The benefits and challenges of IT/OT convergence: rewriting the rules.

Author:Williams, Martyn
Position:DATABASE AND NETWORK INTELLIGENCE: VIEWPOINT - Information technology/ operational technology
 
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The convergence of industrial automation and communication is an integral part of the growing Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). In the modern industrial realm, automation should provide a consistent way of executing tasks and processes--including those usually associated with information technology (IT). As a result, the operational technology (OT) used to support manufacturing processes is experiencing significant changes. Here, Martyn Williams, Managing Director of COPA-DATA UK. explains the changing responsibilities of IT and OT.

IT and OT convergence describes the integration of IT systems, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications, with OT systems, such as Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA). Traditionally, IT and OT have remained two separate silos, maintaining independent protocols, standards and governance models. However, for companies pursuing operational effectiveness, increased profits and growth, the convergence of these two systems is a no brainer.

Reaping the rewards

As IT and OT independently influence a company's performance, bridging the gap between these technologies allows for easier performance management. Regardless of whether a manufacturer wants to increase operational effectiveness or generate growth, there is a strong case for pursuing IT and OT convergence.

Creating a common platform for both information and operational data means businesses can generate more relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) and pursue common objectives while also benefiting from company-wide visibility. Greater transparency of operations means harmonising business strategies across geographical sites and departments is much simpler.

For the food and beverage industry, for example, a cider producer would benefit from integrating third party IT, such as weather data and consumer marketing activities with internal IT systems and OT on the factory floor. Cider producers will want to know if there's a sunny weekend on the horizon, as customers are likely to buy more alcoholic beverages. By integrating this data with an ERP or MES connection, intelligent SCADA software can download the required production plan and ingredient quantities and communicate exact control parameters to the connected process equipment to begin production.

Not only does this speed up time-to-market and reduce costs, but also allows for on-demand...

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