Every manufacturer has both information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) technology that they rely on to run their shop floor. Today, new solutions are making it possible to achieve IT/OT convergence – bringing together these systems to achieve new heights through their synergy. We’ve already discussed how Real-time Operation Intelligence (RtOI) helps manufacturers achieve IT/OT convergence, but here’s a closer look at the best practices before, during, and after the transition.
1. Understanding Your IT and OT Systems
The first step in any successful transition is to understand where your operation stands today. Developing an understanding of your current IT and OT systems is key to creating an effective plan for achieving IT/OT convergence.
Each IT and OT system currently in place can prove to be a valuable asset in the overall IT/OT convergence solution. They’ll serve as important sources of information that can be leveraged through new solutions to achieve improved productivity and efficiency.
Manufacturers should catalog each system and identify the specific roles they play and the information they contain. It’s important not to overlook any potential sources just because they don’t fit into neat categories. Any systems that are used for monitoring, analysis, control, communications, and also more business-intelligence-focused areas can be integrated through IT/OT convergence.
2. Identifying the Disconnects Between Systems
The primary challenge that IT/OT convergence is intended to overcome is the disconnect between these systems. Physical separation, hardware and software limitations, and the potential cost of integration can all serve as barriers that prevent systems from working together synergistically.
Manufacturers can overcome these barriers with the right IT/OT convergence solution. In order to achieve that, the specific disconnects must be identified. A thorough analysis of existing connections between systems and where those connections are lacking can provide the starting point from which an IT/OT convergence plan can be developed.
In many cases, manufacturers will find that connections between important systems rely on manual data entry by operators. This wastes resources and opens the door to human error. In other cases, there may be no meaningful connection at all between systems that could easily benefit from being connected.
3. Transitioning to New Solutions
The IT and OT systems that any manufacturer has in place at any given time are unlikely to have been chosen through a single, cohesive design process. Instead, gradual upgrades, replacements, and acquisitions over the years or even decades have left a mismatch of pseudo-compatible systems that could be contributing significantly to inefficiency.
Evaluating current systems is an important part of IT/OT convergence. While most systems play essential roles and provide valuable information, some could be redundant or obsolete. Manufacturers should also identify gaps where solutions may be needed but aren’t currently in place.
The IT/OT convergence solution that a manufacturer eventually settles on could also provide some features that render specific systems redundant. However, it’s important to evaluate these cases carefully as IT/OT convergence solutions rely on the information and infrastructure provided by the existing IT and OT systems.
4. Ensuring Integration
To achieve IT/OT convergence, manufacturers need a solution that successfully integrates their existing IT and OT systems. This solution will communicate with all existing systems, centralizing the information they provide and eliminating any barriers to the flow of that information.
This step in the process is highly technical and the one where manufacturers will need the support of experts in this area the most. There are countless disparate systems in use throughout the industry today, and the actual implementation of an IT/OT convergence solution requires customization and adaptation throughout the process.
This is a challenging process, but also the step that serves as a foundation for all of the benefits to come. With every IT and OT system working together seamlessly, manufacturers can take advantage of the more advanced features that IT/OT convergence solutions have to offer.
5. Using the Right Tools to Leverage Data
With the right solution in place, manufacturers will now have consolidated access to all important production data. However, this improved access can only provide marginal benefits if it isn’t combined with tools that let manufacturers put it to the best possible use.
This is the reason that RtOI stands out as a solution for IT/OT convergence. A wide range of additional tools and features go beyond simple data aggregation. The solution also provides real-time analysis and delivers actionable insights that result in real changes on the shop floor.
The work management tools integrated into RtOI let manufacturers take even more advantage of IT/OT convergence. Manufacturers can develop automated workflows in response to specific events, with action being set in motion across the full range of integrated IT and OT systems.
6. Developing a Mindset for Change
While there are many technical challenges that must be overcome to achieve successful IT/OT convergence, there’s also the need to establish a culture of change on the shop floor. Management needs to be the first to adopt this attitude, as they’re the party responsible for committing to IT/OT convergence in the first place.
Obtaining the full benefits of IT/OT convergence will require extending that mindset through every level of the organization. As barriers to information and collaboration are eliminated, stakeholders will need o adapt to a more open and synergistic way of doing things.
Matics implements specific measures to facilitate this process. RtOI can be implemented modularly, allowing for a smooth transition without disruption to existing processes. The solution itself features custom apps for specific roles that foster adoption at all levels. With Matics, manufacturers receive a solution for both the technical and organizational challenges posed by IT/OT convergence.
Ensuring a Smooth Transition During IT/OT Convergence
There’s no need for manufacturers to attempt these steps alone when the team at Matics can help them through it. Matics RtOI already provides many manufacturers with the full benefits of IT/OT convergence, and we deliver expert support and guidance during and after implementation to ensure that our customers enjoy every advantage.