IT/OT convergence, a prerequisite for the effective transformation of industry
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In an era of digital transformation, where data is key to creating value, and of new Industry 5.0 challenges appearing on the horizon, it is becoming essential for industrial companies to set up integrated data management of OT and IT layers.
In most businesses, operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) departments still operate in silos. Managed independently, they are in reality disconnected from each other. The wall between the two can be explained by the fact that companies all too often see OT and IT as separate topics. But this approach seriously complicates businesses’ lives since decision making is more complex when responsibilities, for example in terms of cyber-security, are shared between IT and OT.
Due to a shortage of people with interdisciplinary IT/OT skills, there is limited joint management and execution of cross-technology strategies and projects. And the absence of common governance bodies and structures aligning IT and OT interests and needs has resulted in a lack of standardisation and harmonisation of processes between various plants in the same group; a slow take-up by OT environments of new technologies like the cloud, continuous integration* and continuous delivery**; and a high degree of duplicate and overlapping processes.
Senior management needs to be involved
OT and IT are distinctive in many ways, both in terms of the technologies they use and in the backgrounds and skills of their respective teams. But if more extensive collaboration is not established, businesses will not be able to properly use the enormous amount of data generated by their plants, thus losing information and the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage.
“Only the adoption of technology that supports the development of smart manufacturing will provide the impetus needed for OT and IT teams to work together”
Only a firm commitment at the highest level, in other words by the board of directors, to adopt technology that supports the development of smart manufacturing will provide the impetus needed for OT and IT teams to work together and create the best solutions to meet company needs.
New Industry 5.0 challenges
IT/OT convergence offers considerable advantages. It makes businesses more competitive by improving their OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness***). Furthermore, it reduces time-to-market by optimising data management from plant to market; it makes it possible to respond more quickly to unforeseen circumstances by adopting new strategies and adjusting production; it cuts operational expenditure by avoiding duplicate purchases and empowering operational teams; and it improves machine uptime through predictive maintenance analytics. Finally, centralised equipment management improves the efficiency and flexibility of the system.
However, new challenges have already triggered debate about what comes after Industry 4.0, which itself is still in its infancy. The events of recent years, particularly the Covid 19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, have led the European Union to launch the concept of Industry 5.0, which focuses on humans, sustainability and resilience.
As a result, businesses will need to innovate more than ever. To do that, it will be vital to merge OT and IT teams – a new strength to meet new challenges.
*Continuous integration: a practice used by developers to automate the integration of code into a single code repository.
**Continuous delivery: automatic preparation of code for deployment with a fully automated release process.
***Overall Equipment Effectiveness: standard for measuring manufacturing productivity which identifies the percentage of manufacturing time that is truly productive.