Time for Pharma 4.0

Jan. 17, 2024
TSN-driven technologies can support advanced data governance

By creating smart and responsive facilities, pharma manufacturers can optimize the production of regulatory-compliant, high-quality medicines with minimum rework activities. In effect, the latest advances in sensor technology can offer ways to generate high volumes of information on the factory floor. By using these data, manufacturers can reinforce process and quality control/assurance as well as regulatory compliance. 

While generating data is the first step in creating intelligent manufacturing lines, it is crucial to gather these pieces of information in order to analyze them and turn them into process knowledge. This, in turn, can offer actionable insight to improve production processes as well as provide the foundation of quality audits and reports.

Look at the bandwidth

To unlock these opportunities a network technology that can handle the constantly growing flow of data from sensors and analyzers needs to be implemented. In practice, this means offering sufficient bandwidth to transfer as many data packets as possible within a timeframe without any packet loss or network congestion.

Although many existing Ethernet systems offer a maximum bandwidth of 100 Mbit/s, pharma manufacturers that aim to build truly smart, connected factories should leverage more advanced solutions. The highest bandwidth currently available for industrial Ethernet networks is in the gigabit range. By adopting a technology with this capacity, businesses can futureproof their industrial communications and lay the foundations for next-level data traffic.

Determinism and convergence

In addition to offering sufficient bandwidth, the ideal network should also be able to provide a deterministic method of data transmission, to assure predictable information flows. The latest Ethernet technology, Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN), brings this capability to the table, thanks to its defining IEEE 802.1 standards that assure tight synchronization across the network along with providing methods to ensure predictable transmission of all data types.

As a result, time-critical data from drives and controllers on the factory floor, e.g., from tableting lines, can be transmitted on the same network used for other Ethernet devices with less time-critical requirements, such as vision systems or bar code readers.

The end result is converged networks, where it is possible to merge operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) systems for truly responsive, smart data-driven manufacturing. More precisely, TSN’s determinism ensures the predictable delivery of all process data flows that OT requires while offering a framework to support IT functions for higher-level enterprise systems. As a result, companies can benefit from real-time decision-making opportunities, accurate operational control as well as unmatched databases for quality compliance reporting.

The right solution is right here

Pharma manufacturers wanting to benefit from smart, connected plants and enterprises can implement them today. CC-Link IE TSN, the first open gigabit Ethernet with TSN capabilities, satisfies both the need for high bandwidth and convergence. 

By implementing CC-Link IE TSN, pharma can achieve a number of key business benefits, including simpler network architectures/machine designs, greater process transparency and better management, more productivity, and better integration of OT and IT systems.

The CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA) is an international organization founded in 2000 dedicated to the technical development and promotion of the CC-Link open industrial network family. Anyone interested in joining the organization can apply here.
About the Author

Thomas Burke | Global Strategic Advisor, CLPA

Thomas J. Burke is the Global Strategic Advisor for CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA), which is a high-speed, high-performance industrial network that supports the IIoT and IT/OT convergenceMr. Burke’s background includes being the former OPC Foundation President & Executive Director and pioneered the OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA) as the foundation of information integration and interoperability. He has a bachelor’s degree in theoretical mathematics from John Carroll University (Cleveland, Ohio), and a master’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Dayton (Dayton, Ohio).