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How time-sensitive networking can improve factory safety

How time-sensitive networking can improve factory safety
Increasingly, factories rely on connected devices and the data they generate. Making sure the data is transmitted in time with minimal latency, then, becomes important. This is where time-sensitive networking (TSN) technology can come in to improve various factory operations, including worker safety.
Needless to say, the industrial internet of things (IIoT) has become a widespread phenomenon in the manufacturing sector. Factory managers and operators increasingly rely on connected devices and the data they generate to achieve automation. For example, rather than relying on human vision, operators use machine vision which can detect quality issues and immediately send an alert. Machines that are about to fail can also be detected by sensors, allowing operators to act accordingly.
For machines to communicate to each other in a critical environment such as manufacturing, it’s safe to say that every millisecond counts, rendering transmission of data in a low-latency, low-packet loss manner vital. In this regard, TSN can come in handy.
Time-sensitive networking is a set of IEEE 802 Ethernet sub-standards that are defined by the IEEE TSN task group. “TSN provides guaranteed data transport with bounded low latency, low jitter and extremely low data loss. TSN includes multiple solutions to provide bounded low latency, for example time-scheduling, preemption and multiple shaping mechanisms. Time synchronization and TSN QoS solutions reduce jitter associated with control packet delivery to upper layers, for example in controllers and actuators,” IEEE said.

How safety can be enhanced

TSN can improve various aspects of factory operations. Needless to say, the top priority of any factory is worker safety, and TSN can help enhance safety by way of the following, according to a blogpost by EXOR.

Better control of robotics

Robotic arms are commonly seen on the factory floor. These are extremely weighty and may carry scissors or other dangerous cutting tools. When a human worker approaches the vicinity of a working robot, it needs to stop immediately. This will require sensors detecting the human and sending an alert instantaneously to avoid severe injuries.
“Since the TSN standards are focused on time and TSN was developed in order to ensure that data can travel from a sender to a receiver in an expedient manner, TSN connectivity and real-time delivery of data can help avoid dangerous situations that may arise due to timeframe issues,” EXOR said.

Toxic chemical spills and fire risks

In factories, especially those belonging to the oil and gas sector, spills of chemical agents or leaks of dangerous gases can happen, jeopardizing workers. More and more, sensors and other devices are installed to detect these problems. “The implementation of a TSN network could vastly improve these detection and alert systems since it can deliver the critical data to the central control unit quickly, thereby ensuring that the operators can take the appropriate action and workers are not exposed or harmed,” the post said.

Excessive noise

In a factory setting, noise can be a serious issue. While most workers are instructed to wear ear plugs or other protective wear, excessive noise can still deteriorate hearing. Now, there are sensors that can detect an increase in machine noise. “This information would need to be delivered quickly to the servers or the Human-Machine Interface, HMI. Workers could then be subsequently instructed to either evacuate the building with immediate effect or switch off the machines causing the issues,” the post said. “In these kinds of situations, a TSN network would be vastly beneficial since the TSN network could deliver the data with low jitter, no packet loss and expediently.”

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