Personal perspective on the OPC UA news

Dec. 3, 2018

A standard has succeeded when everyone takes it for granted.

Last week we shared the news of automation players joining OPC UA, engaging with this

B&R Automation's John Kowal

initiative to address emerging needs of automation users. Read the release here.

Today, we share perspective from John Kowal, director of business development with B&R Industrial Automation Corporation, which is among those enterprises that joined OPC UA. Take a look…

As a minor player in Fieldbus Wars (representing the IEC61491 standard at the time), the OPC UA TSN announcement signals for me no less than a liberation, a triumph of emerging market requirements and technologies as profound as the imperative of IT/OT integration itself. The fact is, there is now more to be gained by a flattened network hierarchy and interoperability (from device to cloud) than there was in the traditional commercial equation that drove multiple device buses and 'flavors' of ethernet.

In my Smart Factory Task Group activities in the Industrial Internet Consortium, it's difficult for me to explain to the largely IT audience that we have multiple network protocols on the same factory floor. In order for manufacturing IIoT to really happen, we absolutely need a standard industrial ethernet that will also fulfill the performance requirements of high-speed machinery. Now we are going to see conforming products enter the market as early as 2019.

The OPC UA TSN announcement confirms a new priority—that digital business models in the demand economy need seamless integration, for example, from online order entry to direct-to-customer fulfillment from batch-size-one manufacturing systems.

Finally, the interests of all parties are aligned—from IT and automation providers to end users, and OEMs and integrators in between. It's been my pleasure to witness B&R play a pivotal role in advancing OPC UA TSN, knowing it's not only the right thing to do, but the right solution to a decades-old gap in automation architecture.

This announcement was delivered deadpan. “So what!?” you might say.

Just like we don't think about the impact of Internet Protocol in our daily lives, ironically, you know a standard has succeeded when everyone takes it for granted. I hope that in five years, everyone takes the benefits of OPC UA TSN for granted as we propel manufacturing productivity to the next level.

John Kowal is director of business development with B&R Industrial Automation Corporation.