuring their reliability and longevity to meet the long operational lifecycle requirements, and available in a variety of form factors to fit all possible use cases. Moreover, they must include redundancy features like ring topologies and rapid failover mechanisms to minimize downtime and maintain continuous operations. Also read Why industrial ethernet switches? Putting the “purpose” in purpose-built.


Support for OT protocols

Industrial assets were traditionally connected directly to their controllers relying on specific communication protocols such as Modbus, PROFINET, and EtherNet/IP that are specifically designed to meet the unique communication requirements of industrial environments. But these assets, being part of a network, now connect through a switch. Therefore, industrial switches must seamlessly support these protocols to ensure seamless communication, reliable data exchange, optimized performance, and compatibility with existing industrial devices and systems. To get more details on what it means to support industrial protocols, please read Cisco Industrial Ethernet, speaking the language.


Enterprise grade security

Gaining all the benefits of industry 4.0 technologies requires seamless communications between IT, cloud, and industrial networks, potentially exposing operations to cyber threats. Solutions designed to secure industrial networks are typically based on dedicated security appliances which can quickly become too complex and costly to deploy throughout the industrial network. Industrial switches can offer a scalable solution, providing advanced visibility and security features such as asset and traffic identification, VLANs, port security, network access control, and microsegmentation techniques to isolate and secure network segments, effectively turning the network into both a security sensor and enforcer. See also, Building industrial networks that are secure by design.


Edge-compute capable

Edge computing is highly useful in industrial switches as they are closest to connected assets and carry their communications traffic. Some of this traffic, also called East-West traffic, stays between machines or controllers, and needs to be captured right where it is generated. Therefore, these switches are in the ideal position to capture and analyze this traffic. This ability can be useful to write applications that extract information about the health of the device, detect potential threats, or even allow remote access into the machines themselves. Typically, such applications carry data back and forth between connected assets and applications in the cloud. See how this capability is helping midstream oil and gas operators.


Easy to deploy and operate

Given its critical role, the network can determine how scalable and agile your operations can be, how quickly you can add new production lines, or how rapidly you can change your product mix. Moreover, any fault in the network can quickly translate into lost productivity and income. Therefore, it is important that industrial switches be managed with tools available that ease onboarding of new switches, reconfigure as necessary, and troubleshoot and fix issues before they become real problems. For more on this, read: Five lessons manufacturing operations can learn from enterprise IT teams.


Get started now

Get the lowdown on Cisco industrial switches. Listen to Cisco experts, Paul Didier, Senior Manufacturing Solutions Leader, Albert Mitchell, Industrial IoT Technical Marketing Leader, and Manmeet Singh, Industrial IoT Product Management Leader, as they discuss key characteristics no industrial switch should be without. Register and watch now.

Listen to this podcast on Cisco Champion Radio, available on your favorite podcast provider, as the Champions host Albert Mitchell in a conversation on industrial switches and how to set your manufacturing operations up for success.

Visit Cisco industrial switching homepage, view our complete portfolio, use the Switch Selector tool to sort through our offers and choose the right switch for your use case, or setup some free no-obligation time to discuss your specific requirements with one of our experts.

Get your network ready for Industry 4.0 and build a pathway to even more exciting innovations being considered for Industry 5.0 and beyond.


Vivek Bhargava

Product Marketing Manager