Automation World has devoted quite a bit of space over the past few years explaining Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) and the efforts underway to bring TSN-enabled products to market. We’ve done so for good reason, as the potential for TSN to help create a universal industrial network is signficant, especially as it pertains to the digital transformation of industry as a whole.
Because the technology is still so nascent, most of our coverage of TSN has been very focused on explaining it. But now that the technology is poised to become more widely available, it’s time to explore the business benefits TSN can deliver as well.
A new white paper from Avnu Alliance, which sets the procedure used to certify products based on the IEEE standard defining TSN, addresses the specific business impacts of the technology. The paper, titled “The Business Impact of TSN for Industrial Systems,” is authored by Steve Zuponcic of Rockwell Automation and Anil Kumar and Denzil Roberts of Intel.
One of the paper's more interesting points focuses on the benefits of common time. At first glance, this might seem to be more of a control system-related topic due to the importance of clock synchronization in those applications. But the paper notes that a time-stamped data collection ability enabled by TSN provides for “a chronology of events, time-based analysis, time-series analytics, and a model for predictable outcomes. The analysis of precisely time-stamped data allows managers to see exactly what went wrong, as well as where and when.”
The authors note that TSN provides a common reference of time in which to do this kind of analysis."The same clocks that are required for traffic scheduling on the network can be synchronized with other time domains to provide a wider view of system events or faults," they write. "Essentially, 'TSN time' can be correlated with time in the enterprise systems so that events and conditions on the plant floor are chronologically comparable to events within the company’s business systems.”
Some of the direct business benefits of applying “TSN Time” this way include better definition of when a product is needed in manufacturing, as it pertains to the distribution systems that will move the product to the consumer; improved understanding of when products are completed compared to when material uesd to produce those products needs to be reordered; and easier accessibility to the cause and effect of faults on the plant floor through the ability to view a sequence of events where time is common across the entire manufacturing facility.
Such capabilities present an opportunity for higher efficiencies that, ultimately, are reflected in a company’s financial success, according to the authors.
Other business-related benefits cited in the paper include:
- Ease of network configuration: Today, technicians have to configure each network device manually on conventional networks, but TSN can automate this process via intelligent configuration tools. The network understands what must happen to achieve the desired performance and will turn specific services on and off as necessary.
- Secure networks: Because TSN is standard Ethernet, control networks can take advantage of best practices for security that have been developed into Ethernet for decades. TSN also adds a layer of security to the data with the precise timing mechanism that facilitates early detection of a network breach.
- Reduced system costs: TSN allows the convergence of different traffic classes on a single network and reduces overall system costs significantly. Hardware and maintenance costs are also reduced since the system needs fewer devices and cables.
- Future enhancements: Because TSN is part of the Ethernet family, it naturally scales with Ethernet, which means that the technology will not be limited in terms of bandwidth and other performance criteria. New nodes can be easily added to the network and discovered via standard networking protocols.