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How to unlock the power of TSN-driven IT/OT convergence

March 4, 2024
TSN can improve collaboration across machines, facilities, and enterprises, allowing companies to quickly respond to customer requests and fluctuating demand.

The steady rise of smart factories means modern manufacturing is increasingly reliant on a new kind of raw material—data. If businesses are to capitalize on the information in their systems and that data’s ability to boost productivity, they need the right technology. A key part of this lies in the convergence of information technology and operational technology with infrastructure capable of supporting time-sensitive networking, or TSN.

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To thrive in an environment where competition continues to become fiercer, forward-looking companies need to make their operations highly responsive and flexible. This can be achieved with TSN, a technology that enables deterministic, low-latency communication over standard Ethernet. Thus, TSN can improve collaboration across machines, facilities, and enterprises, allowing companies to quickly respond to customer requests and fluctuating demand.

TSN-driven agile manufacturing strategies are a key part of Industry 4.0 applications, which rely on data-driven actionable insights. These insights come from better process visibility, enabled by converging multiple deterministic streams of data into a single, cohesive network architecture.

Better, faster, stronger

Moreover, TSN promotes the integration of supervisory IT system data, with operational data used at the OT level. This OT data includes both information used to control physical devices and processes, as well as the results generated, which are the source of the insights mentioned earlier. This opens the door to a range of key benefits.

First, it supports process transparency and advanced management, as the convergence offered by TSN strengthens data transfer across the enterprise, providing end users with unprecedented access to data. As a result, they are given insights that can help to improve decision-making.

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Second, by enabling the optimal management of machines, processes, and plants, companies can drive up performance, productivity, and efficiency. A single network that allows the handling of all types of data traffic removes the complexity caused by multiple data types across multiple systems. This typically hampers the ability of operators to identify potential issues.

Hence, convergence streamlines troubleshooting, which in turn reduces the downtime associated with maintenance or repair activities, maximizing equipment and process availability.

Leaner network designs

As only a single network is required to transfer all data, another substantial advantage of TSN is that less equipment is needed to create an interconnected architecture. In addition, any engineering work for the design, configuration, and installation of network systems is minimized, shortening the time required to complete factory automation projects.

Even more, any subsequent installation of additional network devices or modifications to the existing setup is simplified. As a result, the flexibility and scalability of production lines and assets can be improved.

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These benefits have helped establish TSN as an interesting solution for industries ranging from automotive manufacturing plants to food and beverage production. However, as powerful as TSN is, it’s not a standalone solution. In addition to it, industrial Ethernet technologies need higher-level protocols to smoothly support the demands of industrial communications and powerful automation solutions.

To this end, companies interested in TSN can choose CC-Link IE TSN network technology as an option among others. CC-Link IE TSN combines gigabit industrial Ethernet with TSN functions. With an array of compatible devices, including PLCs, servos, inverters, and HMIs with advanced capabilities and performance, machine builders and end users can rely on a proven technology for the implementation of TSN. As such, they can truly unlock the value hidden in their data and futureproof their operations.

Offering future-oriented solutions

The transition towards smart, interconnected factories is supported by industrial automation vendors committed to delivering state-of-the-art components. Companies interested in offering competitive technologies that leverage CC-Link IE TSN can benefit from a variety of both hardware and software development options, making it simple for automation vendors to create responsive devices with TSN functionality. This flexibility helps streamline the process while helping them deliver solutions with the necessary specifications.

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If data is the raw material of modern manufacturing, the networking technology that delivers it to the right place at the right time is just as vital as any machine on the factory floor. As companies demand maximum efficiency from their industrial automation devices and machines, they should strive for max efficiency from their networks.

By converging IT and OT data with a TSN-compatible technology, a company can ensure that these products and systems are working as effectively as possible and transforming their theoretical value into tangible results.

About the Author

Thomas Burke

Thomas Burke is the global strategic advisor for CC-Link Partner Association, a high-speed, high-performance industrial network that supports IIoT and IT/OT convergence. Burke is the global director of industry standards for Mitsubishi and, with ICONICS, an industrial automation software provider, he is director of strategic marketing. Burke was president and executive director of the OPC Foundation and pioneered the OPC Unified Architecture, or OPC UA.