The top challenge manufacturers face while creating or establishing an IIoT environment is IT and OT’s integration. The flow of information, decisions, control, and value between the production floor and the administrative offices is only possible with a symbiotic IT – OT relationship. Bridging the IT and OT divide is pivotal for any industry 4.0 manufacturer.
Today, disruptive technologies like IoT, ML, and big data have ushered in the fourth lap of the industrial revolution. Industry 4.0 is packed with the power to transform business processes across industries by combining physical production and operations with smart and digital technology. It enables the creation of a more holistic, sustainable and tightly knit ecosystem for organizations to optimize and streamline manufacturing processes. However, harnessing the benefits of industry 4.0 and IIoT will require an efficient integration mechanism to blur the IT and OT divide.
The IT department’s scope covers the entire IT infrastructure and applications. Its responsibilities mainly concern security, scalability and manageability. It is also responsible for the processing and transmitting of information between functions within and external to the organization. It is usually a fast and dynamic environment. In an IoT setup, the IT department’s role is crucial as it plays a vital role in the tech stack from the network out to the edge and beyond.
OT focuses on ensuring visibility and control over operations of the manufacturing enterprise. Different OT systems come together at various levels to provide information, recommend actions, and actuate responses to stimuli from the manufacturing line. At the equipment level, it could be control systems like programmable logic controllers (PLC), microcontrollers, programmable equipment, or robotics. At the line level, it could be SCADA or DCS. It could also be operations management solutions like MES or scheduling systems. At each level, these solutions enable the enterprise to achieve its manufacturing operations objectives.
Between IT and OT, business and operations have the required insights and the ability to simulate scenarios that can lead to impactful decisions. The traffic of intelligence is heavy from OT to IT, instructions that align production to business objectives flow from IT to OT. A smooth integration and coordination between IT and OT components of the IIoT setup help to enable this exchange.
An IIoT framework leverages sensor technology power and combines it with the speed and reliability of cutting-edge technologies like machine learning, big data, and cloud computing. It offers a holistic approach to harvest a multitude of benefits like improving accuracy, increasing overall efficiency, and reducing cost. It can also help improve quality and minimize downtime.
Broadly IT infrastructure can be grouped into three categories – system infrastructure, network infrastructure, and storage infrastructure. System infrastructure deals with a wide range of critical activities. It includes the administration of all IT assets within data centers. Usually, a chief technical officer (CTO) is in charge of all these activities. Network infrastructure involves the configuration of all the related networks and ensures that applications have uninterrupted access to resources and the network is secure. And finally, the storage infrastructure houses all the valuable assets of the business organization.
For a more granular approach, IT infrastructure can be further classified into 5 major components. We have briefly discussed each of them below.
OT systems are the backbone of OT/IT solutions that manufacturers use to drive production efficiencies to reach revenue targets. The growing adoption of Industry 4.0 as the manufacturing philosophy makes factories susceptible to complex security challenges.
Hence, OT infrastructure needs to be planned and built to the manufacturing floor’s specific processes and culture while ensuring foolproof data security and alignment to intended outcomes.
The following is a customizable 8-step approach to planning your OT infrastructure,
Identify the level/complexity of OT infrastructure:
Aligning With Leadership On Priorities: OT infrastructure and management requires timely investments and support from the leadership. And thus, business leadership buy-in is important, and this alignment would require outcomes from the OT systems to be made visible.
For the most part, IT and OT have constituted completely different and disjoint aspects of an organization’s infrastructure. But combining operational and enterprise information is the secret ingredient for manufacturing excellence. It makes success repeatable and scalable. It also allows complete visibility to risk at the lowest and highest levels of the manufacturing organization thereby placing the power to prevent incidents in almost everybody’s hands.
There is no playbook that guides successful interoperability and interaction between IT and OT. This is because no organization has perfected this yet. But there are clear signs that certain initiatives are working, some of which are categorized below in two separate lists:
Since the advent of industry 4.0, there is an increasingly converging IT-OT pattern that is changing how an organization’s infrastructure functions. Assets like assembly-line machinery that have previously been offline are being brought online by the power of IoT. The new IT-OT convergence opens up avenues to create new efficiencies by applying the intelligence of IT to the physical assets of OT systems.
The IT-OT convergence can benefit organizations in several ways. Let us take a look at a few advantages: