Analyst cites new incentives for IT/OT convergence

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Craig Resnick (Source: EE Times)

The age-old issue of IT and operations collaboration, known as IT/OT convergence, is still ongoing in the “digital transformation journey” that manufacturers must undertake “to move forward and be more long-term competitiveness. transportation,” Craig Resnick, vice chairman of the board at ARC Advisory Group, said yesterday.

But new pressures are mounting for companies to accelerate convergence between members of the two fields, whose work is fundamental to smart manufacturing, he added.

“IT looks at OT and says, ‘You know, we use products that have 3-4 year life cycles, and OT products often have 25-35+ year life cycles,'” a said Resnick, giving a keynote address. speech at a manufacturing industry event held at the Omron Chicago Proof of Concept Center. “And OT people say things like, ‘Manufacturing OT requires real-time monitoring and control, which isn’t always the case with IT. They may want to make patches or updates that could stop a process in the middle of a run that could affect real-time monitoring and control of a manufacturing process.”

Now, however, it is “essential to try to help each other understand the nuances that each group has to deal with” – to bring together “the best of both worlds”, he added.

Driving a new sense of urgency, according to Resnick:

  • “A very, very strong demand for industrial automation, despite everything that may be happening with the economy. For example, there is a growing number of consumers in emerging economies who have increasing purchasing power for goods and services, such as home appliances and consumer electronics, as we see people rise in the middle class. This creates additional demand for manufacturers around the world to produce an ever-increasing amount of consumer goods, which has increased the demand for industrial automation.
  • The move towards electric vehicles, “which obviously changes the types of vehicles being made, impacting things like electric motors and batteries. This is driving much greater demand for semiconductors and electronics. And, of course, to support all of these semiconductors, it impacts the mining industry, and certainly the demand created by the growth of the automotive and aerospace industries, and discrete manufacturing as a whole.
  • The addition of low-cost IIoT sensors installed on millions of assets, “especially rotating assets, whether pumps or gearboxes or whatever.” These sensors collect tons of data for things like bearing temperature and vibration – whatever kind of information operators need, when they need it and for wherever they need it. need – which require tighter IT/OT integration so that the data can be converted into meaningful and actionable insights. “We can take advantage of this and detect potential unplanned downtime before it happens, for example.”
  • Hiring Gen Zers and young Millennials – to replace retiring baby boomers, taking their institutional knowledge with them. “Many of these new hires don’t have a lot of manufacturing experience,” and are shocked when they open a cabinet and see a bird’s nest of wires. “They look at it and decide it’s way too complex for them and they need both training and additional tools to be productive.”
  • The rise of AIoT. The combination of AI and IoT makes it possible to combine real-time data collection with history-based AI, which can help provide a number of solutions, such as real-time management of the supply chain. “We can now make better history-based decisions, based on this abundance of data that we are now able to collect.”
  • The need to leverage old equipment, some of which has not been replaced because it continues to perform well and there is no financial justification to replace it. “If there is a 30-year-old PLC in the plant, which performs its on/off control, timing and counting functions, and all that it needs to function well, why should I replace it? ? Show me how replacing the old PLC will pay for itself and how long that return on investment will take. So it’s really about how to take advantage of today’s technology in an environment where old equipment is still working.

The ARC Advisory Group, among others, offers IT/OT workshops that focus on what IT and OT workers bring to the table and help accelerate the IT/OT convergence process.

IT employees bring data science and cybersecurity capabilities, Resnick noted. “But OT really understands how you make things. They understand the realities of what it takes to get things done, sometimes 24/7, 365 days a year.

“So instead of looking at it as one or the other, he’s asking, ‘How does one complement the other? That’s what we do when we run these IT/OT convergence workshops,” he added.

Successful collaboration between IT and OT often creates a digital common thread, connecting functionality from design to product lifecycle management to operations and maintenance.

“You have all this abundance of tools, but you really have to get that information from the design side to the build side and connect that information to the supply chain,” Resnick said. “Let’s say, for example, that you need to change your product because your initial raw material has been cut. You have found a new supplier, but now you need to get in touch to change the product design. You may need to change programming code 61131 in PLCs. The manufacturing process may change slightly. Everything has to be connected as seamlessly as possible to meet these very, very tight production schedules while ensuring the highest product quality. »

“On top of that, chip supply chain issues add wrinkles that weren’t there before, for example, forcing automakers to sometimes ship vehicles without chips to enable certain features, and to offer send those chips to their dealers at a later date and add them to those vehicles, in a process similar to a vehicle recall,” Resnick said. “For example, General Motors had shipped some vehicles without certain chips for heated seats , and Ford did the same, shipping some vehicles without certain chips for its start-stop and fuel-saving features.”

“They certainly want to run as many commands as possible” and choose to “satisfy the demand for these features at a later date through a recall” – when the affected chips finally arrive.

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