IT/OT convergence is fundamental to today’s smart factory. Manufacturers are certainly aware that it is something they need to nurture, to really benefit and achieve ROI from IoT technologies, but what exactly will change to organizational structures and team cultures bring to their businesses going forward?
Joseph Etris, Manufacturing Engineer and Data Analyst at Continental AG explains, “the convergence of Information Technology and Operational Technology represents significant opportunities for the manufacturing industry, both from a hardware and a software perspective. IIoT devices installed on traditional equipment can assist manufacturers by capturing valuable data not previously realized, leading to increased knowledge and process understanding. On the software side, converging the shop floor with “lean” software development allows for a transfer of knowledge from experienced staff that can then be used to improve operational efficiencies. Taking advantage of the IT/OT convergences allows large corporations, who have been traditionally less agile, to compete with “start-ups” that have the ability and flexibility to rapidly develop, deploy, and iterate.”
“Taking advantage of the IT/OT convergences allows large corporations, who have been traditionally less agile, to compete with “start-ups”
Even when the benefits are understood, the challenge of IT/OT convergence is still heavily felt, and is heightened by the increased involvement of lines of business in technology implementation. Getting the teams that manage the operational technology, found in manufacturing and industrial environments, aligned and speaking the sames language as those managing IT, as in most relationships, takes work and a ‘one size fits all’ approach cannot be applied.
Rebecca Taylor, Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences explains that although “the factory of the future may evolve to production equipment talking to each other, constantly improving operations without operator intervention, we are not there yet. In the interim, this important convergence depends on the collaboration of IT and OT people to solve problems. They need to understand the other’s points of view and how both operations impact each other. Sounds simple, but it isn’t when you’ve been operating independently of each other for decades.”
The urgency for IT/OT convergence comes greatly from the security threats brought when a business has a silo mentality. Cyber attacks can cost manufacturers millions of dollars and approaches to training, Shadow IT, BYOD and managing third party contractors, are elements that the operational teams now also need to be aware of and active in shaping.
Rebecca says that the biggest challenge she sees as a result of poor IT/OT alignment is in cybersecurity. “In working with manufacturers, I’ve had the opportunity to ask the IT folks who is responsible for cybersecurity on the shop floor and often they point to the production/manufacturing folks. When I ask the same cybersecurity question to the manufacturing folks, they point to the IT department. That means no one is responsible for cybersecurity on the OT side. Yet, OT is connected to IT so a lack of security on one side means a lack of security across the enterprise.”
“No one is responsible for cybersecurity on the OT side. Yet, OT is connected to IT so a lack of security on one side means a lack of security across the enterprise.”
So what are the initial considerations manufacturers need to begin with, and what steps will kick-start organizational change? Lyman Tschanz, Vice President, Connected Enterprise Consulting at Rockwell Automation believes that “a key starting point to realizing the potential large benefits of digital transformation occurs when the senior leaders of the organization commit to an enterprise-wide initiative. A vision for the key areas of target improvements then can be realized and a roadmap of the technical solution to enable the convergence is developed. This results in a digital business case with costs, benefits and a project plan.”
“We see many companies creating new leadership roles which are responsible for digital transformations.”
“Since this work does not fit into typical organization functions, we see many companies creating new leadership roles which are responsible for digital transformations. As an example, a digital transformation officer. These roles cut across the organization to provide needed focus on the digital priorities for the company, since these transformations can impact nearly every function in a company.”
Rebecca concurs that “strategic and organizational challenges need to be addressed and directed from the top. A great first step is for the goals and objectives of the IT and OT departments to be aligned. Perhaps have IT and OT managers set common goals/targets that force them to collaborate. Sometimes a joint task force or pilot project can get the conversation going and promote interdepartmental alignment. It is a cultural shift that will occur over time and most certainly needs C-Suite direction and endorsement to succeed.”
“A joint task force or pilot project can get the conversation going and promote interdepartmental alignment”
From a technology perspective, advances are already being made, as Joseph highlights, “Cloud service providers are being utilized to assist manufacturers with the vertical design and development of solutions. From providing the infrastructure (Iaas), platform (PaaS), application platform (aPaaS), and software (SaaS), service providers give companies the opportunity to create customized solutions to meet customer needs.”
“Also, edge computing devices that capture and process data at the proverbial “edge,” are allowing the computation to be completed on-site and near real-time. A hybrid approach, or mixture of cloud and edge computing, has been rapidly growing and gives enterprises the ability to analyze data in the cloud and then deploy prescriptive solutions at the enterprise edge, creating a “build, measure, and learn” feedback loop.”
“A hybrid approach, or mixture of cloud and edge computing, has been rapidly growing and gives enterprises the ability to analyze data in the cloud and then deploy prescriptive solutions at the enterprise edge”
Joseph, Rebecca and Rockwell Automation will be taking part in the 3rd Internet of Manufacturing Midwest in two week’s time – June 5 & 6, 2019. The event hosts three content tracks at the Swissotel in Chicago, meeting the learning objectives of all job titles working to develop and deliver IIoT strategies. Responding to the need to bring different job titles together to discuss working frameworks, and identify how to instill a collaborative culture, presenters and panelists share case studies targeted to those working across various job functions.
To give our audience some food for thought before the event, we asked some of the program’s presenters and panelists to share their views on why they think IT/OT convergence is necessary, how to approach it in terms of culture and technology, and what they think the biggest challenges facing it still are today.
Written by Lucy Ashton, Managing Director, Internet of Business
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