In September we had the opportunity to hear from Jan Snoeij during an IT/OT convergence webinar. Despite all that has been written on this topic, considerable confusion still exists on the importance of this concept when pursuing a digital Industry 4.0 strategy. If you too are a bit unclear on what this concept really means and its importance as part of achieving a digital transformation, it might be worth 30 minutes of your time to watch this presentation.
Listen to this on-demand presentation, What is IT/OT Convergence webinar?
As a result of broadcasting this webinar, several questions came up worthy of sharing, as detailed below.
Has the Internet of Things (IoT) changed how IT/OT convergence occurs? Will the IoT eliminate this challenge?
The IoT has made it possible to collect far more data today than ever before. With all this accumulation of data, new performance improvement is now possible by analyzing operational information that can be a source of contextual manufacturing intelligence. One example is the use of Artificial Intelligence or machine learning to better predict when equipment will fail or when products should be serviced to avoid part failure. These examples do not necessarily have an impact on changing how IT systems must seamlessly integrate with Operations systems, but do point to the need for more focus on enabling real-time integration. When accelerating the automation of data collection, the only way to capture the full potential is to act upon it in real-time. In this regard, you would not want your IT/OT integration to be the weakest link and delay access to time-critical information.
Based on this IT/OT convergence webinar, will local IT staff will no longer be required in the plant, with all work being done from corporate?
Better real-time integration between plant operations systems and enterprise IT applications will result in less time spent on manual tasks, completing trouble tickets, or responding to inquiries to run custom reports. In this regard, yes, less staff will be needed locally at a plant. Other matters, however, will still likely require assistance, just at a lower volume. Consequently, these resources can be better deployed in more of a centralized role where their skills and expertise can be applied on a broader scale. This strategy can then unlock greater ROI from a company’s IT investments by improving systems integration across many more users than previously possible.
With a Center of Excellence, could this be the same group that assesses all systems running in the factories, to provide consistent alignment across the enterprise?
Absolutely. In fact, this would be a best practice. By concentrating a single team on best understanding data, knowledge, and systems integration requirements across your organization, then as issues arise, a more comprehensive solution can be identified. What can then result is greater performance improvement from every solution considered.
Could you provide a governance model for a COE? I am unclear how that would come together.
The most important concept to keep in mind with a governance model is that review, approval, and audit processes have an expanded scope of coverage. A change to how data is collected or approved at the plant may now have a repercussion on how a report is interpreted by a different department using this information as part of their decision support process. For example, if the definition changes of when a part is considered faulty, then a more comprehensive review must be done to understand how all future reports might be impacted by this change.
What is your experience on ROI models for these projects? How feasible/accurate is it REALLY.
One could argue that any ROI model is only as good as the assumptions made when creating it (GIGO). A good rule of thumb is to use ranges of possible benefits versus specific data points in your assumptions. If a project makes sense based on even the most conservative assumptions, then the ROI model has done its job. In the case of IT/OT systems integration, part of the ROI might be based on avoiding lost opportunities or greater productivity from your IT team – thereby freeing up resources to pursue new cost cutting or revenue generation opportunities. Identifying an ROI value on these “soft” costs might not be easy but is a very real business benefit and a “REAL” reason to invest in better systems visibility and integration.
Do you cooperate with other maturity models, such as Acatech, ADMA, etc?
Speaking to the Acatech maturity model, as organizations deploy more resources to their Industry 4.0 programs, they move closer to achieving all desired objectives from such a strategy. At the core of this and other maturity models is “connectivity” whereby the data must be collected and shared. With this then follows the ability to extract knowledge and predictions on Why, When, and What will happen. Look at IT/OT convergence as one of the foundational building blocks for any of these maturity models. Without access to accurate, contextual, and real-time data, none of your other Industry 4.0 objectives can reasonably be achieved.
Gordon Benzie has 20+ years of leadership experience in marketing and communication roles. This knowledge was gained while working at software solution providers focused on driving digital transformation across industrial operations. As an avid technologist, Gordon has a deep understanding of how today’s technologies are improving manufacturing processes within discrete, hybrid, and process industries. Follow Gordon on LinkedIn.